Monday, 31 December 2007

The Best of 2007

The Best....

Day: Visiting Denmark or perhaps meeting my new Bloom partner for the first time
Feeling: Having a purpose - finally
New person: Satara
Old person returned: Laura
Blog Post: ooh - they've all been so good - I liked my tribute to my Grandpa, and Saturdaysand I liked explaining Englishness through lard. But all of my posts have been works of genius to be honest with you.
Other Blog: It's close, but I must pay tribute to Tangential Ramblings for starting me off on this crazy journey
New song heard: The End, Nancy Sinatra or Numb / Encore by Jay Z & Linkin Park
New song: Release Me, by Laura or Foundations by Kate Nash
New album heard: Favourite Worst Nightmare, Arctic Monkeys
New album: Costello Music, The Fratellis
Best running music: 99 problems by Jay Z or Con te partiro by Andrea Bocelli
Song from TV: Business Time from Flight of the Conchords
TV programme: Big Brother and Californication
Comedy: Flight of the Conchords
Best sporting moment: Rugby World Cup. All of it. And beating Chelscum in the Champions League. Again.
Distinguished Achievement Award: Paul McCartney. For I love him still (see below).
Read of the Year: The Saturday Guardian
Journalist of the Year: Robert Crampton or Daniel Finkelstein
Best book: Kite Runner
Non fiction:Meaning Inc
Radio Station: Radio 5 Live
Sports star: Andrew Sheridan

Views of Christmas 2007

A lovely Danish forest
















Magnificent London - Tower Bridge
















Pretty Crimbo lights at Sloane Square
















Home - Liverpool - Georgian splendour with earthy pragmatism and liberal helpings of genius. And some cars.
















Heaven - Anfield - same thing
















My Gran - Xmas Day - WHATEVVA

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Rotation Policy

Rafa Benitez has this year come under severe criticism for his rotation policy, whereby he rests players from one game to next seemingly irrespective of the form they are in.

I have just replaced my old Liverpool FC calendar, saying goodbye to Dirk Kujt, Liverpool's Dutch striker, and man of December.

My new calendar is now up in its place (I couldn't wait). And guess who is Mr January? That's right, Dirk Kujt.

Is this a subliminal message that Rafa will be rotating less this year and keeping the same team from one month to the next?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Thank you letters

Do any of today's ungrateful little shits say thank you any more? None of my little cousins do, the turds. Does anyone?

An article in yesterday's Times suggests that some do, though it is a struggle. I nearly peed my pants when the author persuaded her son to write his laborious thanks and gave him a formula to follow: “Thank you very much for the (blank). I like it very much.”

His aunt reported back that his card to her read, “Thank you very much for the £10. I like it very much.”

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Liverpool

Back in the 'pool. Went the match. Reds won 4-1. Had a pint with an old Scouser in a pub. Cost about a quid. Saw the folks. Talked about the neighbours caravan (really). Felt the urge to run back to London within about 5 minutes.

The problem with running from something is that it's not authentic. I fear ending up being back in Liverpool, but in the Liverpool of the early 1980s when unemployment was rife, my parents were screaming at each other and I was writing shit poetry about Claire Williams in my room.

But there isn't any chance of that (not the shit poetry - there's every chance of that). What I need to do is understand what role Liverpool plays in the narrative of my life, and acknowledge it.

My Mum was telling me a story about working in the libraries in Merseyside and Cheshire - places of great polarised wealth and opportunity. (Not the libraries so much as the counties). Bear with me on this one.

She was talking about serving the public and everyone was commenting on what a pain it must be. And I made a joke about some of the old bats that come in and say 'Gorrany Catherine Cooookson?' in a big Scouse accent, (cos I used to work there too and I met them). And my Mum laughed but then said 'Yes but I'd prefer them to the posh rude ones' and told us about a middle class woman who refused to pay her fine and was all rude.

And there it is. That's the bit of Liverpool's narrative that stays with me. I'd prefer that too, like my Mum. I'm on the side of the poor ones, the ones who'd give you a cup of tea with their last tea bag. The ones who like Catherine Cooookson.

I don't want wealth if it means I've done nothing in my life to help the underdog. I'm on their side, like it or not. It is part of my narrative, part of me.

And if that doesn't stay with me meaningfully throughout life, if I don't struggle to do something about it, then I've failed utterly.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Happy Christmas

So, I am off to Liverpool tomorrow, 'home' for Christmas. I'm going to see Liverpool play Portsmouth and then seeing my Mum and everyone and it will be good.

I love getting the train home to Liverpool. I love the guys who crack open the ales with a glint in their eye just outside Euston. I love the ones who sit near the toilets because it's inevitably packed out. I think they'd sit there anyway, complaining about British Rail even if it was empty. I love the north. I love Liverpool.

And once more I'll be going home as a sort of child-man. No family, not even a job at the moment; I'll get picked up at the station by my Step dad like I was 18 years ago. And I'll expect my Mum to cook for me and I'll barely lift a finger, I'll treat it like a holiday as though I don't know how much work goes into Christmas.

And I know my Mum won't even mind, and everyone will just be pleased to see me, to have me there, home. And I want to tell them how grateful I am, for everything.

Once again I won't.

But I am.

Happy Christmas everyone, back on 27th.

Christmas 2007

So, where have we got to? What is the world like this Christmas? In Britain it depends on what sort of mood you're in. I could easily argue that this nation has never had it so good. Decades of continuous growth. Rich. Free. Diverse. Meritocratic as never before.

Yet at the same time, I do sense a growing sense of unease at our health system, the way the major government departments are run, the sense of lawlessness despite falling crime. We are increasingly unequal. Are we happy? Not if the collective self loathing that is celebrity culture is anything to go by.

Maybe this confusion is just my own experience writ large. I found no meaning in my highly paid, secure comfortable job, yet the challenge of doing something I'll be proud of leaves me prone to depression and isolation.

The best conclusion I can reach for myself is that I am at least trying to do something different. It feels like a brave decision. Psychology shows that people don't regret brave decisions, but I'm not sure in my case.

Life's so complicated sometimes that the best conclusion is that if you're really thinking about your life and doing your best to reach your carefully selected goals then that's all you can do. Finally, I suppose I can say I am.

Are you?

Fairytale of New York

Dan phone me briefly to ask me to comment on why Fairytale of New York (FoNY) is in fact the greatest Christmas song of all.

I don't believe that it's because the exquisite Kirsty MacColl is dead, though that is sad, or because we have to like the Irish, which I do.

No.

It's to do with contrasts, and our need for them. Humans are, by and large driven by the need for homeostasis; when we have a lot of something, we crave to balance this. I think this extends to emotions. We seek authenticity, not just happy thoughts.

FoNY is a song of contrasts, encapsulating this need for balance and authenticity on a number of levels. It's about love, but also love's close relationship to hate. Despite all that's said, I built my dreams around you. It's about the perfection of Christmas, but a flawed perfection - none of us experiences Christmas as perfect - indeed often the reverse. But isn't that the deal? And this is reflected by the bittersweet contrast between the voices (MacColl can sing, Macgowan can't).

It's also set in New York, the most Christmassy city on earth and itself a city of contrasts. It offers us snapshots of Christmas - the NYPD choir - which is how we remember Christmas; not whole, but in snippets and scenes. Oh, and its soaring, magnificent chorus is Macgowan at his very best, and Macgowan is a songwriting genius.

FoNY sees Christmas for what it really is. Imperfect. We are not simply having a wonderful Christmas time. But it also says that there is a majesty to Christmas that frames and magnifies the human experience. That is what makes FoNY that rarest of songs; authentic and honest.

When I listen to it properly, it makes me sad in the most happy way imaginable.

The same is not true of Dan's other choice All I want for Christmas is You.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Numbers 1 - 20

These should be the easiest, for everyone has some long-held ambitions:
1. Live in America for at least a year
2. Own a dog - let's go mad and say a Collie or German Shepherd. Or a big soppy mongrel from the streets
3. Run a marathon in 3:15
4. Run an extreme marathon
5. Do a job I genuinely love which is varied, which I can largely control and which actually helps people in a way I can live with
6. Identify a charitable cause and devote serious time and money to it
7. Be silly as often as possible, and devote myself seriously to the pursuit of silliness
8. Play in a band covering Beatles songs at least once. Even if I have to be Ringo.
9. Start my own business (see 5, but not necessarily the same)
10. Witness a Test Match in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (this replaces previous 'play in a test match....'sadly I think my time may have gone)
11. Go to a baseball game
12. Never weigh more than 13 and a half stone
13. Work with / employ great people with great big brains, like this: BIG.
14. Remain friends with people better than I have done so far. I like knowing people for a long time and the feeling of loyalty.
15. See Radiohead play in my local park next Summer.
16. To write one published book.
17. Live in a barn conversion with all modern furniture and nice taps.
18. See Liverpool win the Premiership.
19. To go to Iceland and stay in that ice hotel.
20. Speak a foreign language fluently.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Meaning

How important is meaning at work? What I mean by meaning is a sense of purpose; that what you do is important, and that the organisation you work for is doing something inherently meaningful.

Pensionbook

I laughed at this and then realised it's probably more interesting than Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Life lists

I do love a good list. I love making them, for they bring order. I love reading them, for they bring reassurance. I love studying them too, and think the psychology of list-making is fascinating. I practically kiss myself when I cross something off them. If I could bathe in lists I would. And I would tenderly nibble their little ears too.

I think you get the gist.

I think lists are the best way to get anything done, to bring happiness to your life, to ensure balance and achievement in one's career and beyond. For what goes down on your list represents how you will live your life*.

There are different types of list.

A daily list is your basic unit of achievement. It is the worker bee, the engine of happiness, containing rough timings of when things get done and in what order. It allows your mind to relax a little.

Subconscious, you can relax for I have proof of my competence here! And no, I have not forgotten milk.

In practice, my staple task-level list is at a twice weekly level. Maybe this speaks of inefficiency, but it works well for me. Let us pay homage to a list here, for all are symbols of aspiration and hope:







A monthly list provides context and meaning. An annual list - so often mocked as new year resolutions - can seem intangible when it is not shackled to the discipline of the monthly list. When it has been disciplined, it is like an Arabian stallion; magnificent and brooding, you must cling to it, for it will take you wherever you want to go, and beyond. The monthly list is the hardest to write, for it must knit the aspirational to the achievable. But it is also the most important, because it demonstrates that you are in charge of your life. Happiness is a choice.

So, why don't I have one for my life as a whole?

I know this is not a new idea - life lists are covered very well at sites like these - but I am going to commit to 50 things to do in my life before I die. And - even better - I am going to share it here with you (and the tiny baby Jesus) through the month of December.

* Unless it is a list of this week's groceries or your all-time greatest England cricket team.

Adverts

Of course none of these ads matches my all-time favourite ad, which doubles as a sort of life coach to me whenever I get nervous about all these changes I'm making.

When we shape shirts

What I want to know about the magnificent advert below, is whether it is one of a series. I want to know if they "think of guys like Bob, Paul and Steve" when they are doing other things too; perhaps when they are shaping hedges, doing the washing up or maybe soaping themselves down in the tub.



I know I will from now on.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I've been waiting for this moment...

This was Ad of the Year, 2007. I still think it's fucking weird, but credit to Cadbury for going with it.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Englishness explained through lard

Watched Jonathon Ross last night, with David Walliams talking about how he had to cover himself in lard so that he could swim the channel. (Not to mention Jerry Seinfeld who was also on the show). (Sorry, just re-read that, Jerry wasn't smeared with lard,more's the pity, but he was on the show).

ANYWAY, they showed footage of Walliams meeting the Queen at some reception and mentioning the lard thing when the Queen enquired about how cold it must have been.

'Yes, but it's not as much as fun as you might think' he said, and the Queen laughed.

And I don't think I've seen anything so perfectly resonant of what being English is than that. A brilliant comic, who raised £1m for comic relief by swimming the channel, sitting next to a delicious, bald, gay comic (Matt Lucas), who didn't, explaining how he made the Queen laugh about smearing himself in lard.

A perfect juxtaposition of Englishness.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

My advice...

Support Hatton. Back Mayweather.

Come on Ricky, do it for the good guys.

Thought for the day

What if the hokey cokey IS what it's all about?

I know...

Yeah?

Well I had sex with your WIFE!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Cognitive dissonance

Oliver Burkeman points out that cognitive dissonance can actually be used to good effect.

When salesman offered some cards at 8 for $3, they had a 40% success rate. But when they offered 8 for 300 pennies, they created confusion in the buyer's mind, which they then solved by adding 'which is a bargain'.

This is all a bit NLP if you ask me. But then NLP may have a legitimate effect for all I know. What is certain, and this is the point Burkeman makes, is that the more comfortable we are being uncomfortable, the better off we will be.

This has overlaps with new research which shows that increasing levels of acceptance (the willingness to experience thoughts, feelings, and physiological sensations without having to control them, or let them determine one’s actions), is a major individual determinant of mental health and behavioral effectiveness.

Anyway, here's the article.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Mr Tourette

No one said December would be high brow

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Fancy stress

Another matter of State: I am due to attend the Christmas party of a company I may well work for next year. The party is fancy dress, in the theme of James Bond.

Now, I don't know much about Bond but I do know that going in black tie is pathetic. When I am 80 years old I will not have wanted me to have gone in black tie so that's that. The question is what would I have wanted me to have done?

Bear in mind I will know only one other person and will be mingling with people (many of whom are international sports stars) who may shortly be interviewing / managing me.

I am thinking of going in a full wetsuit with flippers, but did Bond ever wear one?








Any other ideas? And does anyone have a wetsuit?

Signet wrongs

I'm not sure about people who wear signet rings. At this stage it is merely a hypothesis so if you are nice and balanced, actually listen to other people and have a pleasant line in self deprecating humour and still wear one, I apologise.

However, in general I find signet ring wearers to be megalomaniac despots with a supreme sense of their own self importance, arrogant buffoons, often toffs and nearly always tedious tossers.

But I am not sure if this rule travels internationally, as one of my (American) lecturers wears one and is truly outstanding and pleasant.



I'd be grateful for a wider view on this: can I place signet rings in my universal signs of the wanker or must I conduct further research?

Monday, 3 December 2007

Poor

November is statistically my poorest blogging month ever. A miserable 12 posts as opposed to the 17 in July - I don't need to do a T-test to know this is a significant difference.

But why?

University demands have gone through the roof; I have been socialising like a society Toff (without the cheese) and there has been a big push on 'miscellaneous projects'. The underlying forecast remains good, with productivity up and happiness levels stable at around 7.

The move into the spare room and turning it into my office is paying dividends and this should benefit the blog in the long term too.

In terms of content, I am hoping to increase the amount of both silly and serious content, leaving readers with a woozy sense of unpredictability, along with the usual sexual intoxication.

So welcome to December. This is our first Christmas together as a family, and I can't wait to see your chubby little faces light up as Christmas approaches and we all hurtle towards 2008.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I just wanna...

I just wanna do something special for all the ladeez in the world

Energy

Chocolate and biscuits do not give you energy. Instead they steal it, like thieves dressed as bank staff.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The best new music

I know why you all come here. The insight. The amusing anecdotes. The sexual magnetism. But also I keep you all up to date with the best new music.

Well this isn't new, but it is music. I defy you not to sing along and be happy as i have been ALL DAY. In fact, like a drug pusher at the school gates, here's your first hit: I've included lyrics, below.



Well it's a big big city and it's always the same
Can never be too pretty tell me you your name
Is it out of line if I were so bold to say "Would you be mine"?

Because I may be a beggar and you maybe the queen
I know I maybe on a downer am still ready to dream
Now it's 3 o'clock time it takes for you to talk

So if you're lonely why'd you say your not lonely
Oh your a silly girl, I know I hurt it so
It's just like you to come
And go you know me no you don't even know me
Your so sweet to try, oh my, you caught my eye
A girl like you's just irresistible

Well it's a big big city and the lights are all out
But it's much as I can do you know to figure you out
And I must confess, my hearts in broken pieces
And my heads a mess
And it's 4 in the morning, and I'm walking along
Beside the ghost of every drinker here who has ever done wrong
And it's you, woo hoo
That's got me going crazy for the things you do

So if your crazy I don't care you amaze me
Oh your a stupid girl, oh me, oh my, you talk
I die, you smile, you laugh, I cry
And only, a girl like you could be lonely
And it's a crying shame, if you would think the same
A boy like me's just irresistible

So if your lonely, why'd you say you're not lonely
Oh your a silly girl, I know I hurt it so
It's just like you to come and go
And know me, no you don't even know me
Your so sweet to try oh my, you caught my eye
A girl like you's just irresistible

Friday, 23 November 2007

Media Pressure

My phone has been ringing hot and I know a lot of you have been speculating about this subject - not to mention the media! However, I am afraid after a lot of thought and discussion with my family and close friends, I have to rule myself out of the running for the new England Manager's job. I'm just too busy.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

HMRC

So the Inland Revenue lost 25m customer records, putting that number of people at risk of fraud and thereby exposing the utter incompetence of the department.

I worked there for about a year, the most miserable year of my life. I led a team for about 6 months which did absolutely nothing, despite my best attempts to work out a meaningful goal. We probably cost the taxpayer at least £500k during that time, and all the while we were meant to tell people how much we were saving from our activities.

We weren't saving anything.

So immoral was it, that I effectively sabotaged my own career to highlight it.

HMRC must go back to basics. It should kick all the consultants out tomorrow (something I was openly saying by the end...didn't go down well). It should then decide what it does and what it needs to do in future. It should then work out a single, coherent plan as to how it can best do that. Then it should follow the plan.

But it can't. There are so many consultants and so much confusion about data that the place is reliant on outside help. People are measured by the projects they have going on, not by the value they contribute. There are so many projects that some do the same, or even the opposite, of other projects.

It is a mess. Losing 25m records is the least of its problems.

England

So sick am I with England's twatty footballers, I didn't really care when we went out this evening. My hope is that this will serve as a reality check to our overhyped Premier League, but it won't.

I am even a bit sick of the cricketers - Harmison really pisses me off. Talks about being homesick all the time. I sometimes think how much I wanted to be a cricketer and it makes me feels sick when I think of Harmison.

I may as well get some other things off my chest:

1. Stop asking me if I am on Facebook. Facebook is shit.
2. Could academics please stop trying to sell me things?
3. The NHS nearly killed my mate last weekend
4. Can we stop talking about house prices - if you only own one and you want to stay in London then rationally you should want housing to come down in price
5. HMRC lost 25m records. I blame the consultants. In fact, this is worth its own post.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

A good life

I spent Friday evening surrounded by Russian models drinking champagne in one of London's 'top nightspots' with a friend of mine who picked up the bill for the whole night (which must have been £4k of cheese). In America, one of my finest friends has just purchased this car and is enjoying pimping it up at various trendy OC hangouts.

Meanwhile, I have given up my job and am carefully watching the pennies as I pursue what I consider a more 'meaningful' life.

One might suspect that these two versions of the good life are dichotomous. Indeed, a whole branch of psychology is now devoted to proving that happiness does not equal wealth.

Bizarrely, given my situation, increasingly I disagree. And AC Grayling, the philosopher disagrees too.

The good life is all about identifying what you are on earth for. This is not some unified version of goodness, but a complex, sometimes contradictory set of factors unique to each individual. Money has a place in this, because it buys freedom, choices and things that reinforce our identity.

All I am arguing is that this is the right identity being reinforced.

I am not advocating pursuing wealth as a means of happiness. I am advocating pursuing wealth with the acknolwedgement that this is unlikely to be enough by itself to be happy. Just as going off to work with orphans is unlikely, by itself, to make many of us happy. It's a question of thinking about what you want from life, prioritising your time around your own values, creating a balance reflective of your goals, utilising your highest strengths, and taking the time to think about what you might want to look back on when you're on your death bed.

It isn't duty versus pleasure, but working out how to integrate these concepts which truly makes for 'a good life'.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Announcement 2:

In answer to Jon's question, and after significant thought and consultation, cheese will henceforth be called:

'Dairyglee'.

Thank you.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Announcement:

I shall henceforth, at all times, refer to money as 'cheese'.

Thank you.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tonight...

I celebrate my love for you

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Time marches on

It was my birthday this week. I think as you get older you begin to realise some pretty fundamental few truths about your life. One of these truths which struck me this week was that I will never, under any circumstances, be able to say the following and for it to be true:

"Rap mags try and use my black ass
So advertisers can give 'em more cash for ads, fuckers"


And that seems a shame.

Monday, 5 November 2007

The psychology of...persuasion

One of the main marketing tools I want to create for the new business is a series of one page notes on the psychology of various psychological constructs. For example, the psychology of happiness, motivation, decision making, persuasion.

The article here is an example of the sort of insights psychology offers to everyday life. I certainly found it illuminating and instinctively knew it was true.

Like many self help books, psychology often states the bleeding obvious. But I'm fascinated by it because at its best it genuinely illuminates the things we should be trying to focus on.

In this case, the psychologist describes the nature of persuasion, and outlines how we can all improve our powers of persuasion. Something I imagine we could all do with knowing.

Don't miss out.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Right brain left brain

Not convinced by this. I can't make her go anti clockwise and can't even imagine that anyone can - but see what you think.

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22492511-5005375,00.html

Also, from the description I am definitely more left brain, yet it insists I am more right brain. How about you?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Broken Chipolata

I have broken ANOTHER finger. That's all of them at least once, and some of them twice. Did it playing hockey and now it's bent. I suppose I must go and get it seen to tomorrow.

It certainly reminds you of how handy a hand is. It really is amazing. It's funny to think of someone thinking that for the first time and then describing something else as 'handy'.

I have cunningly taped (see below) said finger up with sellotape and - symbolism alert - my old Serco work pass. Very professional job is what you're thinking. So the tattered remnants of my career as a consultant continue to support me, but soon they will be taken off for good and my finger will have to fend for itself.

All I have is myself, a few possessions and some talented and generous friends and acquaintances.

Handy.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

An historical documentation


Here is my desk on my last day.

Historians may wish to note the Serco mug ('bringing service to life') usually filled with lukewarm tea and a sweetener. Fairly cluttered, but not without some structure. Lots of wires. An ipod charging and pen on left hand side. There would be a twice weekly to do list with reasonably high level tasks rather than the 'Call Sylvia' type. Don't even know who Sylvia is.

The phone - I never did work out how to transfer someone or make it accept numbers for those wretched automated switch boards. So I just held on, driving the system mad and eventually you get through to a person. I wonder if this is how Buddhists feel - so in tune with their powerlessness they regain all the power and control. A wallet falling beneath my papers. Twice I left it on the desk for someone to hand in.

My PC. Lost its ability to go left and a little grubby, but served me well. God knows what I'm working on there. I wonder if life for anyone, anywhere would have been any different thanks to my efforts. Probably not.

Outside, the lovely tree mocking the impermanence of management consultants. At lunch time I'd go out and agree with it.

Things I'll miss

The view from my desk at Richmond.

The Friday feeling. The first cup of tea of the day, before anyone else arrives. Meetings which you feel achieve something. The money. The feeling of belonging. Some of the people. The spam (I love spam, I quite often read it and find it hilarious). Erm. The times when the sandwiches come down from a meeting. The times when you're busy but know you can do something. The times when you're not busy so you can look out of the window.

The times when you look back on 10 years and think well, that was OK, but now I am shutting my PC down and leaving it here on the desk and walking outside to go and do something more than OK.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A door closes

After 4 years slogging away for Serco - I was 8th in and maybe 208th out - I left today. My ten year career in consulting is now over and I embark on a new adventure tomorrow.

It was a funny way to go. I was the last one to leave the office, after a really hectic day. I simply logged off, left my PC and pass on a desk, and walked out the door.

It was dark and cold when I left and the door locks behind you when you leave. I stood outside the locked door for a second, thinking about what it all meant. I wandered past the wooden submarine that sits outside our offices, which has come to symbolise my escape.

I walked along the river and on to the tube. It's the picturesque route. I hadn't taken my coat, so it was really cold and I felt my first shiver in months.

But I no longer felt tired, and I began to think about what tomorrow might bring.

The centre of my own universe

It's a bit like when you go away on holiday. Those last frantic few days before you leave, which culminate with you saying to someone - 'call me if you need to, I don't mind'.

No one calls. What's worse, when you return you ask how everything went and people barely look up from their desks to say 'Fine'.

I expected some form of recognition today. Men to be staring aimlessly at their laptops, women to be wailing and perhaps grabbing on to my ankles begging me to reconsider.

But no one did. And tomorrow no one will notice. And that's why I left.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

It's business time

Tuesday is the day you should be tuning into Flight of the Conchords.

But Tuesday is also nearly Wednesday.

And Wednesday is Business Time.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Back to stats...

And how I feel their icy grip, like a recurring nightmare I am frozen by piercing glare. How they mock my pleas for clemency, my half answers, my tentatively remembered threads of understanding.

Tell me again (suppressing a smile) what do you understand of one way ANOVAS?

Remind me why I'm doing this to myself again?

(Mockingly) No, do continue...

Is it something to do with analysing variance....?

Mwah ha ha ha ha ha! You are a fool! How can you ever tell whether there is a difference between 3 or more levels of an indepdendent variable without knowing of the one way ANOVA?

So I dust off my Quantitative Statistics books, and turn to look them in the eye once again. Soon we will be grappling in the snow for supremacy.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Football vs Rugby

Truly, this is heresy to say coming from Liverpool, but (whispers) watching the Premiership after the rugby feels so...insipid.

The players' tricks, the lack of guts, the lack of respect for anything, all combined with the knowledge of their huge wealth. It just feels a bit fake - god knows how it feels for Chelsea supporters.

Feels like the difference between watching panto and the RSC.

Springbok Class

Our papers were simply outstanding today on England's defeat and the RWC in general. Sandwiched in the middle of yet another outstanding article on the RWC was this brilliant story I hadn't heard before:

After Fiji went down to South Africa in their quarter-final in Marseilles, they marked their exit with the longest lap of honour of all time. They wandered slowly around the field, apparently acknowledging each of the 55,000 crowd individually, full of Fijian ritual and thanks. It must have been about 45 minutes after the end of the game when they came back to the top of the tunnel. There, still waiting to clap them off, were the Springboks. That was class.

I also noticed that the Springbok bench stood to applaud Jason Robinson when he left the field. That's class too, and I suspect that a lot of it stemmed from their dignified coach, Jake White.

Civil Partnership

I wore a nice suit in the end. And for the gift?

A top of the range robot dog.

Pride

England probably deserved more from last night, but probably didn't deserve to win. South Africa were the best team in the tournament, and they made fewer mistakes than we did last night. It was their mental calmness (and Percy Montgomery) which was the difference, dare I say, as predicted.

South Africa did exactly what we did in 2003.

Despite some of their supporters, I'd prefer to lose to the Boks than anyone else to be honest, because I love the country and they need these things more than the snivelling antipodeans. That's enough now though - they can't keep claiming it. And Thabo Mbeki being lofted on the team's shoulders, despite not acknowleding the threat of AIDS and being mates with that nice chap Mugabe? People have some strange ideas of 'the moment' of the tournament. Mbeki is not Mandela.

But above anything else I feel so proud about the performance of England. We were magnificent, decent and brave. Now please, take that example and build.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Nearly forgot....

COME ON ENGLAND

RWC

This World Cup has been incredible, and it continued last night when Argentina beat les Frogs. Unbelievable.

This evening's game asks the following quesiton: is this World Cup about upsets, or is it about logic? If, ultimately, it's about logic then the Boks will win. They have been the best side in the tournament, they haven't lost and they've already beaten us. If however the narrative of the tournament really is about spirit and momentum and passion then we have a chance. It would be the biggest upset of all in an incredible tournament though. For this reason, I just can't imagine us winning.

I always set a lot of store on the psychology of sport, and had a sneaky feeling that we'd beat Australia and a strong feeling we'd beat France because we had so little to lose. However, I can't imagine any situation where we can beat the Boks. I just can't see it. They seemed too strong physically and especially mentally last week. There, I've said it.

The only sliver of hope is the Boks haven't really played anyone decent during this tournament. But honestly, I can't see another surprise. I think it's about logic.

Thankfully, it isn't me that has to believe in a different narrative, it's these guys:

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Flight of the Conchords

So now I am almost begging you to watch Flight of the Conchords.

It's about 2 boys from New Zealand (Brett and Jermaine) both in a band, living in America.

In this scene Brett has a new girlfriend, Coco, who he is on a lovely special date with. And he has written Coco a special love song.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Banana SKIN

I bought a lamp that gets turned on by my touch. Not like that. It actually lights up when I touch it. Oh, stop it.

I have been experimenting with other materials and the only other thing that turns my lamp on is banana skin.

I therefore conclude either:

1. That banana skins are real skin; or
2. We are all made of real bananas

Thank you.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

This is the England I know...

Proud. Self deprecating. Silly. Serious. Ridiculous. Committed. Loyal. Decent. Defiant.




















And the big one; finding humour in funny pants.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Enter the King....

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

It's a Civil Partnership Ceremony!

My first ever - it's like knowing Elton John! The question is, what do you buy for a gift? Ideas please. Oh and what the hell do you wear? It's a brand new minefield. Must it involve animal prints?

Monday, 8 October 2007

America: what happened to liberty?

What the hell is going on here? This is shocking.



I can't help seeing a link between this sort of disturbing repression and the ongoing flouting of human rights at George Bush's fun factory, Guantanamo Bay. And whilst I'm at it, what have we, the British, done to protest at the real travesty of this war?

Happy viewing / reading.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

No, I haven't finished

This is just sheer joy.

To explain this rapture, Australia spent the whole of the week before trashing England, its players, its people, its spirit. Their winger, Lote Tuqiri trashed our back line. Their press invited us to lose with dignity and accused us of arrogance (!). Their Chief Executive of Rugby Union even admitted that he 'hated' England.

I know I should be rising above it all, but I'm having too much fun. So I'm reading the Sydney Morning Herald. They seem to be a bit off colour!















Oh dear, and it's raining in Sydney too! Chin up!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Dad's surprise toast crunchy

The Saturday Guardian is - despite its fair share of depressingly misandrist commentators - one of the greatest things about British life. It is quite phenomenally good.

One of my (admittedly less than macho) guilty pleasures is buried away in the weirdly named 'Family' section. Written by readers, it describes the role that a particular food plays in their family's life. They are usually so well written, speaking of long-lost intimacies, rich with the pathos of loss and joy. Last week was no exception:

Dad's surprise toast crunchy.

We loved it when Dad made these for us, both for the high ceremony that accompanied any of his adventures in the kitchen as well as the element of surprise that always came with this treat. He worked with a certain gravitas, dashing from cupboard to fridge to grill, as though preparing a gourmet meal for the most discerning of restaurant customers, rather than us hungry, cranky scavengers. Then they would be placed, ceremoniously, on a plate awaiting the taster's approval.

Tea towel on shoulder, he would announce, "Now, Auntie Deirdre (as I, aged six, was for some reason known), tell me what you think of that." In hindsight, the recipe appears somewhat less mysterious: Butter slices of bread. Grate, slice or chop whatever is to hand - apples, carrots, cheese, onions, mushrooms - pile on to the bread and grill slowly until the cheese melts and everything is more or less hot. Sometimes we would find all sorts of oddities lurking beneath the cheese - slices of banana, nuts, glace cherries and even Weetabix. Now, all the grandchildren gather in my parents' kitchen in Ireland and make these together, setting up a production line of butterers, choppers, graters and, for the older ones, grillers, and they are made for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - whoever is around. We all still love them.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Radio 4 Riots

Jane Garvey, one of my favourite radio presenters, has left Radio 5 Live to go and present Woman's Hour on Radio 4. I am not yet at the stage where I listen to Radio 4, but it's coming.

They were talking this week about a protest in the early 1990s over the scrapping of long wave, which would have deprived nicely brought up Rupert and Patricias their daily R4 fix.

One of the protest chants went like this:

"What do we want?"
"Radio 4!"
"Where do we want it?"
"Long wave!"
"And what do we say?"
"Please!"

Friday, 28 September 2007

All of life...

Can be explained through Seinfeld. It is the Shakespeare of our time, with an analogy for every conceivable situation.

This was brought home by a recent conversation with Dan, who noted the story of the men involved in a Seinfeld-like scam and during the course of said conversation also referred to the phenomenon of people referring to themselves in the third person.

This has also been covered by Seinfeld, where Jimmy, whose trainers help him improve his vertical leap, constantly refers to himself as Jimmy. This leads George to do the same. This phenomenon can also be seen in sports stars, such as Michael Vaughan (pictured).

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Ross Kemp on gangs

The absurd Ross Kemp is on TV doing a series about the world's toughest gangs. On the trailer (no, I don't watch it) he is shown driving through a supposedly dangerous street in Jamaica saying:

"Everyone we see is giving us the eye, so it's literally like a war zone."

Erm, Ross, but are you sure that a war zone is characterised by a load of people 'giving you the eye'?

Now I see! The horrors of war are newly apparent, thanks to Ross's insights. I can imagine Ross, wide-eyed with terror, interviewing soldiers about being surrounded by Iraqi insurgents who are ALL prepared to "give them the evils".

"We've just been in a bar, and the barman didn't even smile at us, even when we left a tip", says a shocked Ross.

It's only by the bravery of Ros Kemp that we can truly understand what it is like to be in a war zone.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Also

I laughed out loud when I read about Abramovich asking Peter Kenyon (think snivelling, scheming sycophant) why the fans never chanted his name. Hilarious.

It's simple Roman. It's because:

1. You don't have any true fans
2. You installed a manager who took all the glory for himself, who was psychologically incapable of acknowledging you
3. You have a stupid, inane grin
4. No one likes to admit you're a crook and, oh yes...(the most important)

MONEY CAN'T BUY YOU LOVE.

Good riddance

All this fuss about this idiot. He brought something 'extra' to the Premiership. He was an amazing manager. He was unbelievably sexy in that coat. Do me a favour.

I hated him from the outset. He portrayed himself as this amazing hero, when in reality he was simply in charge of the most astonishing wealth in a game that is now essentially decided by wealth. The most important man at the club was not him, though he liked to pretend it was. It was and is Roman Abramovich. Without his hard-won, fairly earned and whiter than white roubles, Chelsea would regress back to the middle of the road, degenerate club for racists that they always were.

Mourinho demanded complete loyalty from those around him yet he could not return the favour. He constantly briefed darkly against Abramovich - a case of wanting your cake and eating it. Except the billionaire did not see it that way. Mourinho agreed to join a club where he was never going to be boss then chucked his toys when reality hit.

He wasn't a good manager. Simply, he had the best and most expensive squad in the world because he could pay stupid money for whoever he liked. Even then, with a team including Djimi Traore we beat them in the Champions League and again for good measure. Benitez is a better tactician. Mourinhio moaned about decisions like a spoilt brat.

He also did nothing with two of the greatest talents in the game and failed to entertain any of Chelsea's hard core fan base who by the time of his last home game had climbed to, ooh, 24,000.

He wasn't smart or funny. He made stupid analogies when he wasn't whingeing, but it wasn't so funny when he hounded one of the best referees out of the game entirely, was it? He was so vain that he could not bear to lose in the way a small child cannot bear to lose. This is no Martin Johnson.

As for the claim that he is sexy, I suppose I can't be the judge but if women really do find him sexy then it's deeply depressing. It's like writing love letters to murderers in prison. But if being a petty, paranoid bully is sexy, then that I suppose he was.

I hope he never returns to England and dies alone, stinking of piss, shot by one of Abramovich's completely above-board 'business partners'.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Smug

If the post below was a little smug, I went out to our work summer party on Friday and got so pissed I was sick all over the stately lawns and, amongst several other misdemeanours, made so much noise during one of the Director's speeches I have just had to apologise.

My HI was probably 8 or 9, and my DI definitely a 9.9.

I also have scratch marks all over my body, I think from falling in a hedge, and have a black nail from trapping my finger in a door.

And I want to be your latex salesman.

The end of the beginning

About 3 years ago I received an e-mail which told me about this course at Staffordshire University that would enable me to do my initial course in psychology by distance learning. I could not have done it full time, so it was a huge breakthrough. It's the only course in the country that does it. Up til then I had discounted psychology because of the huge amount of study time required and the cost. Now there seemed a way forward, even if it was remote.

So I put in place a plan which seemed so fragile at the time, so unlikely. I would go back to university, and start to learn something from scratch that would then become my profession, even though I did not know exactly what I would be doing with it. In between I would earn the money to sustain my study.

The plan involved the distance learning course, in half the time than usual, with a full time job. It then involved going back to university full time to convert my Politics degree to a psychology one. It then involved either a Master's or a Doctorate in the branch of psychology that most appealed.

I remember at the time the plan seemed ridiculous. One obstacle after another seemed insurmountable. And I didn't even know what I was going to do with it all. Surely I didn't have the energy to do all this, in my mid 30s?

In the end the plan nearly killed me, cost me a relationship, has made me much poorer; I've felt stupid in lectures crammed with 19 year olds and it has been hugely demanding in terms of energy. But every month I have done what it outlined in the plan.

The final stage in my plan starts this week. I start my Master's at Goldsmiths and leave work for good on 19th October. I am starting a supplementary course at Birkbeck as well. I have saved the money I needed. I have even found a clear direction for a career in psychology (my own business).

I can't believe it, but I've done it. It looked weird on a spreadsheet. But it's come to life, slowly and surely.

It's not the end of course, or the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning and for that, I am truly, truly grateful.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The challenge

Went for dinner near Borough Market this evening with a single (female) friend. She was bemoaning the lack of single, available men in their 30s and I was doing my usual incredulous thing. Walk into any bar or club or pub in London and it will be PACKED with men, I said. Women have just got used to this state of affairs, that's all.

Which I still stand by.

However, she then suggested holding a dinner party and that I invite 7 single blokes and she invites 7 single sheilas and let the chemistry commence...

but I couldn't think of any. Well I can think of 3 or 4. Shit! What happened?

If anyone knows any single men in their 30s can they please post them to me at home in time for either 3rd or 10th November.

Thank you.

Love this

Monday, 17 September 2007

A life without electricity!

A lamp blew a fuse and my flat was without electricity this weekend. I replaced all the fuses..and nothing. So, no music, TV, computer or microwave meals. Only me, my books, and a sofa. And a radio.

Initially I thought of it as a great opportunity. I could do all those things I had been putting off. Finances! Organising! Letter writing! Reading! Devoting myself to the Lord!

I had this vision of children huddling round the wireless on a Sunday afternoon, or perhaps learning how to spin some yarn. Perhaps I could invite some local youths to play hopscotch. Or invite a tramp round for tea and home-made scones. I envisaged good, wholesome and worthy times, the way people did it in the days before TV and the internet.

Truth is, it was just a bit shit.

Facebook Suicide

I have committed Facebook Suicide. Admittedly, I had a short life. I threw a sheep at someone. Someone hugged me. Someone even worshipped me though that might have been a mistake.

Then I killed myself.

Why? Well, I could see its potential for 'networking'. And I could see how it would be nice to know what people are doing, and perhaps throw them a sheep every now and again. It is nice and silly, which I like, but then I realised that I am silly enough already.

And I spend enough time at my PC already too. So I clamped down on it and made a deal with myself to spend more time inviting people out for tea in real life and giving them a hug rather than hugging them virtually.

Have I missed the point here?

Saturday, 15 September 2007

The List of Women I shouldn't fancy....but do

In no particular order:

1. Supernanny (as discussed)
2. Nigella Lawson (don't usually approve of old and posh, or of the name 'Nigella' but...oh my...lick that finger again)
3. Betty Rubble
4. Abi Titmuss
5. Jessica Rabbit
6. Kim out of Kath and Kim
7. Mme Sarkozy
8. Sporty Spice
9. Kirstie out of Location Location
10.Lakisha out of American Idol

There are plenty more. I have a whole history of wrongness in this field.








Rabbit: foxy

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Supernanny

Look, I hate to say this but this is compelling TV. Just shows you how much children need clear boundaries - like training a dog essentially.

I may as well admit to you now that I have reluctantly had to add Supernanny to the list of women I really shouldn't fancy, but do.

It's the large breasts and stern demeanour.








OK, show me to the naughty step.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Find Madeleine

Setting aside for a moment the latest twist, I have to respectfully disagree that the McCanns were irresponsible. Of course, it's not ideal to have left the children alone, but which of us has never taken a risk? Which parent can say they have never made an error of judgment?

50 yards away, with parents regularly going to and fro: this wasn't just the McCanns taking a risk but a group of families. It must have felt incredibly safe.

There have plenty of times where I have made a mistake and not been punished. I remember one time nearly falling asleep at the wheel of my car. I could easily have killed someone then. Of course, I would be wrong, but I refuse to believe that any of us has led an unblemished life, free from risk, or errors of judgment.

On a wider point, I think we're being paralysed by people who'll have us take no risks. Where does it end? Do we stop our 11 year olds from playing football in the park because they might be shot?

And to speculate on the McCanns' judgment when they have suffered so much, is to my mind, missing the point, as well as cruel. Focus on the evil of paedophilia, rather than vilify those poor parents who have been touched by this evil.

There but for the grace of God go all of us.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Rugby World Cup 2

We went straight for breakfast. I thought there was little point trying to sleep, and anyway I was too excited. I was tired, like in one of those dream sequences, and my memory is hazy. But the next thing I knew I was down at Darling Harbour, meeting up with all my Convict relatives and getting stuck into the singing. An abiding memory is my Uncle and Cousin surrounded by maybe 400 England fans singing Waltzing Matilda. Plucky.

The game was amazing, but sickening. From someone conditioned to expect Australian victories, it was sadistic in the extreme. But this time it was different, and Jonny delivered.

A brilliant night followed as you'd expect, and next day I grabbed about 4 hours sleep and then wandered into town in my England shirt to enjoy victory. I read the Australian papers who, for once, were magnanimous in defeat.

I left that afternoon and was back at my desk on Monday morning. Quite a weekend.

There was a twist in the tail. As everyone excitedly discussed the match 'Did you see it?' I was exhaustedly flicking through the BBC website. The first photo was Martin Johnson lifting the trophy to the sodden night sky.

And the second was of a group of about 20 England fans cheering the players as they received the trophy. The photo was entitled: England fans go wild in Sydney's Telstra Stadium. And in the middle of that crowd, clear as day, was me.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Rugby World Cup..my story

So England's reign as RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONS is up for renewal. It's funny how much everyone hates the fact that we are still RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONS. And for me it's extra sweet because I WAS THERE.

I didn't plan to be there. But when I watched the semi final, and when we were playing the convicts, I had to be there.

The TV said it was going to be impossible to get there, but I simply rang up the travel agent and said "how can I get to * coughs * Sydney and back this weekend without missing a day's work as cheaply as possible"? "Well sir, I have one economy seat left flying via Germany, leaving on Thursday evening arriving Saturday morning...." "Erm..jolly good then!"

Now, I had used up all my holiday by that point, so I didn't have a day's leave. And on Thursday evening we had a work meeting. So by then - as you can imagine - I was feeling very ill. Coughing away I was. So I simply excused myself, walked out of the room, down Richmond High Street and off to the tube. Then to Heathrow.

Next things I knew, I was sitting in the lobby of my mate's flat in Sydney, on the morning of the game.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Nessun Dorma

I was really moved by watching Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma this evening. That lad could sing. I wanted to know what Nessun Dorma was actually about. So I looked it up. And this is the answer. I really enjoyed reading about it. Do it whilst listening to it. If you don't have it, I will send you the MP3 version if you like.

Green hosting

Hello. Does anyone know anything about web hosting companies? I want a 'green' one so was looking at this one:

http://www.green-hosting.co.uk/index.html

Is there anything that I should be aware of? Is green hosting a good idea? Are there any cunning questions I need to ask them?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Look to the cookie

My best mate had a baby. I am going to see baby at the weekend. (Gotta see the baybee). It's exciting. Except my mate is white, and so is his Mrs.

So it's a white baby.














And I prefer black babies.

I'm rich baby!

Can I let you into a secret? It seems I am going to be rather rich, due to a quite amazing coincidence. I mean, we still need to discuss in detail our 'participation and modalities', but I am very confident that Mr Obi Julius and I can soon share the great wealth of Mr Elliot Archer between us.

I am really very excited.

Dear Archer,

My humble pleasure to write you this important letter since you have the same surname with my late customer which is suitable for this deal,I was able to get your contact through an international profile in my earnest searching for a reliable and trust worthy person that can handle this confidential transaction with me.

I am a top management staff in a bank here in Nigeria. I have been working in this bank since the year 2000.I have urgent and very confidential business proposition for you. In January 2002, A Gold Merchant (Mr. Elliot Archer) made a numbered-time (fixed) deposit for twelve calendar months in a Domiciliary Account in my Branch running into a very large sum of money. At the time of opening this account, he did not name a next of kin promising to do so in his next visit to Nigeria. He never came back and nobody heard from him. Upon maturity, I sent a routine notification of Account Status to his forwarding address but got no reply. In February 2005, we sent a reminder of same letter and finally we discovered from his contact employers that Mr. Elliot Archer died of heart failure.

After further investigation in Oct 2006, I found out that he did not leave a "WILL" and all attempts to trace his Next-of-kin were fruitless. I therefore made further investigation and discovered that the late Mr. Elliot Archer did not declare any Next-of-Kin in all his official documents, including his bank deposit Papers. This sum of money is still floating in our Bank and the interest is being rolled over with the principal sum at the end of each year. No one would come forward to claim it. According to the local Laws, at the expiration of 6 (six) years, the money will revert to the ownership of our bank if nobody applies to claim the funds.
Consequently upon the above, my request is that I would like you to stand in as the Next-of-kin to the late Mr.Elliot Archer since you have the same surname with him,I would document you in our records here as the next of kin to the man so that you can make claims to the deposit. With me here your claims will be approved without delay and the funds transferred to your nominated bank account. Though we need to discuss in detail as to our participation and modalities. Be assured that I am in charge and there will be no problem but I'll not fail to beg you to observe religiously the high level of secrecy required in this deal for us to succeed.

Please I await your urgent response.

Yours faithfully.
Mr. Obi Julius.
Bill & Exchange

Mind bombs and bras

I don't usually like to blog twice in a day. I feel like I'm being a bit pushy, focring myself on you. It's like I'm trying to unhook your bra strap before I've even got you hammered. Rude.

But sometimes you come across someone who really captures how you feel about a particular issue, better than you ever could yourself. Like being hit right between the ears with an intense mind bomb.

Here it is.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Web 2.0

Thanks mainly to clever friends, I now know what this is. And I like it and believe in it. The bits of it I understand that is. By reading blogs like gapingvoid, I understand - perhaps for the first time - what blogging or 'online communities' are all about.

For a non-geek (I am curious about all things geek, but mentally deficient in this area. I am a special needs geek, or geek-curious if you will), this is an achievement.

But can someone explain to me about all these RSS feeds, technorati, digg things? Do I need to be doing something here? It sounds exciting.

Oh that's right, laugh why don't you. I don't see what was so wrong with letters to be honest.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Quotes

We are currently developing the website for Bloom Psychology, and are working hard to strike a balance between the scientific side of psychology - which differentiates us from all those solving problems through crystals - and the creative more informal side, which we also want to retain.

At the outset we thought that using quotes to illustrate each service we offer would be inspiring, but sometimes we think they could be a bit cheesy. What do people think about the use of quotes in general? Cheesy, or inspiring?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Finally!

After 4 years with my current firm, and nearly 10 years in consulting, I resigned today and am currently negotiating a release date.

I am going to do my MSc and then set up a new venture, Bloom Psychology, with someone I met during my last course.

I am so excited about doing it, relieved to have made a decision, pleased not to have to do any more consultancy and above all, I can't wait to get going with making Bloom a success.

To everyone who has offered me their support and advice over the last few months, thank you.

Farewell to Big Brother

I know my addiction to yet another reality programme will come as no surprise to any of you, my Zookeepers, but this one has been brilliant.

And I'm not talking about the 'highlights' such as the astonishingly damaged Charlie or Ziggy and Chanelle's weird romance.

Since then, nothing really has happened - and this has been the secret of its brilliance. All we've been left with is a genuinely good set of people, interacting in all their glorious human frailty. Essentially, they have all rubbed along, made mistakes, had fun....and nothing has happened.

We even have semi-heroic characters such as Liam, a man oozing rugged decency, the angelic Twins, and Brian, a hero who'll never understand why, who must win.

These are decent and loyal people.

We've read a lot about our broken society and the teenagers who are breaking it. Without belittling any of that, I still feel that whilst Britain is churning out young people like this, all is not lost.

Monday, 27 August 2007

The darker side of knitting

Thought Elise might be amused by this.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

The T junction looms

I had a really wreteched week at work. Every hour passed in a day. And after every day I counted it off as I left the office, whilst dreading the next.

For reasons I will go into later, this long road which I started 3 years ago is leading me to a point where I have to go one way, or another.

Up til now I have been doing something which is classically me: hedging my bets.

So, I have been studying in my spare time, taking sabbaticals, making plans, but all the while keeping my nice, safe, highly paid consulting job.

But that can't go on forever. Bill Cosby once said the key to failure was trying to please everybody, and he's right.

So soon - very soon - I have a decision to make. No more hedging. Of course, I can always go back, that's what everyone is telling me. But I know that isn't true.

I either turn left, and console myself perhaps by buying a beautiful house, a car, expensive holidays. That's not so bad. Or I turn right, and wave goodbye to all that, but do something that might improve the world by a fraction.

And of course, if you will indulge me in another quote: the real measure of your wealth is how much you'd be worth if you lost all your money.

So, left or right?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Local Hero

I just bought Local Hero by Dire Straits for my little ipod. I hadn't heard it for years and years and was instantly transported back to dancing round a front room in Brisbane in 1991 when I was staying with friends. For some reason their little girl had it and loved it and kept playing it and insisting that everyone dance along. Now, I don't like disappointing little girls, or even big girls, so I did.

As an interesting aside, the next day the family all went out and locked me inside the house. There was no way for me to get out. So eventually I had to break out of the window, breaking the protective gauze from what I remember. A neighbour saw it and reported the whole thing to the Police. What a lark that was!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Saying no

No I don't mean saying no to those pushy boys who try and get you into bed on a first date - the nerve! - I am talking about saying no to....

WORK.

I am not sure that anyone has ever done this in our office before, but it looks like I am going to have to try it if I want to retain my sanity.

During the course of a day I get lots of requests to do stuff, and the stock answer is just to pile them onto the plate and get gorging. Well, I can't be bothered any more.

After all, if I responded to every request to my inbox I would have:

1. A set of fake luxury watches
2. A lot of cheap viagra
3. A Russian wife
4. Shares in a Nigerian tech stock
5. A bigger penis
6. A much bigger penis

So let's see how it goes.

Today

I sat down at my desk and no one said good morning. I listened to people bragging about working through the weekend. I saw a (very attractive) sandwich lady march in, shout out 'sandwiches!' and get completely ignored.

Is this normal?

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Richard Dawkins

This one was better. He aimed fairly and squarely at 'alternative' medicine and generally hit home.

Essentially all alternative medicine is the placebo effect dressed up. Without any of the rigorous scientific tests that real medicine has to go through, it has none of the development costs, therefore can afford to spend more time with people.

In an era where people crave attention, and are eager to embrace their spiritual side where religion once sat, alternative medicine captures the placebo effect for more and more of us.

What really riles me is the NHS pending money on it. Not only that, but the NHS is refusing treatment for kidney cancer to those in certain unlucky postal areas, whilst we are spending £300m on tattoo removal each year.

Can that be right? If the NHS refused to pay a penny to reverse anything we have done to ourselves by choice, and if it refused to use treatments not sanctioned by peer reviewed science, and if it stopped paying sodding management consultants, how many lives could be saved?

Sunday, 19 August 2007

THE DEATH BLOW

WHEN SOMEONE TRIES TO BLOW YOU UP

NOT BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE

BUT FOR DIFFERENT REASONS ALTOGETHER

My cousin's Seinfeld DVD

So I bought my cousin series 8 Seinfeld but it didn't come in time to give it to him which has resulted in me partially blacklisting Amazon (I will buy from the marketplace but not from them, ever again, for as long as I live. This is my commitment to any company that makes my blacklist. Don't cross me buddy, I'm like ice).

Anyway, I now have the DVDs and have been indulgently watching Seinfeld after a break of maybe 6 months. Will Ben notice the furtive smudges? Who cares?!

Watched the Little Kicks last night, with commentary from the writer and Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus. God I love it. It's modern day Shakespeare!

Snapple?

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Management Consultancy

Another day as a management consultant done. Oh the value that I love to add for my clients.

Monday, 13 August 2007

The Enemies of Reason

I am really looking forward to Richard Dawkins' programme this evening, the Enemies of Reason. Richard Dawkins is a bit of a hero of mine, as The Selfish Gene is, I think, the best science book I have ever read.
However, I have an uneasy relationship with him, as I do all of my heroes. These doubts are twofold:

1. I don’t actually hate religion as I know that my Mum effectively owes her life to it. He attacks religion with such relish that, whilst I basically agree with him, it makes me uneasy.
2. For all the evidence he will pile up this evening against ‘new age therapies’ there is a nagging feeling in me that knows that even science cannot explain everything. The scientific method is itself flawed, as anyone who has ever studied statistics will testify.

I think the area I can wholeheartedly agree is the area of funding. The NHS should not be supporting anything that cannot be empirically tested, after all, this seems the only ‘proper’ test of efficacy.

Leaving the issue of funding aside, I share the same doubts about horoscopes and inviting angels to sit on your shoulder as Dawkins.

But a nagging doubt remains: if those same angels offer one crumb of comfort to one dying person, who am I to argue?

Today's forecast

Is much brighter, thank you. There will be some glimpses of vim, patches of vigour, and the occasional outbreak of zest - though this will fade towards the evening.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Party Poison

Went to party. Was having a great time. Drank something weird. Poisoned myself. Bed for whole weekend. Granny wondered if my drink had been spiked by someone seeking to take advantage....I'm going with that! Now scraping myself off sofa for toast.

Don't even fancy toast.

This is bad.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Party

Off to party with young gay people at my cousin's 30th birthday party - not that there's anything wrong with that!

Another step...

Another step closer tonight. As I near the precipice I feel totally scared, but never more determined and never more sure that I'm doing the right thing.

That doesn't mean sure, of course.

My biggest fear is that my life is so full of half finished ideas, novels, projects, half read books, half baked promises. I hope this isn't one of them.

I don't think it will be, because this time my life kind of depends on it.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Sometimes...

it takes time to build a relationship.

I hadn't been getting on that well with my new trainers. We didn't argue, but sometimes it's just not been like my old pair of trainers, and they've caused me pain.

But today, after a rest day yesterday I set a new World, Commonwealth and Olympic record with 16:25 for once round Victoria Park. This beat my old record by 10 seconds.

Sometimes you just have to work at things and they come good.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

A post mainly about fingers and toes

I am proud of my feet and toes. There, I've said it. They never smell, they are in perfect order (as in the big one is biggest - no coup d'etoe for ME), and someone once told me I had very high arches. I could have been a foot or toe model I expect.

But I am ashamed of my fingers. They have all been broken at least once, and one of them I didn't even bother to fix and now it's bent. They are all fat and stubby like chipolatas. But godammit, where would I be without them? Eh? I'd have to get an enormous laptop with huge keys so I could type with my elbows, that's where. Or get one of those voice synthesisers like Prof. Hawking. Not my style. I'd want one with the voice of Sid James or Keith Chegwin, but Texas Instruments don't do them.

In honour of my sausage fingers, here is a list of my favourites, in order:

1. Index
2. Middle
3. Little
4. Thumb
5. That other one

Sunday, 5 August 2007

We look.. but do we see?

This is a fun game for all the family when going for a walk or a run. Imagine a landmark you'll be passing in about 10 minutes. Describe it in detail, either to yourself or better, someone else. The other person asks questions: what colour is it? how many flower beds are there? how many bars are there on the gate? how tall is it?

Then as you approach, stop and look and compare your description with reality.

In the brilliant Art of Travel, Alain de Boton argued that the best way to remember something is not to wave your camera phone and take a photo, but to paint it.

The brain's natural reaction is always to create a nice, easy stereotype to remember and to imagine bits around that stereotype; but try making it work harder than that.

Too often we look, but we don't really see, and we hear but don't listen.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Performing with Presence

Went on an astonishingly good course at Maynard Leigh about effective presentations. All their courses are run by actors and are about translating acting techniques to the 'world of business'.

It's a cliche to ask how much of a presentation do you actually remember, because the standard at work is so unbelievably bad everyone knows the answer is somewhere between bugger all and ooh! look at Jeff's hideous tie!

I spent most of the time presenting ideas for the new business and it all went very well.

It was like trying on new clothes and expecting people to just laugh.

But no one did.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Enticements

Nobody wants to give me any recommendations.

What about if I show you this?

4 songs...

What 4 songs shall I get next for my ipod?

Your recommendations please.

The first 4 suggestions songs will be bought, and I will also celebrate your recommendations by dressing in some of my famous lingerie as an erotic reward.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Is sport getting worse?

Now I am as obsessed by sport as anyone, but is it gradually becoming rubbish?

Tour de Farce
Decline of West Indian Cricket and too much cricket
Football - suffocating from wealth
Rugby - rich nations stealing from the poor
Tennis - even more boring now than it ever has been
Athletics - best Doctor wins
Racing - fixing

I think I may take up Crown Green Bowling.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Wife material

What is wife material would you say? I mean, husband material is clearly gore tex. It's reliable, hard wearing and will keep you safe and dry - every girl's dream.

But wife material? Silk would be nice, and if it was socially acceptable I would wear silk underwear every day. Costanza would wear only velvet and I can see his point. But both are unsuitable as a wife material. It's the equivalent of marrying a glamour model; great to begin with but ultimately it can never work.

Lycra? Too scary. Wool? Too right wing. Hemp? Too left wing. Cotton? Maybe... yes, I could marry cotton. Or linen, could that work?

But what about these new hybrid materials as a wife material?

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld when describing his shirt: "Half silk, half cotton, half linen, how can you go wrong?"

A DATE

Well, I don't really talk about dates, but given that I've been so stupidly busy for so long that's mainly because I haven't actually been on one. In fact I have barely been out let alone spoken to GIRLS, so I may as well celebrate the fact that I have finally been on a date. ** rapturous applause ** Yes, I thank you, I thank you!

And it was actually quite good! She cooked me swordfish, we drank champagne (3 bottles, ouch) and she looked like a bit like Juliette Binoche! In fact by the end she looked a LOT like Juliette Binoche.

Sadly I think she is utterly insane, so perhaps not wife material, but then I only ever wear blue shirts and the other day I bought a CHOCOLATE one, so you never know what might happen.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Books innit

I am generally writing about this sort of thing elsewhere, so we don't get all bogged down (blogged down*?) with anything that might be remotely serious, interesting or useful.

But I am reading Bear Hunt by Malcolm Mclean. If you're wondering about your career it's definitely worth a read. As is How to find the work you love by Laurence Boldt.

In case I am sounding a bit self help-y here, as though I might suggest some healing crystals next up, I have just started reading Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini, which already has me gripped!


* oh the hilarity

My Days

Yes, I am blogging less frequently than before. If it's any consolation, I am really quite busy. I think everyone is busy actually. But I am not sure I have stopped for a while, apart from getting hammered last Saturday night and then lying on the sofa on Sunday trying to read the sports pages but not managing.

My days look like this:

Tube 7:15 to Richmond answering e-mails on my stupid PDA thingy
Large cups of tea
Do work stuff
Watch small children fall off bikes on hill
Some form of useless meeting
Note attractive jogger running along river
More work stuff over lunch
Figthing off post lunch work malaise with more work
Probably another meeting about someone who wants something
Wonder if am doing the right thing
Know am doing right thing when someone uses words 'business process outsourcing'
7pm tube
Home at about 8pm - immediate run
Dinner at 9pm - usually with Big Brother on (SORRY)
Psychology work
Bed at midnight

and repeat

One day a historian may read this and publish it and the world will chorus in unison: 'Tit'

Friday, 20 July 2007

Indian Predictions

This series is really hard to predict.

Two sides, both strong in bowling and, with injuries affecting both sides, poor bowling. Therefore on the face of it quite evenly matched.

I am going to go for a draw at Lords, an England win at Trent Bridge and another draw at the Oval. 1-0 England.

Monty will narrowly be England's leading wicket taker, followed by Sidebottom.
Can't look beyond KP for run scorer, even if he is 'tired' followed by Vaughan.

We'll get murdered in the one dayers, natch.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Hill

I work overlooking the river at Richmond. It is beautiful. In front of the river is a short, sharp hill and for weeks now I have watched people go up and down it. Mainly on bikes.

All of humanity - its contrasts and its similarities, its triumphs and its failures - is here.

There are those who attack the hill and cruise up, and those who stay one paced and can barely rotate the pedal by the top. Those who get off and walk. Yesterday there was a baby who rhythmically hit his head on his baby seat as his Father vigorously rotated the pedals. He didn't seem to mind.

Today there were two men who walked down the hill together. Both had walking difficulties. They walked down so slowly and carefully, hand clasped in hand.

A moment of quiet dignity, unnoticed as the world rushed by.