Yearly Archives of: 2005

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So Much For Eating My Bread Crusts

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I knew I wouldn’t last long before posting about my hair, so I’ll try and get it over and done with as quickly as possible and then we can move on!

I remember the last time I grew my hair long. It was probably 10-15 years ago and from what I recall it was a neat short back and sides one day and long enough for me to tie up in a ponytail the next. There didn’t seem to be an in-between stage, or more likely I’ve blanked it out because it was so long ago. Okay, my memory may be hazy about that but what I distinctly remember was that my hair was completely straight.

I’d wash it in the morning, brush it and an hour later it would be dry and as straight as if I’d run it through some GHD straightening irons. So naturally when I decided a year ago to grow my hair long again and put the military crew-cut look to bed I thought it would be perfectly straight again. How wrong I was, as you can see below:

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At first I tried to deny it and pretend it was still straight. I must confess that I even stole my girlfriend’s straighteners and used them on more occasions than I’ll admit to. I learned how to blow-dry my hair straight and I’d get annoyed when I wouldn’t quite get it right and see a bit curling away of its own accord. But then I just thought “what the hell”. I’d get up, have a shower, wash my hair, towel dry it a bit, brush it and leave it to its own devices. And much to my surprise it dried completely straight!

Okay, that was a lie. It dried as curly as you see in the picture above, and I just accepted it for what it was and decided I liked it after all. Who wants straight hair anyway? But I still find it strange that it’s no longer as straight as it was in my younger days…

Okay, that’s the hair post out of the way, I can get back to more interesting topics! 🙂

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John’s Background Switcher 1.3 Released

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I forgot to mention that I just finished the latest version of John’s Background Switcher and have added a bunch of new features (thanks to those who suggested them).

If you haven’t seen it and wonder what I’m talking about, it’s a simple little application that sits in the system tray (down by the clock) of your Windows PC (sorry, I’m afraid it’s Windows-only) and changes the desktop background at specified intervals. You pick the pictures, when you want them to change and if you want them to be picked randomly and it just quietly goes about its business.

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It’s completely free and I’m still surprised something like it doesn’t come as part of Windows! You can download it from this page. Enjoy and if you have any suggestions or problems then let me know (I’m working on V2 at the moment).

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Here’s A Sight I Don’t See Often

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A blue screen of death…

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I hadn’t seen one of these in years and then suddenly my work machine (which is a laptop) has started blue-screening every day or so. For those of you who don’t know, a Blue Screen Of Death (or BSOD) is what you get when a low-level subsystem of Windows (the kernel) crashes or more likely a low-level driver (such as a graphics card driver) crashes and is generally associated with hardware problems, which in the case of this laptop is about right!

It certainly provides me with a bit of entertainment each day and reminds me that I need to save my work frequently because I never know when it’s going to happen next. It could be about to happen right now…

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Twisted Dreams

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I’ve had a couple of recurring dreams for many years now and one of them is particularly strange and centres on tornadoes. While the main theme stays the same, the dreams themselves tend to be different – sort of in the same way as a TV series like Miami Vice. In each episode they’d drive around in a Ferrari wearing expensive suits, chasing some bad guys around who were wearing linen suit-jackets with their sleeves rolled up. Mid-way through the show Castillo (their stone-faced Lieutenant) would be in his office looking at the floor while telling them to “take Mendoza down” and they’d proceed to do exactly that. Sometimes Switek would get involved, sometimes not. But it was basically the same theme every week. Just like my recurring tornado dreams.

If I take the example of the one I had it’ll illustrate what I find strange about them. I was in a house. It was a wooden house. I was sitting in front of a fire in the wooden house. Come to think of it, I’d have thought a fire in a wooden house would be a no-no but in the dream it seemed fine, but I digress. So I was in this house and I was aware that there was something going on outside. I walked over to the window and saw a really big storm brewing and stepped outside. At this point I saw a tornado forming and thought to myself (in the dream) “finally, after all these damned recurring tornado dreams I’m going to get to see one for real!”. Of course I didn’t get to enjoy the spectacle for long because then I woke up.

I’ve had dozens of these dreams and whether I’m in a car, a boat or the school corridor on the day of my final exams in my pyjamas, I always think the same “finally, I get to see one for real” thoughts and it’s always a dream. I’ve often pondered why my brain keeps dreaming about tornadoes but more so why it enjoys tricking me into thinking they’re real by making me remember that I’ve had them before. Does it laugh at me when I wake up feeling cheated?

I find myself treating my brain as if it were another person because to all intents and purposes it is. When I hear someone calling my name, it’s only because my brain has heard it and decided to tell me about it. When I’m in a crowd of people and I’m not really listening I can pick out someone calling my name but not when someone’s calling out to Fred or Dan – my brain is listening to everything and only letting me hear what it thinks is relevant to me. It feels like I’m calling all the shots, deciding when to open a can of irn bru and drink it, but am I just a pawn being told what to do by my brain?

So when I dream of tornadoes and I think it’s real I’m sure it’s my brain that’s playing a joke on me – and the annoying thing is that I fall for it every time! Maybe I need to read up on lucid dreaming and take control next time…

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This Happens To Me All The Time

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My car was having something done under warranty this morning so I met a friend for breakfast while the work was being carried out. She picked me up from the garage and as we were driving into town I warned her that if anything came on the radio that I could sing along to, such as Travis or Robbie Williams, then I wouldn’t hesitate to sing along really loudly. Luckily for her nothing did.

Breakfast was delightful thanks!

So when it came time to drop me back at the garage we got into her car and the song just finishing was by Coldplay. I said “you’re lucky we didn’t get here sooner or I’d have sung along to that. Knowing my luck they’ll play Travis next and that’ll call my bluff”. And I swear to God that no sooner had I finished saying that than the song Driftwood by none other than Travis came on! What are the chances of that? It’s a few years old so I was surprised they’d play it, never mind at that point in time.

For the record I was so surprised that it took until half way through for me to sing along (fortunately for my friend, not at top volume)!

The thing is, this kind of thing happens to me all the time – although there are usually no witnesses. A scene or a line from a Simpsons episode will pop into my head, I’ll get home, put the TV on and that episode will be showing. I’ll think of a song, flip through the music channels on satellite and the song will be on one of them. I’ll think that I really should call a friend I’ve not spoken to in a while and the phone will ring and it’s them. I got into my car the other morning to go to work and thought “it’d be a right nightmare if my car wouldn’t start”, I turned the key and it wouldn’t start! (Turned out the low fuel sensor wasn’t working and it had run out of petrol).

Surely I’m not the only one this happens to?

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Winter Must Be Coming

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The strange thing about the onset of Winter is not that it happens but the speed that it happens. I’ve been expecting it for the last few weeks but it’s been strangely warm and not at all Autumnal. But over the last couple of days I’ve really noticed a change however – the nights are drawing in (suddenly it’s pitch black when I get home), the temperature has dropped about 8C, I’m struggling to wake up in the mornings and I’m really tired all the time. Happens every year.

I know none of my ancestors hibernated but it seems like a good idea right about now. This time of year is a bit of a waste really, it’s cloudy and rainy all the time, it’s perpetually dark, the days are short and getting shorter and it’s just not what I think Autumn should be. I tend to picture crisp, clear mornings, leaves falling gracefully off the trees, people jogging across the park and their breath freezing, cold but not too cold and a good preparation for winter.

Instead it’s a howling gale (which this year means my hair gets messed up all the time), the leaves are stripped from the trees, the joggers are sitting at home watching TV and while it might not be too cold, I can’t tell because I’m just about getting blown over all the time.

What’s even stranger is that almost exactly 2 years ago I was thinking precisely these same thoughts. While the seasonal shifts appear to be metronomic in their frequency, I can’t make the same complaint about the lack of a summer. By all accounts it’s wasn’t bad this year. Not great, but still not bad. Added to that, 2 years ago I was starting to break out the wooly jumpers but not this year, it’s still not that cold. Global warming maybe? Well not if the Met Office has anything to do with it – they’re predicting a cold winter. I say bring it on! Anything’s better than Autumn…

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The End Of My Bavarian Affair

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my325ciMy current car is a black BMW 325Ci Sport and I always wanted a car like it. It’s got a 2.5 litre 6 cylinder engine that sounds beautiful. It accelerates like a jet. It corners like it’s on rails. The tyres are about twice as wide as a normal car’s (and are 18 inch rims – no need to pimp my ride!). It’s got a leather interior and all the gadgets you could dream of. So I’m happy right?

Well no. You see, there’s a downside. I need an oil tanker to follow me around because it drinks petrol like a teenager drinks cider (it cost around £50 to fill it and I’m lucky if it covers 300 miles). Those super-wide tyres cost around £200 each and don’t last a year (the rear ones are wider and so cost more than the fronts). An oil service (that’s the cheap one) can easily cost £500 – just like the one it had today. And in less than 12 months of ownership the thing’s lost around £6000 in value!

I should have learned by now. My previous car was also a BMW and I eventually traded it in when I had to cough up nearly £1000 for a service (that wasn’t a pleasant day). Unfortunately I was seduced by my current one as it looks great and is an animal to drive. Well no more. I’m going to downgrade.

I’ve had enough of BMW’s. They’re very good cars but I just don’t think they’re worth the money and the running costs. My mate Neil says that all cars under £70,000 are much the same whether they’re a Kia or a BMW and I’m beginning to think he’s right. For the same money that mine’s worth I can get a brand new car that’s quicker, smaller, has most of the same gadgets as mine and has far lower running costs. Can you guess what it is?

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No Room For Mistakes

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We bought a light for the bottom of the stairs and I rather liked the instructions (below) that came with it. I think it’s cool that they describe in no uncertain terms exactly what you’re supposed to do to fit the light using pictures instead of words. Whenever I look at things like this I visualise in my mind the parts moving into place, following the arrows, screwing together nicely and running like clockwork.

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Of course the reality never quite measures up! Unlike the neat and tidy pictures show, squeezing all the wires into the light fitting body meant that the single screw in frame 6 was never going to keep it flush against the roof. I had to improvise and drill a hole in the flat section of the body and screw it straight into the roof:

mylightfittinginstructions

As you can probably tell I wasn’t much use at art in school, but you get the picture! (Pun intended). All those years of watching The A-Team when they’d get locked in a tool shed and improvise their way out of it finally paid off.

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Guillemots – The Next Big Thing?

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I love music. I go to as many gigs as I can and listen to as much music as I can. And one of the great things about having satellite TV is the huge selection of music channels to watch. As my girlfriend will testify, I spend a lot of time doing “music sweeps” (channel hopping to her). It’s a great way to hear new music and occasionally I’ll hear something that really makes my ears prick up. (And that doesn’t include my girlfriend nagging me to leave one channel on).

A month or two ago I flicked onto one channel about halfway through a song that definitely made me sit up. Some songs just catch me on a level I’m not expecting and “Made Up Love Song #43” by a band called Guillemots did just that. I made a mental note to check them out on the web and did so later on. I couldn’t find anywhere to get their EP from and was a bit disappointed. Still, I’m patient so I waited…

guillemotsepcover.jpgOn a whim I went to their site again and noticed that their EP (called “I Saw Such Things In My Sleep”) was available on the iTunes music store and went there in a flash – I had spotted it going for £20 on Amazon which seemed a little steep to me. Anyway, having listened to it a few times now I’m really impressed. They don’t remind me of any band in particular and I can’t really come up with a way to describe their music other than that I really like it! There’s something raw, emotional and personal about them in a non-manufactured way. Well worth a listen. And the best new band I’ve heard in quite a while.

Now if they could just do a gig in Leeds I’d be the first to buy tickets…

Update (26/10/05): My brother saw them in Edinburgh and was very impressed – the singer has an excellent voice live. Now, where’s that Leeds gig?

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More Powerful Than Love And Death

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I can hear them calling out to me. Their voices are sweet, innocent, pure and they’re definitely calling out to me. There’s no desperation or anger in their voices, only the promise that when I go to them things will be better.

I can’t just hear their voices, I can feel them. And every time they call for me I yearn more and more. I try to resist but deep down I don’t really want to. I want to submit to their will and do what they’re telling me to do. It’s intoxicating and I start to fantasise about going to them. But this time I clear my head and have some peace.

It never lasts. They are relentless. They won’t shut up and they know I want them which makes them try even harder. Eventually I break. “I’ll just have a couple of them and put them away” I tell myself. But I’m lying. I’ll keep eating them until there are none left. And this isn’t like some 10 year old eating chocolates until they’re sick. This is much more intense!

I am of course talking about what turns out to be the food equivalent of crack cocaine for me – olives in anchovies from the olive guy at the Skipton market…

I discovered my nemesis when I had a rare day off from work and went to the aforementioned market. I thought I’d try a couple of the olives and upon eating just one I was hooked. So I bought a small bag for later. I got home and had a couple, then I ate the rest of them. And I wanted more. Unfortunately he’d told us he only ran the stall on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and since I could only get into Skipton on a weekend I’d never be able to have them again!

Fortunately my friend worked in Skipton so I got him to buy me some more (they didn’t last long either). Then disaster struck. My friend moved away (back to New Zealand – the lucky git) and my olives were no more. It was okay because I forgot all about them in time. Like pain, that sort of intense pleasure doesn’t stick in your mind so I moved on. Until yesterday.

We went shopping for fruit and veg at the market (what a bargain) and we saw the olive man! Turns out he’d decided to work Saturdays so it didn’t take long for me to get some olives in anchovies. As it had been a while and the cravings had gone I didn’t need to satiate my passion straight away – I put them in a bag and went home.

Then I tried one. And another and another. After half a dozen I put them away and went into the lounge. And that’s when the voices started. Calling ever-so-quietly. Seductively. And I know that when I eat a couple I’ll want to eat more until they’re all gone. But that’s exactly what they want me to do and I’m going to resist. They’re not the boss of me!

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Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t stop myself… I’m going to the fridge. I may be some time!