All Posts Filed in ‘What Was I On?

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The Dating Game And How It’s Easy If You’re Not Playing It

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Even though I love my car and would never change it, I sometimes like to look on car sites – like Auto Trader – at what other cars are out there that I’d be tempted to buy were I looking for a new one. I do this knowing I’m not in the market for a new car.

In a similar vein, I sometimes like to look on dating sites – like match.com – to see what single women are in my area that I might be interested in were I in the market for a new woman. I do this knowing I’m not in the market for a new woman.

When I look at different cars I realise that I’m quite happy with the car I have and forget about it. But when I look at different single women I find myself getting a bit depressed – but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t look at all these attractive women thinking “oh no, I’m stuck in a relationship and wish I could try a few of these lovely ladies out for a while – play the field as it were”. Instead I feel sad that so many women are alone, looking for love, pouring their hearts out in their profiles, trying to find a decent man to share their lives with. Frankly, I can see why some of them are single from reading what they’ve written and some of the scary pictures of themselves. But the vast majority, through bad luck or some as-yet unspecified personality defect (like the common “attracted to bad boys but are surprised when they treat them badly” effect), find themselves alone and rather than relying on chance (which is like playing the lottery – only less fun), try to find the man of their dreams through dating sites.

I would often wonder why these women can’t find decent men. Take me as an example. I like to think of myself as a decent guy and nothing special (the bravado and ego on this site is just for my own amusement you know). A lot of these girls are into the outdoors, hiking, travelling, talking, laughing, that sort of thing. Well hey, I’m into all of those things! Someone with a winning personality and a sensitive side to them? C’est moi! A guy who likes romantic nights in, cooking, is laid back and easy going? That’s me! Someone who likes nights out on the town, eating in romantic restaurants and is a highly motivated go-getter who loves life? That’s me too! So if I can fit the bill and am reasonably good looking (well, according to my mother – God rest her soul), then surely there must be loads of guys out there that qualify too and these girls will have no problem.

Well, it turns out that the old saying is true: a good man is hard to find.

No Decent Men On Match.com

I decided to enlist my good lady’s help in researching this one so that it was fair and balanced. You see while I’m attracted to women, I’m not at all attracted to men – so I needed assistance from someone who is. First I showed her all the women that match my criteria – i.e. they live within 25 miles of my house, are single and aged 25-35. We found loads of girls that both my lass and I agreed were attractive (she knows the sort of girls I like), who from their profiles seemed really nice and we agreed I’d get on really well with. Easy. Loads of choice.

We then swapped the criteria over and searched for men within 25 miles of my house who are single and aged 25-40 (since women like older men I thought we’d widen the net slightly). There were pages and pages of them alright and you know what? My good lady spotted one that looked “OK”. The rest were either terrifying to look at (both eyes pointing in different directions for example), sounded terrible on their profiles and quickly convinced you you’d never want to meet them or both! We concluded that there are loads of eligible women out there, but just a handful of decent guys (if that).

The nice thing about not being in the dating game is that you can play it out in your head and imagine how easy it would be. Here I am, a decent guy who’d stand out a mile on a dating site. I’d have attractive women fighting each other to take me out. I could be really picky and choose the absolute perfect woman for me. We’d get together, be happy and live happily ever after! Of course I can remember from my own barren days of being single that it doesn’t work that way at all. But it’s nice to not have to find out!

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Still Wearing A Hat Syndrome

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‘Still Wearing A Hat Syndrome’ or SWAHS (pronounced sw-a-z) is a physiological and psychological reaction to a continuous stimulus that is abruptly removed after a period of time resulting in the sufferer believing themselves to still be subject to that stimulus. The classic example of this affliction is when you’ve been wearing a hat all day – perhaps a beanie hat or a top hat – and you remove it. For a considerable period of time you will still feel like you’re wearing your fashionable headgear and will be surprised to find that when you go to straighten your hat that it is no longer there. The short period of confusion that inevitably follows is termed ‘Still Wearing A Hat Syndrome’.

The following pictures of a person afflicted with SWAHS show the devastating confusion that can result from Sudden Hat Removal (SHR) – one of the main causes of SWAHS. To the left they are wearing a hat and are content, but with the hat removed in the second picture the subject is confused and disoriented. These pictures were taken under laboratory conditions with a team of medical staff on standby to deal with any complications. No Scotsmen were harmed during the making of this illustration:

The Effects Of ‘Still Wearing A Hat Syndrome’

For many years mainstream scientists didn’t accept that SWAHS really existed preferring to blame other factors on those who claimed to be suffering from it – such as them being stupid. However in recent times the very real problems that SWAHS has caused people has pushed it into the forefront of medical research and is now widely recognised by the scientific community as fact.

However there are many people who suffer from acute SWAHS – often brought on by SHR – but have never heard of the condition and remain undiagnosed. If you believe you may be suffering from this condition and would like some help and support in coping with it then don’t panic – you are not alone! Leave a comment at the end of this post and one of the expert staff from the “John Conners Still Wearing A Hat Syndrome Foundation” will contact you and ensure that you get the help you need.

Remember, SWAHS is real and understanding the condition is the first step to conquering it!

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You Can Take Your Internet Usage Policy And Shove It!

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I was having a look through some old photos and came across something that made me laugh. But first some background.

My previous job (the one before my current one) was the first place I’d ever worked that had an internet restriction policy in place. Since I’d been used to working in small companies with professional (and that doesn’t just mean “dresses smartly”, that means does their job very well), highly motivated, intelligent people who wouldn’t waste their day surfing the net and could be trusted to not need supervision – so there was no need to restrict them from any sites. I guess the culture at my previous company was different as all sorts of people worked there of varying levels of trustworthiness but it meant that we were all tarred by the same brush. This is a particular pet peeve of mine but I’ll save that for another day…

Anyway, one time I went to a perfectly legitimate site that just happened to be on their exclusion list and was presented with a web page telling me I’d breached the internet usage policy and to STOP! what I was doing. I’m fairly sure I rolled my eyes in disgust, but then decided to spice up the denial page somewhat and came up with the following:

STOP!

As is almost always the case with my self-portait photography I ended up with something completely different to my intention. I wanted to portray a disapproving look with a stern expression but instead managed to create a camp picture of me looking like I’m about to start dancing! Tsk.

To make matters worse I failed to get the company to replace the boring corporate page with this one – for shame. However if you’re in control of a draconian internet policy at your company that you disapprove of then feel free to use the graphic above royalty free by means of a silent protest. Or better still, make your own so that long after you’re sacked your likeness will live on whenever someone tries to browse to a porn site (until they work out how to change it)!

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Finally, A Device From The World Of Tomorrow!

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I’ve always had a fairly active imagination. When I was a kid I used to imagine having a tunnel in my back garden that lead to Australia – seems a touch impractical now I look back – how would I keep the molten lava from ruining my mother’s plants? Anyway, sometimes I like to let my imagination run away with me even today and one scenario I often consider is if I found myself sent back in time 20 years – what would I do?

Since I’m not the money-obsessed type I don’t bother with betting on the result of sporting events to make loads of instant cash. I also don’t feel the need to track down any old foes and sort them out “once and for all”. This is mainly because I don’t actually have any old foes. The temptation is also there to track the young John Conners down and tell him about some of the important things in his future as well as what choices to make to guarantee him success (such as telling him all the women that fancied him but because he was too stupid to spot the signals he completely missed out on). But again, it’s not something I’d do – he has to learn these lessons himself – he can kick himself when he’s in his 30’s looking back like me!

Or maybe I’ll drop in on the then down-on-her-luck J.K. Rowling and give her some motivational words that one she’ll change the world in a way that nobody else ever will!

One thing that I probably would do however is drop in on my mother. 20 years ago my brother and I were at school during the day and she’d have been on her own in the house – which is when I’d pay her a visit. I’m not entirely sure what I’d say to her but I suspect it would be the truth and for her not to tell anybody else that I’d dropped by.

My iPod TouchWhatever I decided to do, I now know the one thing I’d bring with me. It’s a device that can prove to anybody that I’m from the future, it would let me listen to music when bored waiting for a bus and come in handy if I wanted to show my mother photos from her future (and to prove I am who I say I am). It is in fact my new iPod Touch. I think if I went back in time a mere 5 years people would think I was from 100 years in the future as it really is an amazing piece of kit.

Not only is it extremely thin and beautifully designed but the way it operates is like something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Rotating it around 90 degrees and seeing the picture or album cover rotating too looks cool on the advert but it looks amazing when you see it in the flesh.

I have mine synced with a good selection of my music and all the photos I’ve taken over the last 7 years (which live in Apple’s iPhoto on my Mac). It’s so cool if someone asks what I got up to at New Year and I just show them on the iPod. Or if they want to see some of my landscape photography I can hand it to them. Combining it with a telephone in the iPhone is just awesome – although the 18 month contract is just not worth it for me, I’ll wait for version 2. Also, since digital mobile phone networks didn’t exist 20 years ago it wouldn’t be much use in my time travelling adventures!

Technological improvements happen slowly, people who talk about revolutions in technology are either salesmen or over-excited techies. But if you compare consumer electronics in 5 year intervals over the last 20 years then you really can see the giant leaps and bounds that would blow people away if they could see ahead. I’ll be interested to see what the 53 year old John Conners who travels back in time 20 years has to show me! But I’ll never tell. 😉

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Something You Should Know About My Black Leather Gentleman’s Gloves

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One of the things I like to do every Winter is dig out my beloved black leather gentleman’s gloves (as I like to call them). Whenever I picture a pair of the aforementioned gloves I always see some hitman in a movie wearing them while carefully screwing a silencer onto a pistol before pointing it at some poor unfortunate good guy and squeezing the trigger (unless it’s a Steven Seagal film in which case he’ll jump in just in the nick of time).

As a non-hitman who spends his days writing software instead of cleaning his gun, I thought I’d show in pictorial fashion what I love about them and why you might want to get yourself a pair:

Why I Love My Black Leather Gentleman’s Gloves

So you see – they’re not intimidating or evil at all. They’re just a nice, warm pair of gloves that you can use to get change out of your pocket without ever having to remove them. Practical as well as fashionable! 🙂

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Why I Love Groundhog Day

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So I was at a birthday party at the weekend and I got talking to this girl about films. She listed a few of her favourites (like The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and some others) and then I mentioned one of my all-time favourites Groundhog Day. She said she’d seen it but hadn’t really thought much about it which I took as an opportunity to spend the next 10 minutes telling her how great a film it is, why it’s such a great film and why it gets better the more times you see it. And now it’s your turn…

Goundhog DayThe basic premise of the film is a rather unsavoury weather man – Phil Connors played masterfully by Bill Murray – finds himself and a film crew in a town called Punxsutawney to report on the tradition that if a groundhog (we call them marmots in Europe) emerges from its lair and sees its shadow then the Winter will last a few weeks longer – otherwise it’s hello Spring! Phil is completely unenthused about the whole thing and is rude, inconsiderate, obnoxious, sexist and a real jerk. He then wakes up the next day to find that it is once again Groundhog day and he’s reliving it. Rather confused he goes through the motions, does his report again and goes to bed. But he wakes up once again on Groundhog day.

What I love about Groundhog Day is that as you watch him stuck living the same day over and over again you feel the same thoughts and feelings as him. First of all you’re wondering “what the hell is going on?”. Then he starts to use it to his advantage to chat up women and pull them. He realises he can do anything he likes without consequence and enjoys that for a while. He takes the time to learn to play the piano and carve ice sculptures, amongst other things. But then he starts to get sick of the whole thing and you feel his pain. Each morning he’s awoken by the song “I got you babe” by Sonny and Cher and after a while you start to hate hearing it yourself – he throws the radio against the wall, breaks it and you know you’d do the same yourself.

So he tries killing himself but just wakes up and the day starts over. He becomes desperate and just wants out – but he’s stuck living the same day over and over again. His producer Rita – played by Andie MacDowell – takes his fancy but while attempting to get her into bed in a single day (she hates him at the start of the day so it’s a tall order), he manages to fall in love with her. The night ends with her slapping him in the face but he can try it again and again and again – or so he thinks. No matter how he tries to perfect the day he just can’t reproduce the spark that made him fall for her and eventually he just gives up.

There’s a beautiful scene that you’d miss if you watched it for the first time (I know I did). While trying to woo Rita for the first time he gets in a snowball fight with some kids and they end up falling in the snow together in just such a way that they catch each other’s eye and that’s when he falls for her. In subsequent nights he tries to make that random moment happen again but he just doesn’t fall in the right position and it just never happens again. Phil starts to realise he can’t make things happen just because he wants them to to suit his own ends.

So eventually he resigns himself to being stuck on the same day by revelling in it. He gets to know everybody, manages to synchronise his day so that he can catch a kid who falls out of a tree, replace a flat tyre for some old ladies who break down, perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a man choking in a restaurant and by doing all that becomes a changed me. An old homeless man dies over and over again and Phil tries his best to save him but eventually realises he can’t – he’s not God. In the end Rita falls for the new Phil and he finds tomorrow finally comes.

It’s a brilliant film and has a great deal of subtle undertones that only become apparent the more you watch it. When he goes bowling with some of the locals and tells them that he’s living the same day over and over one of them replies with something like “I know exactly what you mean”. We all drift through the same day over and over again and feel like we’re in Groundhog Day, but Phil broke the cycle by stopping worrying about it and trying to make the best of each day and making those around him happy (even though he only actually had one of them). So if you haven’t seen it then I recommend you sit down and watch it. Laugh along and have Sonny and Cher too – but look beneath the surface and see if it makes you think.

Oh, and if you don’t and you’re ever unlucky enough to talk films with me you’ll get this whole lecture and I’ll keep going on at you until you promise me you’ll watch it. Or maybe you’ll promise me you’ll watch it and mentally cross me off your “speak to again” list – which is probably what that poor girl on Saturday night did!

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Caffeine Overload Equals Bad

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My coffee machineA good friend of mine rather likes coffee. When I last worked with him he’d frequently do ridiculously long hours, drink copious amounts of Red Bull (which is loaded with caffeine) and it’s no surprise to me that he’s now taken the same approach to coffee. He doesn’t drink a cup, he drinks 5 cups. All double strength. And when he’s a bit peckish he just eats a mouthful of raw coffee beans. I believe he’s also ground coffee into his toothpaste too. (Note, everything is true apart from the toothpaste – so far as I’m aware).

I always react with incredulity (you know, that sort of expression where my eyebrows jump two inches upwards) when he tells me about the amount of caffeine he ingests but as I was sitting doing some work on John’s Background Switcher yesterday I realised that I’m just as bad. I tend to start every day with a freshly made latte (we have loads of disposable cups so I can drink it on the drive to work). I then eat several tiffins – chocolate based biscuit snacks – per day if I can get any (I really must write about my obsession with those some time), which contain more caffeine. I bring a bottle of juice to work to stop myself buying fizzy drinks (which works) but then go home and reward myself with a can of Irn Bru (good work undone):

My Mac and some Irn Bru

For anybody who’s never heard of the stuff, Irn Bru is the ubiquitous Scotsman’s drink. Most Scottish people I know love the stuff, and most non-Scottish people I know – who’ve tried it – hate the stuff. The advertising slogan of the 80’s described Irn Bru as being “Made in Scotland…. from girders” (said in a gruff Scottish accent) and that’s about as close to an accurate description of the taste as you’ll get. It’s loaded with additives, loaded with caffeine, and could probably strip paint at 30 paces. But I love the stuff!

I probably drink a can a day on average – far too much – which adds more to the caffeine count. If there are still some tiffins around I’ll eat them too. More caffeine. The bottom line is that like my friend I consume far too much caffeine and no doubt that’s what causes me to stay awake really late at night and struggle to get up in the morning and crave that first cup of coffee to wake me up.

I’m sure I can cut down on the Irn Bru, but I love the taste of coffee so I reckon that’ll have to be my vice (everybody’s got to have a vice) and, with a heavy heart, I’ll have to cut down on my beloved tiffins. I’ll give it a couple of months to see if I feel any different and report back then. In the meantime expect more posts in the ‘Rant‘ category!

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Selling Stuff The John Conners Way

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If – like me – you’ve just redecorated a room in your house (in my case my office / second TV room) then you’ve probably got some excess furniture. Particularly if you went to IKEA for shelves and came back with stupidly expensive floor-to-ceiling book cases (which, to be fair, are both solid and very cool). Normally I’d just break them up and throw them down the local tip but these are different days. Now I have a Mac that just begs me to do creative things with it. When combined with the fact that everyone who knows me probably thinks I have a massive ego – I don’t really but nobody believes me – I thought I may as well give them what they want. So I came up with the following picture and emailed it round work to see if there were any takers:

And incredibly I got rid of the lot within about 20 minutes! Excellent! Now, when it comes time to sell my car, I wonder what I’ll be able to come up with… You see, this is one of the many reasons that my brother works in marketing and I don’t – I think he got the marketing gene and I got something else – not sure what!

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My All-Or-Nothing Approach To Reading Books

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I haven't read a non-technical book for well over a year. The main reason for this is that when I read books I tend to do it to excess. Like my mother before me I'm able to read books rather quickly – I can get through an average-sized 300 page book in a day or two (although normally I like to take it easy and stretch it out another day or so) – and when I do that I'll pick up another book straight away and so on. This means that I can get through a lot of books in a short period of time. The side-effect is that I tend to burn out after a while and a year can go by when I don't read a thing. Then I'll pick up a book and the cycle starts over.

For example, I borrowed the first Inspector Rebus book written by Ian Rankin from a colleague a few years ago. I really enjoyed it (being set in Edinburgh was a great start). After reading it I realised that Ian Rankin had in fact written a dozen or so Inspector Rebus books (17 now) so I made it my mission to read them all. I ordered 3 sets of trilogies and then proceeded to read 8 of the books back to back. Then I burned out and didn't pick up another book for quite some time.

As I said, I haven't read a non-technical book in over a year (maybe two now I think about it) and while I was away on holiday on Arran the other week I spied an Andy McNab book on the bookcase (called Aggressor as it happens). I sat down and read it and rather enjoyed it (an easy read with adventure, sex, guns, and lots of tough-guy SAS-speak). Following that I spotted the first two books from the Terry Pratchett Discworld series. For years I've been meaning to read them but since there are so many I knew it would be a major ordeal to get through them all (which my compulsive reading habits would demand) and refrained.

So here were the first two books in the series and I had no excuse but to read them. Which I did. I was halfway through the second book when we left but I decided to "borrow" it and return it when I'd finished (reminder to self: make good on that promise). Pratchett's humour really cracks me up and I kept annoying my good lady by bursting into laughter at random times. When I finished the second book I was straight on Amazon marketplace buying up more of them for 1p a pop. Then I had a look and realised that he's written about 36 of the damn things! Since I want to avoid burnout this time I'm attempting to pace myself by only buying 3-4 books at a time, reading them and then getting some more – trying to drip-feed myself instead of binge eating them.

Anyway, I've just started book six (Wyrd Sisters) and I'll try and take my time about it. It's better than sitting in bed a night reading about regular expressions!

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While the cat’s away…

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Hello, you probably don’t know me: I’m Stuart, an ex-colleague and friend of John (not all Johns, just this one). Before I start, let’s get some things straight: I am not Scottish, I don’t live in Yorkshire and after reading this post, you’ll realise that my adventures are not the same.

I’ve read John’s blog since he began – I know the person behind the sense and the nonsense that you read here, and I can tell you that what you read is what you get – there are no hidden, nasty traits to John (lots of haircuts, but only one face).

You may or may not know that John is off on holiday next week and, strangely, he deemed me capable enough to be able to fill in for him during his absence. Did you notice that child-like naivety was one of his personality traits?

It will become evident that I’m new to the blogging world. However, I started my own blog a few weeks ago and John has become my most devoted, actually, my only, reader.

I never really understood blogging; mostly it’s inane drivel (like this post), with a few odd gems that have helped me in my professional and personal life. However, following John’s latest visit to see us, with his beloved wife and Mac in tow, I got hooked and have started writing.

In general, blogs are just diaries and I hate diaries, but strangely enough, I have kept the only diary I ever wrote. It’s purple (in case you wanted to know), and dates from 1982. I must have written it because I thought I should have a diary, because, judging by the content, there can be no other reason. There are many riveting entries early in the year, some of the classics being:

  • Rained today” (I come from the north of England so this seems self-evident, although I haven’t cross-checked this entry with the Met Office for accuracy).
  • Played football. Won 2-1. Didn’t score“. A single reference to a long-forgotten football match, rather than two references: one to the result of a football match followed by one to the result of trying to find a girlfriend and/or illicit drugs at the under-16 disco.
  • However, there is one small delve into the personal arena (I couldn’t be too explicit in case my mum found it). “Pam’s tonight“. She was a long-term girlfriend at the time – 3 weeks – I presume the entry is a reference to a visit to her house that evening, rather than a revelation that tonight did, in fact, belong to Pam.

Like a British summer, the diary entries fizzled out in mid-April, so we will never know what happened for the rest of the year. Maybe such summer gems as “Sunny Today, 21°C” or the autumnal, “Leaves falling, getting damper” are lost forever. Sad, indeed.

The last person that John invited to write on his blog persuaded him to go out and buy a Mac as a result. I’m hoping (and I strongly suspect) that this post won’t persuade him to go out and buy a cheap 2007 diary – keeping his thoughts to himself would be a sad loss to the blogosphere.

If not, John will be back soon to regale us with holiday stories and no doubt some excellent photos of Arran.

In the meantime, if you want to read more of my (unfortunately, diary-like) thoughts about France, epilepsy, music and life in general, feel free to visit me

I hope I haven’t decimated your audience base too much in your absence John!