Puppy Eating Time

My boss, Simon, and his family have recently gotten a new puppy, called Ruby.

Ruby, my boss’s new puppy. Aww.

Apparently the little girl’s full of energy and bounce and is taking up a lot of time while she gets settled in to her new home. While talking on an instant messenger with my boss earlier this week, he was telling me about how he’d had to get up in the middle of the night and take her for a run around the garden, because the little tyke was still full of beans and not sleepy. And that’s why I made one of those fabulous moments in instant messaging: when you type something that can be read multiple ways:

Dan: Puppy eating time?

Obviously, I had meant:

Dan: [Is the] puppy eating [i.e. consuming a lot of your] time? [Poor you, you're not getting much sleep.]

Just three words. So simple. But a split second later the other, inevitable way of reading it became clear:

Dan: [Is it] puppy-eating time? [I want to eat your puppy!]

A puppy sandwich: probably the best way to eat a puppy – dressed with a little mustard and lettuce and presented in a bap. Or a french stick, if it’s a dachshund.

Shit. That’s not what I meant! I tried to correct myself:

Dan: I don't want to kill your puppy!

Then I realised: what if my boss didn’t read it the wrong way at all? What if he already understood that I was asking about how much time and energy the new family member was taking up… if that’s the case, then I’d just made myself look like a psychopath who’s contemplating killing his family pets. I backpedalled:

Dan: That came out all wrong. I mean: of course I don't want to kill your puppy - I just didn't want you to think that I did, in case you thought that for some reason.

That didn’t help. This was just going from bad to worse. Then, salvation came:

Simon has reconnected.
Simon: Sorry, had to reboot - did you get my message about our new puppy?

Easter Egg Hunting, Gravity Hooking, and Geocachers You Might Know

This afternoon, like last year, we took the opportunity to spend Easter Sunday hiding one another’s Easter eggs in the woods and then running around looking for them.

Paul & Rory

For some reason, this year Rory didn’t want me to be responsible for hiding his egg (something to do with his eventually being found up a tree, last year), so I ended up hiding Adam‘s, instead. I didn’t even put much effort into it: just propped it on a branch. This turned out to be a bad hiding place because Adam walked right back past it on his way back from hiding JTA‘s egg.

Adam's egg

Paul, meanwhile, hid my egg. He did a pretty good job of it, too, and eventually had to give me a couple of clues. “It’s near Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” he said, knowing perfectly well that this was a geocache that I hadn’t yet hunted for. I pulled out my GPSr and found the cache, and then started looking for my egg in the vicinity.

Adam in a Forest

In a particularly special bit of hiding, Rory managed to hide Matt P‘s egg so well that he himself couldn’t find it again. Eventually we all had to help hunt for Matt’s lost egg. Rory had helpfully taken a photo of the egg in it’s hiding place, but this photo was ultimately useless because it depicted nothing more distinctive than “a wood”, which we were unable to see for all of the trees. I suppose that if we were trying to get to a particular spot and then ascertain that we were in the right place, it would be useful, except for that fact that being in the exact right place would probably have been pretty obvious by the time we were standing on top of an Easter egg.

Hunting for Matt's egg

Finally, Adam basically “tripped over” the hidden egg, and all was well.

Matt finds his egg!

All in all, it was a fabulous afternoon out, and a great way to work off all the calories of Ruth‘s most-excellent Easter lunch (and just in time to be able to scoff down cakes and chocolate later in the afternoon).

Ruth, JTA, and Paul near the edge of the woods

In other news:

The 17 Blog Posts That Weren’t

It may come as a surprise to you that the stuff I write about on my blog – whether about technology, dreams, food, film, games, relationships, or my life in general – isn’t actually always written off-the-cuff. To the contrary, sometimes a post is edited and re-edited over the course of weeks or months before it finally makes it onto the web. When I wrote late last year about some of my controversial ideas about the ethics (or lack thereof) associated with telling children about Santa Claus, I’m sure that it looked like it had been inspired by the run-up to Christmas. In actual fact, I’d begun writing it six months earlier, as summer began, and had routinely visited and revisited it from time to time until I was happy with it, which luckily coincided with the Christmas season.

As an inevitable result of this process, it’s sometimes the case that a blog post is written or partially-written and then waits forever to be finished. These forever-unready, never-published articles are destined to sit forever in my drafts folder, gathering virtual dust. These aren’t the posts which were completed but left unpublished – the ones where it’s only upon finishing writing that it became self-evident that this was not for general consumption – no, the posts I’m talking about are those which honestly had a chance but just didn’t quite make it to completion.

Well, today is their day! I’ve decided to call an amnesty on my incomplete blog posts, at long last giving them a chance to see the light of day. If you’ve heard mention of declaring inbox bankruptcy, this is a similar concept: I’m sick of seeing some of these blog articles which will never be ready cluttering up my drafts folder: it’s time to make some space! Let the spring cleaning begin:


Title: Typically Busy
Unpublished since: March 2004
Unpublished because:
Better-expressed by another post, abandoned

In this post, I talk about how busy my life is feeling, and how this is pretty much par for the course. It’s understandable that I was feeling so pressured: at the time we were having one of our particularly frenetic periods at SmartData, I was fighting to finish my dissertation, and I was trying to find time to train for my upcoming cycle tour of Malawi. The ideas I was trying to express later appeared in a post entitled I’m Still In Aber. Yay, in a much more-optimistic form.


Title: Idloes, Where Art Thou?
Unpublished since: June 2004
Unpublished because: Got distracted by rebuilding the web server on which my blog is hosted, after a technical fault

In anticipation of my trip to Malawi, I was prescribed an anti-malarial drug, Lariam, which – in accordance with the directions – I began taking daily doses of several weeks before travelling. It seemed silly in the long run; I never even saw a single mosquito while I was over there, but better safe than sorry I suppose. In any case, common side-effects of Lariam include delusions, paranoia, strange dreams, hallucinations, and other psychological
effects. I had them in spades, and especially the weird trippy dreams.

This blog post described what could have been one of those dreams… or, I suppose, could have just been the regular variety of somewhat-strange dream that isn’t uncommon for me. In the dream I was living back in Idloes, a tall Aberystwyth townhouse where I’d rented a room during 2002/2003. In the dream, the house caught fire one night, and my landlady, Anne, was killed. Apparently the fire was started by her electric blanket.


Title: Are We Alone In The Universe?
Unpublished since: March 2006
Unpublished because: Never finished, beaten to the punchline

Here’s an example of an article that I went back to, refining and improving time and time again over a period of years, but still never finished. I was quite pleased with the direction it was going, but I just wasn’t able to give it as much time as it needed to reach completion.

The Drake Equation

In the article, I examine the infamous Drake Equation, which estimates the likelihood of there being intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy (more specifically, it attempts to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations “out there”). Which is all well and good, but the only way to put the formula into practice is to effectively pull unknowable numbers out of the air and stuff them into the equation to get, in the end, whatever answer you like. The only objective factors in the entire equation are those relating to the number of stars in the galaxy, and everything else is pure conjecture: who honestly thinks that they can estimate the probability of any given species reaching sentience?

The post never got finished, and I’ve since seen other articles, journals, and even stand-up comedians take apart the Drake Equation in a similar way to that which I intended, so I guess I’ve missed the boat, now. If you want to see the kind of thing I was working on, here it is but better-written. I wonder what the probability is that a blog post will never end up being published to the world?


Title: Why Old People Should Be Grumpy
Unpublished since: October 2006
Unpublished because: Never finished, possibly bullshit

In this post, I put forward a theory that grumpy old people are a positive sign that a nation is making just enough change to not be stagnant: something about the value of keeping older people around crossed with the importance of taking what they say with a pinch of salt, because it’s not them that has to live in the world of tomorrow. I can’t even remember what the point was that I was trying to make, and my notes are scanty, but I’m sure it was a little bit of a one-sided argument for social change with an underdeveloped counter-argument for social stability.

In any case, I left it for years and eventually gave up on it.


Title: The Games That Didn’t Make The List
Unpublished since: July 2007
Unpublished because: I could have kept refining it forever and still never finish it

After my immensely popular list of 10 Computer Games That Stole My Life, I received a great deal of feedback – either as direct feedback in the form of comments or indirectly in other people’s blogs. Reading through this feedback got me thinking about computer games that had stolen my life which I hadn’t mentioned. Not wanting to leave them out, I put together a list of “games that didn’t make the list”: i.e. games which could also have been said to steal my life, but which I didn’t think of when I wrote my original top ten. They included:

  • Castles and Castles 2
    The original Castles was one of the first non-free PC computer games I ever owned (after Alley Cat, that golf game, and the space command/exploration game whose name I’ve been perpetually unable to recall). It was a lot of fun; a well-designed game of strategy and conquest. Later, I got a copy of Castles 2 – an early CD-ROM title, back before developers knew quite what to do with all that space – which was even better: the same castle-building awesomeness but with great new diplomacy and resource-management exercises, as well as siege engines and the ability to launch your own offensives. In the end, getting Civilization later in the same year meant that it stole more of my time, but I still sometimes dig out Castles 2 and have a quick game, from time to time.
  • Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates!
    Early during the development of Three Rings, I came across an existing company with the name Three Rings Design, based in the US. Their major product is a game called Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, an MMOG in which players – as pirates – play puzzle games in order to compete at various tasks (you know, piratey tasks: like sailing, drinking, and swordfighting). Claire and I both got quite deeply involved during the beta, and played extensively, even forming our own crew, The Dastardly Dragons, at one point, and met some fascinating folks from around the world. When the beta came to an end we both took advantage of a “tester’s bonus” chance to buy lifetime subscriptions, which we both barely used. Despite the fact that I’ve almost never played the game since then, it still “stole my life” in a quite remarkable way for some time, and my experience with this (as well as with the Ultima Online beta, which I participated in many years earlier) has shown me that I should never get too deeply involved with MMORPGs again, lest they take over my life.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
    As a Civilization fan, I leapt on the chance to get myself a copy of Alpha Centauri, and it was awesome. I actually pirated my first copy of the game, copying it from a friend who I studied with, and loved it so much that I wrapped up the cash value of the game in an envelope and sent it directly to the development team, asking them to use it as a “beer fund” and have a round on me. Later, when I lost my pirated copy, I bought a legitimate copy, and, later still, when I damaged the disk, bought another copy, including the (spectacular) add-on pack. Alpha Centauri is the only game I’ve ever loved so much that I’ve paid for it three times over, despite having stolen it, and it was worth every penny. Despite its age, I still sometimes dig it out and have a game.
  • Wii Sports Tennis – Target Training
    Perhaps the most recent game in the list, this particular part of the Wii Sports package stole my life for weeks on end while I worked up to achieving a coveted platinum medal at it, over the course of several weeks. I still play it once in a while: it’s good to put on some dance music and leap around the living room swinging a Wiimote to the beat.
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon 2
    In the comments to my original post, Rory reminded me of these games which stole my life during my first couple of years at University (and his, too!). RCT2, in particular, ate my time for years and still gets an occassional play out of me – but was pipped to the post by OpenTTD, of course.
  • X-COM series
    Another series of games which hooked me while I was young and stayed with me as I grew, the X-COM series (by which – of course – I mean Enemy Unknown, Terror From The Deep, and Apocolypse; not Interceptor and certainly not that modern travesty, Aftermath). Extremely difficult, each of them took me months or years before I completed them, and I’ve still never finished Apocalypse on anything higher that the lowest-two difficulty settings.

I wanted to write more and include more games, but by the time I’d made as much progress as I had, above, the moment felt like it had passed, so I quietly dropped the post. I suppose I’ve now shared what I was thinking, anyway.


Title: Rational Human Interaction
Unpublished since: September 2007
Unpublished because: Too pretentious, even for me; never completed

I had some ideas about how humans behave and how their rationality and their emotions can conflict, and what this can mean. And then I tried to write it down and I couldn’t find a happy medium between being profound and insightful and being obvious and condescending. Later, I realised that I was tending towards the latter and, besides, much of what I was writing was too self-evident to justify a blog post, so I dropped it.


Title: Long Weekend
Unpublished since: April 2008
Unpublished because: Too long, too wordy, and by the time it was nearing completion it was completely out of date

This post was supposed to be just an update about what was going on in my life and in and around Aber at the time. But as anybody who’s neglected their blog for more than a little while before may know, it can be far too easy to write about everything that’s happened in the interim, and as a result end up writing a blog post that’s so long that it’ll never be finished. Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, the highlights of the post – which is all that it should have consisted of, ultimately – were as follows:

  • It was the Easter weekend on 2008, and town had gone (predictably) quiet, as many of my friends took the opportunity to visit family elsewhere, and there was a particular absence of tourists this year. Between Matt being in Cornwall, Sarah being out-of-town, and Ruth, JTA, Gareth and Penny off skiing (none of them wrote anything about it, so no post links there), it felt a little empty at our Easter Troma Night, which was rebranded a Troma Ultralite as it had only two of the requisite four people present: not even the three needed for a Troma Lite! Similarly, our Geek Night only had four attendees (but that did include Paul, unusually).
  • Claire and I took a dig through her wardrobe about found that of the skirts and dresses that she famously never wears, she owns over two dozen of them. Seriously.
  • I played and reviewed Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty, which turned out to be a second-rate first-person shooter with a reasonably clever alternate history slant. I’m a fan of alternate histories in video games, so this did a good job of keeping me amused over the long bank holiday weekend.
  • Paul and I were arranging for a beach-fire-barbeque with Ruth and JTA when they got back, to which we even anticipated attendence from the often-absent not-gay-Gareth.
  • And finally, I had something to say about Jimmy‘s recent experiences in Thailand, but that’s as far as my draft went and I don’t remember what I had planned to say…

Title: Confused And Disoriented
Unpublished since: April 2008
Unpublished because: Never finished; abandoned

Having received mixed feedback about my more-unusual dreams over the years, I’ve taken to blogging about a great number of them in order to spread the insanity and let others comment on quite how strange my subconscious really is. This was to be one of those posts, and it catalogued two such unusual dreams.

In the first, I was at my grandma’s funeral (my grandma had died about two years earlier). A eulogy was given by both my mum and – confusingly – by Andy R. Afterwards, the crowd present booed them.

In the second, I revisited a place that I’ve dreamed of many times before, and which I think is a reference to some place that I found as a young child, but have never been able to determine the location of since. In this recurring theme I crawl through a tunnel (possibly of rock, as in a ruined castle) to reach a plateau (again, ruined castle-like), from which I am able to shuffle around to a hidden ledge. I have such vivid and strong memories of this place, but my faith in my own memory is shaken by the very “dreamlike” aspects of the event: the tunnel, the “secret place”, as well as the fact that it has appeared in my dreams time and time again for over 15 years. Perhaps it never existed at all: memory is a fragile and malleable thing, and it’s possible that I made it up entirely.

Some parts of it are less dream-like. For example, I’m aware that I’ve visited this place a number of times at different ages, and that I found it harder to fit through the tunnel to re-visit my secret childhood hiding place when I was older and larger.

A few years ago, I spoke to my mum about this dream, and described the location in great detail and asked where it might be, and she couldn’t think of anywhere. It’s strange to have such a strong and profound memory that I can’t justify through the experience of anybody else, and which consistently acts as if it were always just a dream. Maybe it’s real, and maybe it isn’t… but it’s beginning to sound like I’ll never know for sure.


Title: The Code In The School
Unpublished since:May 2008
Unpublished because: Never finished; abandoned

Another dream, right after Troma Night 219, where it seems that the combination of the beer and the trippy nature of the films we watched inspired my brain to run off on a tangent of it’s own:

In the dream, I was visiting a school as an industrialist (similarly to how I had previously visited Gregynog on behalf of the Computer Science department at Aberystwyth University in 2005, 2006 and 2007). While there, I was given a challenge by one of the other industrialists to decipher a code represented by a number of coloured squares. A basic frequency analysis proved of no value because the data set was too small, but I was given a hint that the squares might represent words (sort of like early maritime signal flags). During mock interviews with the students, I used the challenge as a test, to see if I could get one of them to do it for me, without success. Later in the dream I cracked the message, but I’m afraid I didn’t make a record of how I did so or what the result was.

A particularly famous message represented in maritime signal flags (click for bigger version)

Title: Absence

Unpublished since: May 2008
Unpublished because: Forgotten about; abandoned

At the beginning of the long, hot summer of 2008, I wrote about the immenent exodus of former students (and other hangers-on) from Aberystwyth, paying particular attention to Matt P and to Ele, who left for good at about this time. And then I forgot that I was writing about it. But Matt wrote about leaving and Ele wrote about being away, anyway, so I guess my post rapidly became redundant, anyway.


Title: =o(
Unpublished since: June 2008
Unpublished because: Too negative; unfinished

I don’t even know what I was complaining about, but essentially this post was making an excuse to mope for a little while before I pull myself together and get things fixed. And that’s all that remains. It’s possible that it had something to do with this blog post, but without context I’ve no idea what that one was about, too. Sounds like it was about an argument, and so I’m happier just letting it go, whatever it was, anyway.


Title: Spicy Yellow Split Pea Soup
Unpublished since: November 2008
Unpublished because: Got lazy; unfinished

I came up with a recipe for a delicious spicy yellow split pea soup, and wanted to share it with you, so I made myself the stub of a blog entry to remind myself to do so. And then I didn’t do so. Now I don’t even remember the recipe. Whoops!

In any case, the moral is that pulses make great soup, as well as being cheap and really good for you, and are especially tasty as the days get shorter and winter tightens it’s icy grip. Also that you shouldn’t leave just a title for a blog post for yourself and expect to fill it in afterwards, because you won’t.


Title: (untitled)
Unpublished since: December 2008
Unpublished because: Too busy building, configuring, and working on my new PC, ironically

December is, according to Rory, the season for hardware failures, and given that alongside his troubles, Ruth’s laptop died and Paul’s computer started overheating, all at the same time, perhaps he’s right. So that’s when my long-serving desktop computer, Dualitoo, decided to kick the bucket as well. This was a particularly awkward time, as I was due to spend a weekend working my arse off towards a Three Rings deadline. Thankfully, with the help of friends and family, I was able to pull forward my plans to upgrade anyway and build myself a new box, Nena (which I continue to use to this day).

I began to write a blog post about my experience of building a computer using only local shops (I was too busy to be able to spare the time to do mail order, as I usually would), but I was unfortunately too busy building and then using – in an attempt, ultimately successful, to meet my deadline – my new computer to be able to spare time to blogging.

But I did learn some valuable things about buying components and building a mid-to-high spec computer, in Aberystwyth, all in one afternoon:

  1. Daton Computers are pretty much useless. Actual exchange:
    “Hi, I need to buy [name of component], or another [type of component] with [specification of component].”
    “Well, you’ll need to bring your computer in for us to have a look at.”
    “Umm; no – I’m building a computer right now: I have [other components], but I really need a [name of component] or something compatible – can you help?”
    “Well, not without looking at the PC first.”
    “WTF??? Why do you need to look at my PC before you can sell me a [type of component]?”
    “So we can tell what’s wrong.”
    “But I know what’s wrong! I only took the shrink-wrap off the [other components] this morning: all I need is a [type of component], because I don’t have one! Now can you sell one to me or not?”
    “Well, not without -”
    /Dan exits/
  2. Crosswood Computers are pretty much awesome. Actual exchange:
    “Hi, remember me? I was in here this morning.”
    “Yeah: how’s the rebuild going?”
    “Not bad, but I’ve realised that I’m short by a [type of cable]: do you sell them?”
    “We’re out of stock right now, but I’ve got some left-over ones in the back; you can have one for free.”
    /Dan wins/
  3. It’s possible to do this, but not recommended. The local stores, and in particular Crosswood, are great, but when time allows it’s still preferable to do your component-shopping online.

I later went on to write more about Nena, when I had the time.


Title: Child Porn
Unpublished since: April 2009
Unpublished because: Never finished; too much work in writing this article

I had planned to write an article about the history of child pornography, starting well before Operation Ore and leading up to the present day, and to talk about the vilification of paedophiles (they’re the new terrorists!) – to the point where evidence is no longer as important as the severity of the alleged crime (for particularly awful examples of this kind of thinking, I recommend this article). I’m all in favour of the criminalisation of child abuse, of course, but I think it’s important that people understand the difference between the producers and the consumers of child porn, as far as a demonstrable intent to cause harm is concerned.

Anyway, the more I read around the subject, the more I realised that nothing I could write would do justice to the topic, and that others were already saying better what I was thinking, so I abandoned the post.


Title: 50 Days On An EeePC 1000
Unpublished since: May 2009
Unpublished because: By the time I was making progress, it had been more like 150 days

Earlier in the year, I’d promised that I’d write a review of my new notebook, an Asus EeePC 1000. I thought that a fun and engaging way to do that would be to write about the experience of my first 50 days using it (starting, of course, with reformatting it and installing a better operating system than the one provided with it).

Of course, by the time I’d made any real progress on the article, it was already well-past 50 days (in fact, I’d already changed the title of the post twice, from “30 Days…” to “40 Days…” and then again to “50 Days…”). It’s still a great laptop, although I’ve used it less than I expected over the last nine months or so (part of my original thinking was to allow me to allow Claire to feel like she’d reclaimed the living room, which was being taken over by Three Rings) and in some ways it’s been very-recently superceded by my awesome mobile phone.


Title: El De-arr
Unpublished since: September 2009
Unpublished because: Too waffley; couldn’t be bothered to finish it; somewhat thrown by breaking up with Claire

Over the years I’ve tried a handful of long-distance romantic relationships, and a reasonable number of short-distance ones, and, in general, I’ve been awful at the former and far better at the latter. In this blog post I wrote about my experience so far of having a long-distance relationship with Ruth and what was making it work (and what was challenging).

I’m not sure where I was going with it in the first place, but by the time Claire and I broke up I didn’t have the heart to go back into it and correct all of the references to her and I, so I dropped it.


Title: Knowing What I’m Talking About
Unpublished since: October 2009
Unpublished because: Never finished; got distracted by breaking up with Claire

On the tenth anniversary since I started doing volunteer work for emotional support helplines (starting with a Nightline, and most recently for Samaritans), I wrote about a talk I gave at BiCon 2009 on the subject of “Listening Skills for Supporting Others”. It was a little under-attended but it went well, and there was some great feedback at the end of it. I’d helped out with a workshop entitled “Different Approaches to Polyamory” alongside fire_kitten, but strangely it was this, the workshop whose topic should be that which I have the greater amount of experience in, that made me nervous.

This blog post was supposed to be an exploration of my personal development over the previous decade and an examination of what was different about giving this talk to giving countless presentations at helpline training sessions for years that made me apprehensive. I think it could have been pretty good, actually. Unfortunately a lot of blog posts started around this time never ended up finished as I had other concerns on my plate, but I might come back to this topic if I give a similar presentation at a future conference.


So there we have it: a big cleanse on my perpetually unfinished blog posts. I’ve still got about eight drafts open, so there’s a reasonable chance that I might finish some of them, some day: but failing that, I’ll wait until another decade or so of blogging is up and I’ll “purge” them all again, then.

And if you had the patience to read all of these – these “17 blog posts in one” – well, thanks! This was more about me than about you, so I don’t mind that plenty of you will have just scrolled down to the bottom and read this one sentence, too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMAC

Kiwi Evolution

A discussion at SmartData this morning:

Dan: (eating a kiwi fruit) So why are kiwis hairy?
Gareth: To give insects something to cling onto?
Dan: Like “kiwi headlice”? But to what purpose? How does that benefit the plant?
Gareth: Well, then maybe it’s to make them look even more like gonads.
Dan: Heh. But again, to what purpose?
Gareth: To attract homosexual male humans to it, perhaps.
Dan: Which gives it an evolutionary advantage how?
Gareth: Well, homosexual men are better at disseminating seed.

Foods That Begin With The Letter Q

To mark the second anniversary of QParty, I thought I’d cook Claire and I a meal consisting of foods that begin with the letter Q. How hard can it be, right? Turns out it’s more difficult than you might first expect.

My first thought was quails with qvark dumplings, but, would you believe it, both of these things turn out to be hard to get in Aberystwyth. Not wanting to have to resort to Quorn™, we ended up having a quirky mixture of foods that have probably never before been seen on the same plate:

  • A quarter-pounder burger
  • Pasta quills
  • Quesadillas
  • Quiche

I’d have liked to have put quinces in the desert somehow, or else flapjacks made from Quaker oats, but in the end we just had cherry pie and cream, which I insisted on calling queam.

Aside from those listed above, and quinoa, of course, what foods have I missed? Is there anything that you can eat that begins with a “Q” that I haven’t thought of?

The Fife Diet from Kamikaze Cookery

I’ve been following Kamikaze Cookery (three geeks doing cookery… with science!) for a while now, and it’s got some real potential, but what really sold me on it was their recent series on the Fife diet (yeah, I know, it’s been out for ages, but I’ve been busy so my RSS reader’s been brim-full and I only just got around to watching it).

If you haven’t come across Kamikaze Cookery before, The Fife Diet videos are a great place to start.

Curry And Penny

Went out last night for curry and beer to celebrate Paul‘s birthday (yes, we’re all well aware that Paul’s birthday was almost a month ago, but this was the first chance we’d had to really get together and make an ocassion of it). It was great to get together with a handful of folks rarely seen in the same place outside of Troma Night – and in some cases, recently, not even then – and have a good night out.

At the end of the evening I was quite tipsy; a direct result of the fact that or a few hours before the curry I’d been “warming up” with ales in the Ship & Castle with Matt P. And, as you may have noticed by now, there’s a strong correlation between me going to bed drunk and me blogging about particularly unusual dreams. I skipped a dream that I couldn’t be arsed to blog about, near the end of last month, under similar intoxication. I’d made some notes on it, as I try to with everything I dream about, but never found time to write it up to standards of internet legibility (whatever that can be taken as meaning).

In any case, last night was a classic example of me dreaming within-a-dream, which I gather is something a lot of people haven’t experienced (for me, while not commonplace, it’s not terribly rare, either, for me to “wake up” within a dream, or to remember previous dreams as dreams within the one I’m currently ‘in’). Note the double-indentation to ease understanding of which dream I’m referring to:

I had been hosting a house party of some variety, in a somewhat larger (and significantly tidier) version of The Cottage, and it was beginning to wind up – most of the guests had gone home, except for a few small, scattered groups in different parts of the building (I mentioned that it was bigger than The Cottage usually is, right? – there are times that the word “mansion” could have come to hand). JTA, Claire and Ruth were somewhere upstairs; Bryn was talking to Andrew Rawlins (!) in a kitchen reminiscent of my dad’s house; and I was in the living room, talking to Penny.

If I remember rightly we were talking about oral sex technique. So, just a regular conversation for me, you’re probably thinking. And that’s about the time that we kissed.

We hid that we’d been kissing from Bryn and Andrew as they came through the living room, said goodbye, got their coats and left. And again, when Gareth, Penny’s partner, arrived by car to pick her up. And then I went to bed.

And then I woke up. I don’t specifically remember waking up, but I remember having a moment of realisation that everything that had just happened was a dream. It was an unusual dream, sure (although not entirely unpleasant: Penny’s pretty hot), but just a dream, and so I got on with my day. Leaving Claire in bed, I went to work, and I remember thinking about the fact that I would undoubtedly blog about the dream I’d had, and that I hoped I wouldn’t alarm or embarrass Penny by doing so!

And then I woke up. Actually, this time, and there was a moment of confusion as I remembered that it was Ruth I’d spent the night with last night, not Claire at all, and I spent the first few minutes of the morning trying to work out where the dreams began and ended. Perhaps more confusingly, I discovered when I woke up that I’d somehow, in the night, managed to cut my hand and I was bleeding all over the place. I snapped the following photo after I’d cleaned it up a bit.

Ruth theorised that she attacked me in my sleep because she was jealous that I was kissing Penny in my dreams, going on to add that she wanted to be dreaming of kissing Penny. But I’m not sure if she’d approve of me blogging that, so you should pretend that I didn’t.

Do you or anybody you know routinely dream that you are dreaming? Or wake up from a dream with an unusual injury? Or have dreams that involve your friends cheating on their partners with you?

The Australian Pink Floyd Show

I took Claire, Ruth and JTA to see The Australian Pink Floyd Show at the Cardiff International Arena last night. Claire and I had seen them before, back in 2005, and they were as fabulous as ever: I maintain that this tribute band is the only one I’ve ever seen that, at times, can be better than the band to which it’s a tribute.

What might be slightly sadder is that for me, one of the highlights of the show was that during the intermission, the screen at the back of the stage showed a recoding of the intermission sequence from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as shown from time to time at Troma Night by Paul. If you can’t see the recoding below, try over here.

The music was typically spectacular, as was the light and laser show that so-traditionally accompanies it, right down to the biggest glitterball I’ve ever seen lighting up the entire arena with twinkly lights during the final numbers. If only I hadn’t had to pay £3.80 per (plastic) bottle for the privilege of a warm, watery beer, it’d have been even better. Ah well.

After the show, the four of us found the most disgusting food in all of Cardiff from a take-away around the corner from the venue. While you can imagine how they fucked up my chicken burger, it’s beyond me how they could make a mess of re-heating a spring roll for JTA or even of cooking corn on the cob for Ruth, but somehow they did.

Quickly, Before They Turn The Glass Into Lesbians!

So, what have I been up to this weekend, you ask. Well…

“Cover The Mirrors” Launch Party

On Friday I took the train up to Preston. The train I was on broke down at Machynlleth when they linked it up to the carriages that had come down the Pwllheli line, and the repairs set me back by almost an hour, but it turns out that the rest of the rail network was running behind schedule that day, too, and so I didn’t miss any important connections. I arrived in time for a quick “birthday tea” with my family (for my dad’s birthday) before rushing off to the Waterstones for the launch party for my friend Faye‘s first published novel, Cover The Mirrors.

Dan with author Faye at the book launch

I drank as much wine as the store were willing to give me and bought myself a signed copy of the book. I even managed to get the photo, above, under the proviso that it’s only allowed to appear on the internet thanks to the fact that I’m holding a carrier bag in front of Faye’s face (she’s more than a little camera-shy). I haven’t started reading Cover The Mirrors yet, because I’m virtually at the end of The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, and I’d like to finish that first, but little doubt you’ll hear about it here in due course.

Dad’s Birthday

After the book launch, my sisters and I took my dad out for a few drinks to celebrate his 51st birthday. It turns out that, in my absence, Preston’s nightclub scene has really taken off. We started out in an 80s-themed bar which is part of a chain called Reflex. It’s so 80s it’s unreal: all 80s hits playing, David Hasselhoff and Mr. T decorating every wall, glitter balls and spots and mirrors everywhere… deely-boppers available at the bar… and so on. Really quite a fantastic theme venue. Then, under my sister Sarah’s recommendation, we tootled up the street and into a cafe/club called Manyana, where my dad got hit on by somebody young enough to be his daughter.

My dad and some 20-something year-old

I snatched this picture. I’ve no idea who she is – we didn’t get her name – but she seemed genuinely surprised to hear my dad’s age. So I had the DJ announce it, just to make sure there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that there was an old person on the dancefloor.

This influx of Preston nightclubs is making them all remarkably competitive with their drinks prices, too. I bought a few rounds for the four of us and none of them ever came to over a tenner, and one – thanks to the “buy one get one free” policy at Manyana – came to under £6, which is quite remarkable for a city nightclub on a Friday night for four people!

Back To Aberystwyth

On Saturday I had brunch with my sister Becky, my mum, and her boyfriend and then got back onto the trains to head back to Aberystwyth. Owing to line maintenance, the stretch of track between Crewe and Preston is unusable every weekend within sight, and so I was re-directed via Manchester Piccadilly. Yet again, my train ran late, and I found myself sprinting across Piccadilly station, trying to find a train that was heading Shrewsbury-way…

…meanwhile, my friend Katie, having slept through her stop, woke up in Manchester Piccadilly and, not quite awake, clambered off her train in an attempt to find a connection. I’d apparently featured in her dream, and so she was quite surprised (and not quite sure if she was seeing things) when I sprinted past her. She sent a text (which I chose to ignore: my pocket beeped but I was too busy looking for a train to take the time to get my phone out) and then phoned me before she was able to confirm that yes, it really was me.

As we were headed the same way, she joined me on my train for one stop, which was a nice surprise for what was a long and overcomplicated train journey. A few folks have suggested that this might not be a coincidence, and that she might be stalking me, but I’m yet to be convinced.

In any case, I don’t have a picture to go with this part of the story. Sorry.

Jimmy, Beth, and Troma Night

YATN. If you were there, you know how it went. Big thanks to Jimmy and Beth for coming along.

Lloyd Kaufman’s Visit

In case you’ve not been anywhere that I can pounce on you and go “squee!” recently, here’s what you missed out on. You’ll remember that last week I mentioned that PoultrygeistTroma‘s new movie – was coming to Aberystwyth. Well, it did. And it rocked…

…and better yet, Ruth, Claire, JTA, Paul and I got to hang out with Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Studios and producer of The Toxic Avenger, for a couple of pints and to share a bowl of nachos. The guy’s fabulously chatty and friendly, and if it weren’t for the awestruck feeling of “wow, we’re just sat here chatting with Lloyd Kaufman in Lord Beechings” we’d have probably been more interesting company.

Dan, Claire, !!!LLOYD KAUFMAN!!!, JTA, and Ruth

When he said goodbye, kissing the cheeks of each of the girls, I genuinely thought that they were in danger of exploding with excitement. Thankfully they didn’t, because I’d already bought them tickets to see Poultrygeist later on.

Which was, as I’ve said before, fantastic. It’s even better seen with a nice, energised audience, and better still when the director and several other people who worked on the film are hanging around afterwards to answer questions, chat, autograph things and so on. There are apparently 15 prints of Poultrygeist and the capacity to make more on demand, so if you want to see it and can’t wait for the DVD release, go speak to your local cinema now and ask if they’ll show Poultrygeist, even if only for a week (as Lloyd himself said, it’s better than showing Transformers on all 24 screens of some soulless megaplex). And hell, with Troma’s current financial situation, they could probably do with a helping hand with getting into as many projection booths as possible!

The title of this post – Quickly, Before They Turn The Glass Into Lesbians! – is a reference to one of my favourite lines in the film.

Paul might have bitten off more than he can chew, though, as he hinted on his blog. After some discussion with Lloyd, Paul is likely to be responsible for:

  • Re-establishing the UK division of the Troma fan club.
  • Acting as president of the above, for the forseeable future.
  • Investigating UK distribution of Troma films.
  • Oh, and making an official DVD subtitle track for Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead, which describes the Troma Night drinking rules and reminds you when you should be drinking. He’s got a few ideas about things that should be in such a subtitle track, too, and if you’re familiar with the rules you’ll probably be able to guess what he’s thinking about.

I’ll leave it to him to go into detail, if he wishes.

Matt In Hospital

Between places, we also joined a growing crowd at the foot of Matt‘s bed in Bronglais Hospital. His operation was a success, but he’s reacted unusually to the general anaesthetic and they’re likely to keep him in for observation for another few days. If you haven’t had a chance to visit him already, he’d probably appreciate the company (although Sarah seems to have barely left his side): visiting hours are 3pm-5pm, 6pm-8pm: just ask if you need to know what ward he’s in and how to get there. If you’re feeling particularly cruel, mock him by talking about how well your bodily excretions are working, or swap his drip with his catheter bag while he’s not looking.

But seriously: I’m sure we all wish him well.

Curry!

Finally – as if we weren’t full enough from a large Sunday lunch – after leaving the cinema, Gareth, Penny, Amy, Ruth, JTA, Rory, Paul, Claire and I slipped down for a late-night curry at the Spice of Bengal. Which was delicious, although there was a little much food for those of us who were already quite full.

Dan eating curry!

Nonetheless, a fantastic end to a fantastic weekend! I’m sure everybody else will have a different story to tell (Paul spent longer with Lloyd and went to more films; Claire and Jimmy got horribly drunk together on Friday night after she, Ruth and JTA failed to see a Meatloaf concert; Matt’ll have his own morphine-fuelled tale to spin, and so on), because it’s been a rich, full couple of days for many of us abnibbers.

Razburgers

Rory‘s making some more of his delicious-looking all-steak burgers for tomorrow’s barbeque. If you want one (and are willing to pay for the mince!) drop him a comment on his blog.

This evening, I kicked off with a few hobbies I’ve neglected lately, starting brewing some wine and juggling some fire on the beach. It’s amazing how quickly you lose the fitness to juggle clubs effectively if you don’t do it for a year or two. Must get more practice.

Paul Is The Most Fucking Random Person In The World

Paul M: fucking nutter. The most random person you’re ever likely to meet. But you’ve got to love his sincerity.

This morning, I’m happily sat at my workstation, staring, as I do, at program code and pausing from time to time to check the RSS feeds of the usual crew, when the phone rings: Matt answers it; it’s Technium reception – they’ve got a parcel for us. Ooh; that’s exciting, but Matt’s deeply involved in some code so I offer to go and collect it. The arrangement here among us lazy folks is that the receptionist puts the parcel in the lift, and one of us toddles along the corridor and takes it out of the lift on this floor.

I stood outside the lift and listened as it came up to the first floor. The door opened, and I lifted out the parcel… and that’s when I noticed the first strange thing: the parcel was addressed to me, personally (which is very unusual) and the address was written entirely in marker pen (rather than being a printed label, as most goods delivered to us here are). I’m not expecting anything; least of all at work: I never give my work address to anybody. Who could have sent this?

I opened it and laughed out loud. It took just a second to realise what was going on, as I recalled a conversation in the RockMonkey ChatRoom yesterday lunchtime…

[11:38] * Ava_Work goes to nuke food
[11:38] <Ava_Work> Hmm… spaghetti hoops on toast for me, methinks…
[11:39] <Pacifist_049> You’re microwaving spaghetti hoops?
[11:41] <Ava_Work> Yup.
[11:41] <Ava_Work> Why?
[11:41] <Pacifist_049> Philistine
[11:41] <Ava_Work> So…
[11:41] <Ava_Work> …how else can I do it?
[11:41] <Ava_Work> And think carefully now…
[11:41] <Pacifist_049> Pan
[11:41] <Ava_Work> A pan. Which I don’t have. But let’s pretend I did. How would I heat it?
[11:41] <Pacifist_049> I know you don’t have a cooker at work, but that’s not the issue here. It’s the principle, damnit!
[11:42] <Ava_Work> So; as it pisses YOU off so much, feel free to bring me a pan and a cooker. Then I’ll do it your way, which is – in the end – preferable.
[11:42] <Ava_Work> However, it doesn’t piss ME off enough that I’ll go hungry rather than nuke spaghetti hoops.

Parcel containing a loaf of bread, a tin of spaghetti hoops, a pan, wooden spoon, and an electric hob. Close-up on the beans pan, and wooden spoon.
Click on images for larger versions.

The parcel, as shown above, contains a pan, wooden spoon, loaf of bread, tin of spaghetti hoops, and a strangely familiar electric hob.

Which is a fab gesture, although if I use it for my lunch today I’ll have to do so on the sly, on account of the fact that the Technium facilities manager is in today and this particular piece of electrical equipment has not been electrically safety-tested.

Electrical safety test sticker.

What the fuck. Thank you, Paul!

Freshers’ Fayre

Freshers’ Fayre was a success, as Kit reports. Although it must be said that he’s probably right to be concerned that this may be the last year we’re able to pull such a stunt. Which is a real shame. We worked really hard – harder than we ever do at the jobs from which we took a holiday just to make this possible – to sell burgers and hot dogs and bacon rolls and things to freshers, and we raised a considerable amount of money to donate to Aberystwyth Nightline.

On which note, both Claire and I sustained thumb injuries as a result of our efforts – see the picture! Mine was caused by sheer stupidity – picking up a hot pan I melted my thumb to the handle, and required a trip to A&E. Claire’s was caused by damn blind stupidity – while seperating two frozen burgers, she levered them apart using a bread knife, and in doing so took a large bite out of her thumb when the knife slipped.

On which note, what idiot decided that the Sports Centre’s emergency first aid kit should be stored behind a double-locked door to which nobody on site has either key? Our designated first-aider eventually had to run to his car and collect his own first aid kit in order to stop Claire’s bleeding. Had the injury been significantly more serious, we’d have gotten to a point of having to improvise a tourniquet to save her from bleeding to death while she waited next to the locked door. Ah well.

And there’s another thing – how could the union justify telling us that we couldn’t cook indoors because “no food or drink is allowed in the building”, forcing us to rent a generator and stand in the rain for hours on end, then allow Spartacus to sell sandwiches in the foyer… and then, better yet, let some of the clubs and societies give away beer to their members. The mind boggles.

I’ve had three days of meeting lots of 18-year-olds, fresh to the University, setting out for their degrees and away from home for the first time. I feel old again. =o)

But happy.

Burger King Love Us

A new-looking manager (young, with a shiny badge) is making Changes at the Burger King around the corner from us. From Monday, the entire restaurant will become No Smoking (yay!), and the old upstairs toilets – once closed owing to vandalism – have been re-opened. Claire and I were in there this evening, discussing our comparative days (mine at work, hers learning Japanese), and met the new-looking manager, who gave us vouchers each, redeemable for free meals there in future. Nice.