Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Episode VI - Return of the chocolate muffin

Princess Leia in gold bikiniSo I sent a couple of droids to talk it over with Jabba at his castle, where entertainment included a musical interlude by a blue elephant playing in the style of Stevie Wonder (you had to be there). I turned up, killed his favourite pet and we flew off into the sunset to meet up with the rest of the fleet, but not before I met with Ben who told me that the girl I'd fancied was in fact my sister. I'm kind of glad now that Dad cut off my right hand… I met up with the rest of the fleet, a woman we'd never seen before passed on information from some Bothan spies and Admiral Ackbar, a talking squid from the planet Mon Calamari, showed off his new 3D computer screen. The emperor saw us coming (Bothan spies are rubbish – it's no wonder so many of them died) but despite this we managed to defeat a crack legion of the emperor's best troops with the help from some cuddly teddy bears.

That's the problem with any final act. The outline may look good but putting it into practice…

So perhaps I shouldn't have set myself the target of two blogs in as many days. I'll not be doing that again. Nor shall I make any resolutions for the New Year; except perhaps not to quote the film quite as often as I do (if at all). God only knows what people must think of me – though as it happens I am sat at work wearing a T-shirt with the small green character printed on it. Some days I feel obliged to live up (or should that be down?) to the stereotype.

Instead I'll promote a new sophisticated Phil; the kind that orders something at Starbucks with 'skinny' in the title - or is it just tall skinny women who order tall skinny lattes? Either way I'll not be having any more of their chocolate muffins; they're just like 'Episode VI'… rubbish.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Episode I - The phantom tea cup

The Phantom Menace
I saw very few films over the Christmas period and I saw no films during Christmas week, which seems a real waste. I had a yearning to watch 'Fight Club' again though Mrs R wasn't very keen, preferring instead to watch 'Mamma Mia' with Little Miss R - I slept through it all. My stack of unwatched DVDs grows whilst the time in which to watch them shrinks. At work there are six of 16 desks occupied. On this floor we number three support people (100% attendance for the support team), one database person, one business analyst and one developer (that'd be me).

The Christmas decorations are beginning to fall down and no-one has the will to maintain them. The tinsel remains on the floor or dangling from the ceiling; we sidestep the end of Christmas as if hoping to delay the arrival of the New Year. Office etiquette is proving tricky. With five people on one side of the office and 'Lone Developer' Phil (they should make a TV series) on the other, there was one burning question of the morning; should I offer to make the tea? This problem was resolved when one of 'The Others' drifted my way to ask if I'd like a drink. "No thanks" I replied, because by that time I'd already sneaked a couple in. Bear in mind I've been a developer for a long time. Put it this way. Imagine I'm in a bar with a fellow developer, discussing where George Lucas went wrong with 'The Phantom Menace', and a beautiful woman (who somehow hasn't heard our conversation) sits next to me and strikes up a conversation. I might be thinking 'Serendipity', but I'll mainly be thinking 'Help!'. Let's face it, there's only one thing I know about women - and there's only so many ways I can compliment her on her hair. It's safer in 'Phil's World'. I suppose I could always wing it and ask where she stands on the hot topic of the afternoon; "Who is more annoying – Jar Jar Binks or Anakin Skywalker?" I'm only kidding... Everyone knows the answer to that.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Losing it

My brain then and now
Forgetfulness and poor eyesight have combined to ensure my Christmas present this year will be a new pair of glasses to replace the pair I lost yesterday. I can't really afford them as I have a particularly expensive, and oft delayed, service and MOT due on the car - but I've reached the point where I can't read a thing without them. And I am determined to read something soon, something nourishing, something good for the soul. It's a bit early for New Year resolutions perhaps but I could do with an overhaul myself.

This year's acts of stupidity (I also lost my car keys... or that may have been last year – I can't recall) only confirmed my suspicions. I can't take it any more... or rather my brain can't take any more. I have reached the point where I no longer remember whole conversations, seemingly choosing only to remember edited highlights. There are two ways to look at this; either my intellect has reached a higher plane that automatically excludes extraneous information at an advanced level... or I have stuffed my mind with so much junk it's beginning to overflow. Yes, I know I only have myself to blame but try to remember my New Year resolution – and if you can could you remind me?

Yes I'm a fool, but if I may quote Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy:
Who's more foolish, the fool or the fool who reads him?
At least it was something along those lines...

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Guitar hero

Last week the future musical credibility of Little Miss R was placed in serious doubt thanks to her discovery of a Cliff Richard tape, dating back to the time when people knew what was meant by the word "tape". I'm rational enough to realise this isn't the fault of Sir Cliff, besides which it's quite obvious that the blame lies elsewhere and I told her as much, whilst ducking the stress balls she threw in my direction. I can assure you, as I assured her, there are no such embarrassing revelations from my past...

video
However it was just one tape from a box full of possible indiscretions or relief. Mercifully it wasn't long before the tunes of Summer Holiday and Wired for Sound (there were more and I'm a little worried I can remember so many) were soon drowned out with the more wholesome sounds of Oasis. It's such a relief when your seven-year old discards "Mistletoe and Wine" for "Cigarettes and Alcohol"…

Inspired, and as if to confirm her new found street cred (should that be with a hyphen or without?), she's taken up the guitar. Move aside Noel, your days are numbered…

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Smells like Christmas spirit

It's been a fractured week, I'm tired and it's beyond me to tie it all together. So instead I've broken it down into sections and even added in a joke – see if you can spot it.

Home life:
Mrs R has been given a medical drug reference book. This along with access to Wikipedia is proving to be detrimental to our health. What her GP was thinking of is anyone's guess.

Work life:
Two weeks ago we had a company re-structure; our new boss will visit us next week to explain the changes. I'm going to do my bit for the team and heed one of the six e-mails of the week reminding us to keep our desks tidy. I'll even wear my best t-shirt and, who knows, I may even iron it.

Current Affairs:
More enjoyable was the Jeremy Paxman interview with the Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman. Given that it's now apparently a criminal offence to embarrass the government, perhaps the police should consider locking her up as well?

Joke:
Two software developers are standing in the park.
One developer has a shiny new bike.
The other developer asks him, "Nice bike - how much?"
The first one says, "It was free."
The other asks, "Really, how did you get it for free?"
The one with the bike says," Yesterday a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, took off all her clothes and told me I could have anything I wanted."
The other software developer says, "Good move - her clothes wouldn't have fit you anyway."

Friday, 21 November 2008

A time to reflect

That's two good Fridays in a row. I once again achieved something unprecedented - though it occurs to me that if I've done it again then there is a precedent. There I am speeding through my work in a not-quite-unprecedented fashion, going so fast that I move ahead of schedule and have time for a little reflection. Not of the contemplating life variety unfortunately; nowadays when I attempt such a feat the result is something akin to tumbleweed being blown across a deserted office floor. This 'reflection' was of the type used to access private methods of a public class and, since I was feeling particularly cocky (but mainly because I had to), access public methods of a private class within a public class. I know what you're thinking… where can I find me a man like that?

xkcd Goto

Actually I must own up. You'll find this difficult to believe but I had to google 'how to' and found out... er... 'how to' on a site page published FIVE YEARS AGO. This shocking lack of knowledge on the inner workings of the Microsoft .NET framework probably explains my lack of success with gorgeous attractive women, or indeed any kind of women. There could be other factors involved, such as being married and in my forties, but I doubt it.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Disappearing up my own behind

Marley and Marley. A Muppet Christmas Carol.One of the problems in withdrawing from the real world, besides the realisation that the fridge isn't large enough to hold that many pizzas, is that it's possible to lose your sense of proportion. For example, since returning to civilisation (I work in Newport, Wales) I have had to concede that the contentious issue of cutting Belle's song, When Love Is Gone, from the DVD version of The Muppet Christmas Carol didn't perhaps warrant the hours I spent researching why it was done, and whether a 'complete' version was available.

I blame a friend for this; it's far easier than blaming myself. A chance comment on the weekend reminded me of this omission and sent me into a downward spiral of nerdy behaviour. Like many of my kind I have developed an obsessive-compulsive nature when it comes to deciding on the definitive version of something. As it turns out, because if you've read this far you either want to know or you've nothing better to do (I can guess which), the definitive version isn't as clear-cut as I thought. The song was originally omitted from the theatrical release but when they released the film on VHS (remember that?) they either added the song back in or (and this is what I suspect) they couldn't be bothered finding the final cut of the film and just released what they found. Having reviewed the missing scene on YouTube (God bless 'em) I'm not sure we're missing much but I can imagine all that mushy stuff appealing to a lot of women, and even a few men. Real men however, such as me, are too busy eating their eggs, cream and bacon pie... and enjoying the scary moments…

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ever decreasing

What makes a hero
The word or the deed
Does a gift to inspire
Impart all that we need

When will you heed
The requirement to act
To disappoint many
Whilst others you back

Where is the money
For payments not met
Will saddle our children
With mountains of debt

How will you set
On the hardship we owe
To move us away
From the life that we know

What makes a hero
The word or the deed
Can your gift to inspire
Impart all that we need

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Half man, half machine

Half man, half machine
I had a very strange sensation late Friday morning; for some inexplicable reason, and despite a hard week, I was full of positive energy and really enjoying myself at work. In fact I was so "in the zone" (now that we all like America again it's O.K. to talk like them) I even began to overheat. I couldn't pace myself at all, my mind raced ahead of my body, my typing couldn't keep up and neither could my breathing. I was a machine; not really functioning correctly but it felt "awesome".

Or maybe I was having a panic attack.

Anyway, during those moments where I was able to coordinate my mind and body, I managed to get a fair bit of work done. Scraps of paper, pieces of code, cobbled together sequence diagrams - nothing complete but I'm close to identifying all the pieces and I've even a notion of how they all fit together. I'm still a little behind schedule but it's become one of those things where you go past the point of being able to do anything about it; you let people know and do the best you can. I'd like to worry but it's not in the (project) plan.

I do have three glorious days off work next week, in the plan, and I plan to make the most of them. Mind you, I'll warrant my idea of 'making the most of things' is different to the norm… as I'm not really sure 'do nothing' counts?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Hail to the chief

Barack Obama
It is one of the great political ironies of the late 20th century that the 1st female leader of a country in the western world was not from the political left, who spent a great deal of time preaching equality without ever practicing it, but the political right. Margaret Thatcher made those in the Conservative party that had gone before look positively pedestrian, and reduced many in the Labour party (women included) to hurling sexist comments at her in desperation. She was loathed by the opposition, the old guard of her own party and the establishment in almost equal measure; but she was a first.

It is one of the great political ironies of the early 21st century that the 1st black leader of the western world is not from the sophisticates of Europe, who still have a problem understanding equality, but of the 'dumb-ass' United States. A continent consisting of more than a dozen elected governments, many of whom in private (if not in public) have always looked down on their North American counterparts, has not once come close to achieving such a historic event; a continent that was no doubt prepared to ignore it's own history and proffer 'racist America' headlines had the Democrats failed to win.

Whilst much of Europe remains shackled to the core socialist belief that a (presumably benign) state is more important than the individual, America understands that to create true opportunity for all and thus for a nation to grow, individuals must be given the chance to excel. Barack Obama is that individual. Never has the phrase "Only in America" been more apt.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Heaven?

Surround sound layout
When he looked back it would be with tears of joy and a glow in his heart. Those were the halcyon days; slouched on the sofa, a pile of DVDs on the table, a cup of tea in one hand, remote control in the other… It didn't get any better. He had to acknowledge however that there might be more to life than this. How would he ever be taken seriously when he needed 5.1 surround sound to truly experience what life had to offer?

He was half way through his week away from work and already wishing he'd booked a second week of idleness; but normal life was beginning to encroach on this idol paradise. A trip to the garden centre was, he believed, only a precursor to more uninmaginable terrors.

Doubts began to play at his mind
  • Should he have read a book instead?
  • Was he guilty of using too many semi-colons?
  • Why did his wife keep making him shepherd's pie when he'd told her he wasn't too keen? Or at least he thought he had.
  • Were Liverpool FC capable of mounting a serious challenge to the title this season?
  • Is bullet pointing just a cheap way to extend your blog entry when you've run out of ideas?
  • Would anybody notice?
Not to be continued...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Stress relief

I acquired half a dozen stress balls from work today; or at least from the marketing department. It was all for a good cause, namely to distract my seven year old daughter whilst I settled down to the serious task of vegetating on the sofa.

"Are they juggling balls?" she asked.

"They're stress balls" I half heartedly explained, "If you find yourself getting annoyed then you give the ball a squeeze".

"Really?" Upon which she put on her best 'angry face', squeezed the ball and sighed "They're really good!"

Twenty minutes, and several stress balls flying across the room, later… "LAUREN!" I exclaim, "Calm down!"

To which she picks up a couple of the balls, walks over to me and says.

"Here you are Daddy", and handing me a ball; "You look like you're getting annoyed…"

Then she adds…

"In fact you'd better have two."

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Golden (Gordon) Brown

Gordon Brown
Somewhat paradoxically, though I have little time for socialism (it's a long story) I have some sympathy for the Prime Minister - because unlike many of the sell-outs in New Labour, he really is a socialist. No really, he is; it's just he hasn't come out of the closet with regard to his feelings. He has to rely on hideously complicated tax schemes, such as family credits, to redistribute wealth and thus hint at his true nature.

Poor bloke; he hankered after his dream job for years only to find it sullied by his predecessor. The wrongs of Tony Blair were hung around Gordon's neck and the public were determined to make him pay. Thus, despite not being entirely responsible, he found himself unpopular to begin with… and it went downhill from there. The soaring cost of food and fuel, again not his fault, only served to make him more disliked; a Jonah for the nation.

Therefore, having previously been a Chancellor of the Exchequer for so long, the current financial crisis might seem like the last thing he needs; but it could prove to be his salvation. This is a crisis so large that it's managed to make us forget, albeit temporarily, about 'minor' problems such as keeping warm in the winter or how we can afford to eat. What this country needs is a saviour; someone to rescue us from this mess. We are caught in the light of a global financial meltdown and we'll kiss the feet of anyone who can pull us out of the way. Never mind that he put us there in the first place.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

It is a democracy, dammit!

If you listen long enough you can hear the bleat of the political sore loser. Unable to accept the result of a past election they will scatter around terms such as oligarchy, plutocracy or even 'elected dictatorship' to decry the democracy they live in. Indeed they will do their level best to suggest it isn't a democracy at all.

I'll not deny that government can often appear by the wealthy and for the benefit of the few; but it is we the people who put them there. Admittedly some democratic systems are better than others. The 'first past the post' system of Britain has far more potential than any 'proportional' system for representation that cares more about it's constituency than the party to which they belong.

However I'm not arguing about which voting system is best. I'm arguing that we have a vote. The first vote of the U.S. House of Representatives to reject the recent financial bail-out plan is a great example of this. In opposition to an all-party leadership there were some who rejected the plan as the backdoor to socialism (God forbid!), but most rejected the bill becauseFight apathy graffiti there are elections around the corner; their electorate had told them exactly what they could do with it. I didn't agree with that initial result, but it shouldn't be sneered at - it is something to applaud.

The point is we don't just have a vote; we can let others know how we're going to use it. If there's no one worth voting for then campaign on the issue you believe in or run for office yourself. I'm not suggesting it's easy, it isn't; but before you're tempted to use the words oligarchy and plutocracy again, you ought to look up the word apathy.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The point of it all (prologue)

A man with no ideas
So it's the start of another long trying week and I've got this stupid Paul McCartney song looping in my head when all I really want to do is write. But even with a messed up economy, the looming U.S. presidential elections and the urge to write something meaningful, I'm finding it very difficult to get motivated. Despite these choice topics I can't spark myself into action; they're all too damn depressing.

I'm also finding it physically difficult as I'm having trouble breathing. I think it's some kind of mild asthma similar to that which I use to have as a child; only back then it was always after some strong physical exertion. This time it appears to be stress related; I get back home and it slowly builds up over the evening so that by the time I'm ready for bed I'm gulping in the air.

So it's the start of another long trying week and I've got this stupid Paul McCartney song looping in my head. I'd quite like to write something meaningful, but whilst I've got these loose ideas swimming around I can't seem to hook them together. I wonder if I'll ever get to part one.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy

Financial traders
Back in the 1980's I was such a zealous advocate of free market economics, even Adam Smith would have run for cover. Just as my socialist friends were convinced of an infinite number of rich people to tax, I was certain that an unencumbered market would lead us all to greater prosperity. I suppose to some extent we were both wrong. Even the Labour party no longer believes in the "infinite number of rich people" and the turmoil in the financial markets means I'd be brave, or perhaps off my head, to suggest that deregulation has been a total success.

Despite this I'm still a capitalist at heart though it's not always a particularly edifying sight. Greed is one of those unpleasant by-products that we all have to live with. I never particularly cared about fat cats on obscene salaries so long as the overall wealth of the country increased. Ultimately, I reasoned, if the fat cats got too greedy their business would fail and be replaced by something leaner and more able to contribute to the economy.

However in a bizarre twist, rather than letting the crap financial institutions go to the wall the U.S. government is preparing a rescue to the tune of $700 billion. This appears almost, dare I say it, socialist. True, there's no nationalisation of the industry but bailing out useless businesses use to be the preserve of British governments of the 60's and 70's. Has the world gone mad?

Actually, no; it's not madness… it's desperation. No matter how bad the business, how revolting the excesses (the head of the troubled Lehmann Brothers had a $10-$20 million bonus last year depending on which paper you read), to let a bank fail has the potential to collapse the financial markets. This isn't a case of the rich protecting the rich; if the financial market collapses then we're all screwed – businesses everywhere will fail, unemployment will be rampant.

Distasteful though it might seem; we can't afford to do nothing. But at a cost exceeding $2000 dollars per man, woman and child in the United States, it's one hell of a price to pay.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Shepherd's f**king pie

Shepherd's pieI hate Shepherd's pie. I have mentioned this on numerous occasions, though I try to be more tactful. Usually I've said something along the lines of "I don't particularly care for it", or "it's not my favourite dish", but it turns out I've been wasting my time. I was asked to pick up some potatoes on the way home yesterday - never suspecting they'd be used as weapons against me.

Whilst sitting at the table, wondering what I'd done wrong, I was reminded of a similar incident I'd experienced as a child. I was once invited to dinner at the house of my best friend and was rewarded with a lime green mousse for dessert. It was possibly the worst thing I'd ever tasted and took me an age to force down.

"Did you like that?" asked his mother when I'd finished.

"Lovely, thank you", I replied - for I had excellent manners.

"Well you'd better finish it off", she said as she emptied the contents of her bowl into mine.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Let the wookie win

London2012 logo
I'm going to say something terrible… Winning isn't that important. Shocking isn't it? Come London 2012 and you'll probably get arrested for saying things like that. It's not that I'm going to stop trying; it's just that I can't seem to summon the interest. Hmmm, maybe that DOES mean I'm going to stop trying? I'm not going to survive with that kind of attitude.

I'm being a little disingenuous here. A month or so ago my brother won a badminton game against me for the first time. I was shocked to discover how much that hurt but resolved to be the gracious loser I'd always supposed myself to be; and since he's won several games since then that's probably just as well.

Nevertheless I stand by my original statement. I'm beginning to think we should all become a bit more… well… British – wherever you happen to live in the world.

However, though this may be my belief on how things should be I still have to recognise how things are. So I attempt to balance my daughter's competitive behaviour with that more humane (and I use to think more British) belief that it's not the winning but the taking part that counts. 'Loser' talk as my brother would put it.

But it's not easy. If you're playing a game with your children you let them win, don't you? It's not only because you want to see them happy - it's also to do with self preservation. It's O.K. to win against your wife because she won't try to pull your arms out of their sockets if she loses, seven year old children have been known to do that.

Friday, 15 August 2008

My name isn't Michael Caine

The Caine Mutiny
It's not easy is it? I have a vague recollection of choosing to adopt the Michael Caine approach; write often enough and every once in a while something good will happen. The trouble is you need to have focus and sustain it beyond a few paragraphs. Speaking (writing?) of which, did anyone see 'The Quiet American' on BBC 1 last week? What a cracking film; and perhaps proof that the 'Caine' approach is superior to the 'Brando' method.

Has Brando actually been in that many good films? Anyone mentioning 'Last Tango in Paris' will be asked to leave the room… I've never really appreciated 'Apocalypse Now 'and 'On The Waterfront' suffered from a hazy observation that Brando appeared to be wearing too much make-up. God only knows what I was drinking that night.

So you have to think of a topic to write about; for example, film actors. Then develop what might at first appear a controversial thesis; why Caine is "better" than Brando. But even as you write this your mind begins to wander. It's not as if it matters - you'd rather have both than just the one and what does "better" mean anyway? Then you remember (how could you forget) that Brando was in The Godfather, start to think about the cheesecake you have waiting in the fridge and how you'd quite like to watch "The Caine Mutiny" again…

Friday, 1 August 2008

And still I wait

I waited long for my true love
In hope that she would come
But time's tattered transport travels on
To fears I am alone

I waited, cried in desperation
I've frittered years in troubled thought
To contemplate a soul's starvation
Imagine life with passion wrought

I wait, I move, I step away
Avert my gaze as you pass by
Postpone my life another day
And when you're gone I wonder why

So now I wait upon tomorrow
Another chance to face you missed
Tonight again from dreams I'll borrow
A warm embrace, a softer kiss

Saturday, 26 July 2008

And hope to die

La Course du lièvre à travers les champs
I remember a new boy in a small town trying to make friends. There was a bag of marbles at the beginning, the contents of which roll down some cobbled streets at the end. In between there was a fantastical tale of gangs, robbery and the use of a fire engine ladder to crawl from one high rise building to the next. I have a vague recollection of an American actor in this French film, a love triangle and, like so many good stories, a little sadness at its end.

However I couldn't remember what it was called. I was only around ten years old at the time but for some reason those images have stayed with me for the last 30 years. A few months ago, after having previously searched for the title several times, I found the answer by accident.

La Course du lièvre à travers les champs or, to give it it's English title, And Hope To Die, was made in 1972 and features a screenplay written by Sébastien Japrisot. I note this as he later wrote the novel A Very Long Engagement, subsequently made into a French film that also happened to cameo a well known American actress, Jodie Foster. Two films made 30 years apart, with the same writer (albeit in a different role), each featuring a well known American actor... and I like them both.

At least I think I do. For whilst I saw A Very Long Engagement only a year ago, the memories I have of it's counterpart are fragmented, perhaps even warped over the course of time. And Hope To Die is available on DVD but not, it would appear, with English subtitles. Perhaps this is just as well, though it does sound like the kind of movie I would love to see. I know in my heart if this film was more generally available I would snap it up. Revisiting the past is always a risky venture, and often ends in disappointment, but even a remote chance of re-capturing that childhood magic, if only for a short time, has got to be worth it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Tom is hot

Breaking news... Tom is hot. I indirectly gleaned this valuable information from the daughter of my next door neighbour who, in the absence of her Mother, had invited a gaggle of her female friends around for the night. I don't think teenagers have the greatest sense of time and I imagine this is the reason they decided to have a chat in the back garden at gone midnight... for an hour or so... there was even a sing-a-long too. Just after being woken up one of the guests asked "What about your neighbours?" which I thought considerate, until my teenage neighbour replied "Oh no, they're O.K." which was more like it.

I'm knackered, but at least I learnt something positive about Tom.

Tom, it turns out, is to be much admired due to something about his arms, though I didn't catch what it was that made them so special. Perhaps they're unfeasibly large? Perhaps he can tie his shoelaces without bending down? Perhaps one is longer than the other? Perhaps I should ask? I'd really like to know!

Also in the conversation that I wasn't listening to:
  • Somebody's favourite song is something that goes along the lines of "dumph... dumph...". You know the one.
  • Everyone agreed that Mark was "sweet". I'm guessing that Mark's arms are perfectly normal.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

What Phil did next

Family Guy Star Wars
Two weeks ago, after a month (maybe more?) of prototyping, we started the technical design phase of our latest project. Last week (maybe before?) the rest of the development team were given an introduction and we held workshops, where we talked, divided up the team, held breakout meetings, I talked, estimated some timescales, had more meetings, talked some more, doubled my estimates...

...and I'm actually managing to bore myself writing this. What it must be like to read I dread to think. But then you've only yourself to blame; any sensible person would have stopped at the word "prototyping". Go and watch TV like a normal person.

This week we started the discovery, design and in some case development and I am already tired. My throat is beginning to get sore and I'm under a fair bit of stress. I'm loving it.

Sad to say I enjoy my work, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I actually find it quite creative. Admittedly like many software developers I've watched Star Wars far too often for someone of my age, but in many other respects I'm quite a rounded individual. Just don't ask me for any examples; I haven't got the time, some idiot estimated we'd be finished by November.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

42 days – The politics of fear

The saddest thing about tonight's vote on extending the time a person can be detained, without charge, is that it appeared to have the support of much of the British public. These are presumably the same people who believe if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about; people who naively believe that a government always acts in the best interests of the people.

This is not a vote that will enhance our security, more a propaganda victory for extremist groups who have now managed to curtail our liberties by proxy. It is based on specious evidence and didn't even command the support of the Scottish Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, who shares the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith "that the requirement for an extension to the current 28 days is not supported by prosecution experience to date."

This vote is not an act of strength but of fear.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Tower of song

Essential Leonard CohenPerhaps it wasn't a perfect day but it was still rather good. Lauren had her swimming lesson this morning; if she could just remember to put her head above water and breath occasionally she could be… well she already is amazing so why wish for anything else? I got to exercise early in the day rather than guiltily trying to fit it in late in the evening. No trip to the garden centre. No trip to The (dreaded) Mall. Lauren and I went to the park for an hour or so, played on the swings, we even had an ice cream. The weather was great so I didn't mind stopping off at Tesco before walking home.

Walking... imagine that! Lauren behaved herself. Imagine that!! There was football in the evening. Doctor Who was great (about time). There was more football. I'm listening to Leonard Cohen with a smile on my face. What's going on?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

If there’s no one to see it, has it really happened?

Aung San Suu Kyi
If a tree falls in the woods, and there's no one around to hear it, has it made a sound? If Channel 5 News has no pictures is it worth reporting? Judging from the few seconds afforded in one weekend report to the current crisis in Burma, the answer from a Channel 5 point of view would appear to be 'No'. In the same report they did thankfully manage several minutes on the China earthquake, they had endless pictures of collapsed buildings to perk their interest, but undermined their dubious credibility with a few minutes on a YouTube video posted by Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse (talented people wasting their lives always draws in the red-top readership).

If only Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been born with her feet the wrong way around, or had an unusual eating disorder, then Channel 5 might have shown more interest. Shoddy television news reporting only encourages, and in their minds justifies, the isolationist tendencies of Burma's military leaders. As it is we are once again reliant on decent newspaper coverage to inform us of what is happening; it's a shame none of us read any more.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

I am the destroyer of (plant) life

As the time approaches for the return of Mrs R, the thought occurs to me that perhaps I should have done as asked and watered the various plants around the house. In particular the plastic containers positioned on every windowsill to catch the light, so that the seeds (of what I have no idea) have a chance to grow. I recall once renting a house for three months and only remembering to water the plants at the very end; it was as if I thought with enough water I could somehow bring them back to life.

Cheesecake
Trouble is I've been so busy putting discs in the DVD player, taking discs out of the DVD player, cursing the DVD player drawer for constantly sticking (they don't make cheap £20 supermarket DVD players like they used to any more), that it's easy to forget everything else. Tonight is my last chance to catch up on anything I'd like to watch without interruption, or indeed chance to watch anything at all. It's an opportunity to watch something intellectually stimulating or something puerile and fun... and there's a large vanilla cheesecake in the fridge... oh dear.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

In winter

Do I dare disturb the earth
Poke my head above the ground
Is it safe for me outside
Can I take a look around

Do I dare disturb a world
That once I would placate
Or breathe a safe existence
For a while and hibernate

Do I dare disturb a life
Though around me cold has come
Or tie myself in Gordian knot
For fear of being undone

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Mace Windu versus Samuel Pepys (Jedi Knight)

My seven year old daughter recently informed me of a startling similarity between Mace Windu (famous for his diary on a galaxy far far away) and Samuel Pepys (famous for starting the great fire of London by accidentally igniting a bale of straw with his light sabre); they were both bald.
Mace Windu and Samuel PepysI think you'll agree - the resemblance is uncanny.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Easy fixes

So I asked my daughter "What's your favourite film? ... Is it 'High School Musical'?" - I remembered seeing her once (or more) watching it before trying to back out of the living room unnoticed. "Is it 'Grease'?" – I knew that dancing was a key factor. She pursed her lips and then raised her hand to me as if to say "Back off, I'm thinking". After some careful deliberation she replied "I don't know Daddy. What's your favourite film?"

Un Coeur En Hiver
Considering she's only six I gave this far too much thought, and there are dozens to choose from, but I eventually told her "You know, I think it might be Un coeur en hiver"

"What does that mean?"

"A Heart in Winter" I said. "It's a French film".

"Can I watch it?"

"I'm not sure you'd like it."

"I would…" she said. "What's it about?"

"A beautiful violinist who falls in love with a violin maker, but he is unable to love her in return."

"Why not?"

"His heart isn't working properly."

"Why doesn't he see a doctor?"

"Good question…" I said, "I suppose some things aren't all that easy to fix."

Monday, 31 March 2008

Green is the colour

Carbon offsetting cartoon
What is the purpose of green taxation? I’m not arguing the importance of preserving the environment; I’ll take that as read. What I’d like to know is how a green tax helps in this respect? This sounds like a pointless question until you look at those taxes implemented to date and ask whether they’ve done anything to improve the situation.

Has the energy tax on power generating companies changed people’s habits?

Has a huge level of tax on petrol stopped people from using their cars?

Will a tax on air travel stop people from taking holidays abroad and is it fair?

The problem with many environmental taxes is two-fold. The first is that unless there is a way to avoid paying the charge whilst still obtaining the goal, they don’t actually achieve anything. I need energy to keep me warm in winter; an energy tax only hurts the poor and elderly. I travel to work by car every day not because I want to, but because there’s no viable alternative. Whilst an air tax might feasibly make travel abroad too expensive for some, in reality all that’s been achieved is to make such holidays elitist; leaving them firmly in the grasp of the middle classes who will appease their guilt over the next skiing trip by buying into some carbon-offsetting nonsense.

The second problem with environmental taxes is psychological; a lot of people seem to like paying them. It’s the equivalent of confessional time at the Church, you pay your tax and all is forgiven. It may make us feel better but it doesn’t actually do the environment any good. It hasn’t stopped me from driving to work, because I have to drive to work; I haven’t been provided with a choice.

Whilst the government may applaud people’s willingness to be fleeced of their money, this kind of taxation is dangerous as it encourages the public to continue with their non-ecological lifestyles, it might even make some feel better in the mistaken belief that their money is being put to good use. Green taxes have resulted in many environmental groups taking their eye off the ball and consequently the pressure off the authorities.

The real issue, as it always has been, is the requirement for integrated policy from central government. But an integrated transport policy, for example, would require a consistency of thought that doesn’t give itself easily to sound-bites and, judging from the mad re-positioning of the main political parties, doesn’t win votes. The real problem, as it always has been, is us.

Friday, 8 February 2008

It all came toppling down

Jenga
Many years ago, more than I care to remember, when I still believed in 'that kind of thing', Mrs R commented on how commercial Valentines Day had become. I distinctly remember her saying that buying flowers was such a waste of money considering how long they lasted.

Result, I thought. Somehow, purely by accident, I had a partner who would be able to recognise the real essentials of life; such as a flat screen television, multi-media PC and a subscription to the sports channels.

In my defence I did recognise my mistake, though it came far too late. In the spirit of originality, or perhaps desperation, I bought her Jenga. Whoops...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Blind faith

A blinding light
To colour my hope
With a faith that might
Fulfil me

Preceded by grey
Of all the days
You reeled me in
Abused me

Was I an easy mark
Like my trusting mother
Am I just another

The angels lark

I am your misplaced sentiment
A romantic fool
A tool
For your amusement

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Reality 3 – 0 Romance

Liverpool FC badge
After waxing lyrical to a friend the other day on the current state of Newcastle FC (it was more of a grind than a wax), they duly completed the story by getting whooped 3 – 0 by Arsenal. I never was any good at stories. Never mind, there are a number of factors that mitigate this disappointment. One being that they were beaten by a fabulous team; Arsenal play football the way you dreamt about it being played as a kid.

There is another game starting shortly (in about 15 minutes), Manchester United versus Tottenham Hotspur. Good people the world over will be saying a prayer (and it will probably take a prayer) in the hope that Tottenham can somehow overcome their opponents. Bad people the world over will be praying for another victory for the red menace so that darkness can descend upon the land.

But in the interests of fair play, and also because I'm a Liverpool FC fan and can't take any more disappointment, I shall remain neutral...

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

That was the year that was 2007

Atonement filmMoving house. Company taken over. Redundancies at work. Economise. Move out of house. Detached. Harry Potter. Move in with parents (temporary). Redundancies at work. Move into new house. Semi-detached. Bigger mortgage. Atonement. Economise. Wife quits work. Redundancies at work. Lose my car keys. Economise. Christmas.