A Poor Showing

I have been remiss haven’t I? With all my grand intentions of posting at least once a week through 2011 I got as far as the end of February before it fell apart and I haven’t put anything up, not even a bad joke, since October. Not that I’ve really been up to much since the start of October except going to New Zealand and working. I do need to do a post (or possibly several) on NZ but I’m going to blame work for my apathy towards this blog and pretty much everything else really. Over the last couple of months I’ve realised that my job makes me miserable and that it has been doing so for some time as it has started to control pretty much every aspect of my life, so I have decided to do something about it. Yes, the search for a new job has begun. Wish me luck…

(Posts about NZ and the new picture eagle-eyed readers will have spotted in the top-left corner of the home page will follow soon)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset

I’ve only just found this challenge and I knew exactly which picture I could use for it. This was taken at Macronissos Bay on the east coast of Cyprus last year whilst I was visiting friends over there.

Digital Crossover

We had a record month for our company over the summer and as a thank you we were all given Amazon Kindles, (I think most of us would have preferred our first payrise in three years but that’s beside the point) . I wasn’t too displeased though as I’m a pretty avid reader and I had been toying with the idea of asking for one for Christmas. So after playing with it for a little while I can confirm it’s a good bit of kit. It’s about the same size as a standard paperback but a lot lighter so it’s almost easier to read than a real book. Downloading content is no harder than searching the normal Amazon website with the added bonus that you don’t have to wait for the postman and it will certainly be easier to carry on my my upcoming trip to New Zealand than the four or five separate books I would probably take if I didn’t have it.

But therein lies the problem. I’ve got a long list of books I’d like to put on it but for some reason my finger keeps hovering over the ‘Buy’ button. It’s not a question of money, generally the ebooks are a few quid cheaper than their paperback counterparts but something more tangible. I like having a physical book in my hands. I like having shelves full of books to look at and choose from. In bookshops I take great pleasure in standing with my head at an odd angle reading along the spines of books waiting for a title or author to jump out at me and I just don’t get the same satisfaction from scrolling down a screen.

It’s the same with music and films. I had an MP3 player for a long time before I got an iPhone and I’ve had an iPhone since they came out but I have relatively few downloaded albums. I like having piles of CDs on my shelves, being able to touch them and read the sleeve notes, the lyrics and the thankyous. I have no downloaded films at all, preferring to be able to see all of the DVDs and Blu-Rays I have in one go rather than go through a list of file names.

This reluctance to embrace digital content has struck me as a bit strange, especially given that I work in IT. I can see the advantage of on-demand content. You see something, you want it, you get it. Instant gratification for the consumer and easy money for the providers. But something in this system grates on me, you don’t get anything physical out of the transaction, nothing you can put anywhere. We talk about having music collections, DVD collections and, to me anyway, a collection is something you should be able to show off and share with people. It loses something when you break that down to how many terabytes your external hard drive needs to have to hold all your films and music. 

The other thing that worries me about  digital content is what happens when you lose it? Just recently the laptop that held my iTunes library died and I lost all of my music. Not such a big deal for me as I had a back up and I’ve never got round to transferring all of my CDs so it’s not a huge amount of data but it still took the best part of an afternoon to restore everything to a different computer. If I didn’t have a backup I would have had to re-download everything I’d bought from iTunes and re-rip all my CDs, again not hard but time-consuming. I’m not sure I like the ‘all or nothing’ nature of digital collections, if you lost a walkman you only lost the one tape or CD that was with it, everything else was still safely back at home but if your music computer dies and you don’t have a back up you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you to get everything back. Especially if you were not altogether honest about where you were sourcing your music from…

It’s the same with books. I’ve left a book in a hotel and yes it’s irritating but it was just one book, it was easy to replace. But if I lost my Kindle somwhere that would be a different story, I’d be looking at around £100 to get my book back rather than a tenner. And what if you’re reading your ebooks on an iPad and that slips out of your bag unnoticed? 

I’m not against digital content, far from it. I love being able to type a snatch of a lyric I’ve heard in the morning into Google, find the band name, go to somewhere like Spotify or Last.fm and be listening to their stuff in a matter of minutes and then being able to browse through a list of similar artists and discover even more new music. I still go and buy the CD if I like it enough rather than download it there and then though.

I think it might be because I’m from the digital crossover generation. I was 23 when we first got an internet connection at home. A whole 56k of dial-up access! I remember being impressed the first time I saw a billboard for ‘super fast’ 1/2 Meg Broadband and scoffing at the idea that any office could ever be truly ‘paperless’. The idea that you’d never need to hold a paper file in your hands seemed a long way off to me and I could never imagine someone actually preferring looking at a display to get information rather than flick through some pages. But now we have people at university for whom there has always been an internet, for whom information has always been easier to find online than hunting through several different reference books like I used to do. They’re used to looking at screens and displays because that’s the way they’ve always done it. Their music has always been virtual as they probably got given iPods as presents rather than the tapedecks or CD players I got and now you can read documents on handheld devices as easily as if you were reading a piece of paper. 

It’s fine, I get it, times move on. I just happen to be stuck between the two. I will use the Kindle the same way I use iTunes and Spotify I suspect, find an author I like by downloading samples or cheap ebooks and then going out to buy the rest of their work in physical form, just so I’ve got something to fill up the two new bookshelves I bought a few months back.

After all, where’s the fun in looking at a shelf with a whirring black box on it?

A Poem, Piled

I’ve pinched this from Me and My Big Mouth, he put it on Twitter this morning and I thought it looked fun.

The idea is to create a poem from the titles of books on your shelves and then take a picture of the books to illustrate it. Here’s my humble effort:

ONE DAY
MR NICE,
LEONARDO DA VINCI
and I will walk the STRANGE HIGHWAYS
to ABSURDISTAN.

We want to be there when CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL
and so ushers in a BRAVE NEW WORLD.

Will you JOIN ME
UNDER THE DOME?

But, be wary of staying too long. FOR ONE MORE DAY
may well become A YEAR IN THE MERDE
and we will wish we’d stayed AT HOME

 

Let me know if you decide to have a go as well 🙂

 

The Old Man

It’s my Dad’s birthday on Thursday. He’ll be 60. Bloody hell. (I imagine he said something similar when I, and then my sister, turned 30)

I’ve never thought of my old man as actually being ‘old’. Over the past month or so me, my sister and my mum have been trying to organise a surprise party for him and I’m still struggling to get my head round the fact it’s going to be a big piss-up for a 60-year-old. Mum’s whisking him away to London for a few days, then we’ve organised a barbecue, the garden will be covered by a huge marquee with a dance floor and digital jukebox, there should be close to 100 people turning up and by all accounts there is a mountain of booze piling up in my sister’s garage so it should be a great afternoon and when I think back, it’s just not how I’ve ever imagined a 60th birthday party would be. Say 60th birthday party to me and it still conjures up images of an awkward family meal in a Beefeater somewhere. The last big party we had for Dad was his 40th. I was 13 at the time and don’t really remember a lot about it apart from there being a lot of people I didn’t know in the house and late in the evening I got woken up by a commotion which turned out to be a stripper. All I remember about her is seeing that she was dressed in stockings and a basque which is all I saw from the top of the stairs before she disappeared into the living room. I’m not expecting there to be a stripper at this party but I am expecting it to involve a similar amount of revelry and, in my head anyway, it’s just not something that connects with someone about to receive a bus pass.

Maybe that’s a reflection on me more than him though, he has a habit of making me feel old. Like when I was just about to turn 25, he phoned me early one morning to tell me that he and Mum had made me and my sister executors to their will. Thanks for the reminder of my own mortality Dad, right when I’m trying to deal with the fact I’ve been around for a quarter of a century. This was closely followed by the realisation that by the time my Dad turned 25 he was 8 years into his career and had a wife, a mortgage and me, whereas I was in a job solely for the meagre beer money it provided, had no girlfriend and was sharing a rented flat. I felt a little inadequate in comparison. Then he retired. How did that happen? My Dad! Retired!! How could my Dad be retiring when I was only 32!? Sure I knew other people whose parents were retired but they seemed… old. Or at least older. My Dad couldn’t possibly be old enough to retire, could he? But he did. Which meant I was old enough to have a Dad who was retired. Bloody hell.

Luckily I can forgive him these few incidents as we’ve always been mates. I’m still one of the few people I know who regularly has a drink with his Dad (or even with his parents, Mum is usually there too) and it’s always like going out with one of my mates rather than my Dad, we have a laugh and make fun of each other, we get into competitions over who can come up with the most puns and we have fun. Because of this I think most of my close friends  and my sister’s friends consider my Dad one of their mates as well, certainly most of them will be at the party (by the way, if any of you are reading this and think he should know about what I’ve written, keep it quiet until after the weekend, eh? ;op) and no-one’s ever had any problems coming to meet me if I’m with him or joining us for a round of golf or something. He’s always welcomed friends in and so has become one of the gang.

If it hasn’t become clear by now, my Dad is my hero. In terms of someone I look up to, aspire to be like and fear disappointing, my Dad is that person. He taught me to be honest and polite, to respect others but to speak up when I thought something was wrong, to be strong and independent but not too proud to ask for help. He showed me how to tell jokes and stories so people would laugh and how farting could be funny. He’s where I get my love for dingy pubs and Chas ‘n’ Dave from. He’s still given me the best business advice I’ve heard, “If you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” and I use it on a regular basis. Whenever I don’t stick to one his lessons or advice I always feel vaguely guilty, like I’ve let him down. Needless to say, I don’t like doing that.

He is everything I have to come to regard as what a good man should be, able to walk into a room full of people and be greeted with a genuine smile by almost everybody and genuinely missed when he is not around but always modest. I’m very lucky that I’ve always had him supporting me, even with some of the more dubious decisions I’ve made. “We just want you to be happy” he’d say, and he’d still be there when those decisions came back to bite me on the arse, as I’m sure he knew they would. He’s the one I still want to be proud of me and the one I go to if I don’t know what to do about something. If as many people come to my retirement party as showed up at his, and show the kind of love, respect and affection as they did to him then I ‘ll be amazed. Something else he always used to tell me was “By the time you’re big enough you’ll be too old” and I suspect he’s right, I’ll never see myself as big a man as him.

Happy birthday Dad. I love you.

How I made F1 exciting…

Being a bit of an F1 fan I found last week’s Canadian Grand Prix to be one of the best I have seen for a while (once it got going) and a few friends on Facebook agreed, all putting up satuses about it. Apart from one young lady I know who was quite disparaging about it. In an effort to help her see what we were all making a fuss about, I came up with this:

Ok, imagine there’s a pair of shoes in a sale you really want but you pick up the wrong size 6 times, then when you’re 4th in the queue for the till you realise you’ve not got any money in your purse and you have to go to a cashpoint and join the back of the queue with 10 minutes to go before the sale finishes and they double in price. You manage to blag your way to second in the queue with 2 minutes to go and you’re not sure you’re going to make it when the girl in front of you’s mobile goes off and she lets you in front of her. You get the shoes!! Exciting now??

Turns out she doesn’t really get excited about shoes either but I thought it was funny.

Soccer Saturday Drinking Game

I’ve been slack haven’t I? No posts since the beginning of April. My only excuse is that things have been a bit of a whirlwind since then and unfortunately blog-writing has slipped down the list of priorities, but I’m making an effort to correct that now things seem to be calming down again.

With that in mind I thought I’d ease myself back in with something fun and light-hearted: a drinking game. And with the football season coming to a close, what better way to finish it off than a drinking game based on Soccer Saturday?

Soccer Saturday (if you don’t know) is a show that’s broadcast on Sky Sports News every Saturday afternoon of the football season. It is hosted by Jeff Stelling, statistician-in-chief and ringmaster to the rest of the clowns. Joining him are four pundits, all of them ex-players, who watch a specific game each through the afternoon and are there to provide live updates and commentary as events unfold. Usually these pundits are Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas. There is also a videprinter news feed running constantly on the screen giving updates of goals, scorers, and incidents such as bookings and sending-offs from every professional game being played across the country and roving reporters at various matches, again usually ex-players, (Chris Kamara being the most celebrated for his colourful metaphors and “UNBEEEEE-LIIIEEEVABLE!!” catchphrase) . For some reason the chemistry and banter between the pundits and Stelling’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the game makes it compulsive viewing and it was almost inevitable that a drinking game based on it would emerge eventually.

It is a  foolish game with dire consequences only played by idiot alcoholics. Here are the rules:

Everyone playing is required to wear their team shirt or colours. If a player supports no particular team they must pick a Premiership or Championship team from a hat. It is permissable to limit the drinking when a goal is scored rule to only Premiership and Championship games (trust me, it gets very out of hand otherwise) but the rest of the rules apply to all leagues shown on the Soccer Saturday news feed between 3.00pm and 5.00pm

When a goal is scored – Everyone drinks two fingers

A player is sent off – Everyone drinks two fingers

Whenever Chris Kamara is onscreen – Everyone must be drinking

Whenever Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (“He’s hit the beans on toast!”) – Everyone drinks six fingers

Whenever Phil Thompson says “Stevie Gerrard” – Everyone drinks six fingers

Whenever Jeff says “There’s been a goal at… But which way has it gone?” – Everyone guesses which team has scored. Anyone who guesses incorrectly or doesn’t guess in time drinks four fingers

Whenever your team scores – Drink an extra four fingers

Whenever Jeff says “They’ll be dancing in the streets of…” – Everyone drinks four fingers

STRICTLY no drinking at half-time – Half-time is a break in proceedings as it is in football. Use it to smoke, eat, relieve yourself or any of the other things you would not be able to do if you were on a football pitch. Anyone caught drinking during half-time will be severely punished once the second half begins

When someone claims to have seen a “Goal of the Season contender” – Everyone drinks two fingers

Whenever Jeff says “It’s doom and gloom at…” – Everyone drinks four fingers

Whenever Robbie Savage or Craig Bellamy are mentioned or appear on the videprinter – Everyone must shout “TWAT!” (or similar) at the screen. The last one to do so drinks four fingers

Whenever a pundit shouts off-screen – Everyone drinks two fingers

Whenever Jeff says “There’s no question” – Everyone drinks two fingers

Whenever Paul Merson mis-pronounces a player’s name – Everyone drinks four fingers

Whenever Chris Kamara says “Unbelievable!!” – Finish your drinks!

For the purposes of this game a ‘finger’ of drink can be interpreted as a mouthful. If you use standard finger or shot measures things will go very wrong very quickly. I would also suggest having a hearty breakfast and\or lunch to line your stomach and try to avoid drinking before the 3.00pm kick off.

Whatever you do, do not, DO NOT, DO. NOT. arrange to play this game with a load of your mates for your birthday and then instead of eating lunch go out and drink five pints of Kronenbourg with your dad before starting. It will end badly.

Don’t let this happen to you kids
 
 

Just so we’re clear, I share this information in the name of fun only. If you are daft enough to decide to play this game, on your head be it! I take no responsibility for any of your actions, reactions, blackouts, stomach pumps or poor sexual choices that may result as a consequence of your participation.