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Saturday, August 16

Beer Beer Beer Beer

Sing to the tune often found at baseball stadiums. Dammit, an American reference.

Just a quick note to say that I'm off out to go get smashed. It's carnival day, hooray. Except the Melksham Carnival is so bad you need to be inebriated to enjoy it. Which is the intention. Beer, beer and more beer. Possibly followed by some shots and then some more beer. Life is sweet.

Lack Of Inspiration For A Title

I tells thee, I does, that my CV is looking fuller every day. That would be resume for all you Yanks. Actually, whilst on the subject, I am making a stand against the americanisation of English. Fine, speak in your strange manner on your side of the Pond, but don't slyly infiltrate our language here in Blighty with your odd spellings and stupid words. I hereby declare that I shall make an effort not to use any American words in my posts, wherever possible. If you see any examples, please point them out so that I can deal out retribution. And why isn't tag-board working? Stupid bloody tag-board.

Where was I? Oh yeah, my CV. Yesterday, I added to my Skills list "Can wash out big metal cubes." Today I was able to add "Can stick labels on trays of pots of cream on a production line" and (and!) "Can stack trays of pots of cream on a pallet."

Wow, two (two!) new skills in one day. I rule.

That's my favourite quote from a film ever. Bonus points for naming the film, character and situation in which it occurs. Hmmm, tag-board is broken though. Bugger it, it's from American Beauty. Kevin Spacey's character (the name escapes me) has just bought his dream car. "It's a '69 Firebird, the car I've always wanted. And now I own it. I rule." Accompanied by thrusting a fist in the air.

I love that film so much. It's just brilliant on so many levels. The ending throws you completely. The characters are so deep and full of surprises. I need to go rent that film from somewhere. Note, "film," not "movie." And not just because that particular film is a piece of art rather than a money-grabbing-no-real-value-blockbuster. Nope, it's because the English way of saying it is "film." Stupid Americans.

Friday, August 15

The New Virus v Microsoft

Ripped wholesale from a post I made at RAGE

Can I just take this opportunity to bitch about Microsoft? I think I can.

This particular virus (the new MSBlast one) is (apparently) aimed directly at Microsoft. At a certain time fairly soon, every copy of msblast.exe will launch on the host computer and attack Microsoft's servers, with the intention of overwhelming them through sheer weight of numbers. I don't think this is going to happen, but it's a fucking good idea.

My main point here is about why viruses (viri?) spread so quickly nowadays. It's due to Microsoft's complete and utter domination of the computer market. The people who write viruses only need to make them work within a Windows environment. Seeing as 99% of all computers use Windows, this means there is no need to make the virus compatible with, say, Linux.

The same applies to Outlook Express. All of the recent viruses have been spread through Outlook Express. This is again because its use has become widespread. Outlook comes bundled with Internet Explorer, the dominant (if not dictator-like) program in the field of web browsers. The problem with Outlook is that it has been, and still is, very easy to rip apart and find security holes in. I confess to having been privy to the code of a virus, and it's so simple the way in which it self-replicates and sends itself out.

The reason why these viruses are successful is because many of the people who use Outlook Express are not overly computer literate. Microsoft wants to put itself in as many homes as possible, and therefore makes its programs so easy to use that a monkey could run winXP without any problems. By doing this, however, they are allowing the intelligent people who write viruses to exploit the less computer-able amongst the online population.

Whilst on the subject of Internet Explorer's domination, I want to add that a similar thing to the virus writers exists amongst web designers. A few years ago, when Netscape was a serious competitor to IE, designers, especially those that used Javascript, had to cater for all web browsers. Now, they only code for IE, and maybe Opera if you're lucky. I'm gulity as charged of this, but it seems justified when I view my site statistics. 94% of my visitors use IE. Why code for anything else?

OK, so rant over. I just wanted to bitch about Microsoft and blame them for viruses and slipping web design standards. Job done.

Thursday, August 14

Thursday Part II - Thoughts

The first item is actually something which occurred to me last night whilst I was out walking my dog. This small flock of birds flew over, arranged in their pretty standard group which is supposed to look like a single big bird in order to fend off predators. I suddenly thought, why the fuck are they still doing this? Surely the predators have evolved to figure out that this "big bird" is in fact a flock of smaller potential prey. Survival of the fittest and all that. Only those predatory individuals who figured that out can get enough food to survive and therefore reproduce. A few generations later, only the predators which have this knowledge are left. Doesn't the prey then need to come up with something new in order to survive? Hmmm, a random thing which seemed much more relevant at the time.

One thing which I didn't think about whilst at work, but has instead come up since I've been sitting here trying to remember what I was thinking about at work, is the fact that I have absolutely no fucking idea what I want to do with my life. I think this has been brought on by a conversation I had with the dentist about university and everything. He was asking whether I was going to get the certificate which entitles you to practice law on your own as a solicitor. I forget the name of it right at this moment. The problem here lies in the fact that to get this, you have to go and work in a law firm for at least 2-3 years once you've finished your degree. I'm not sure if I want to have law as my career path just yet, and I'm probably leaning towards not doing law after my degree. So why do the degree? It's a good degree to have, especially from a respected uni, which King's is, and opens up many other doors. The only other career path I'm giving serious thought to is journalism, but in what form again I am unsure.

Dammit, I had this post all planned out in my head whilst I was at work, and now I can't remember a fucking thing that I was thinking about. I know I had a few songs in my head all day long (Goldfrapp - Strict Machine, Eminem - Square Dance, and a couple of others), but I can't bloody remember where my mind was wandering off to. Fuck it.

One final point to ponder over until next time: In the track "Spit Shine" by Xzibit from the 8 Mile Soundtrack CD, he claims that he "mashed out before niggas knew mashing." The question is, did he look a total fool mashing out on his own? I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that mashing out is a social thing. Doing it on your own is just silly.

Thursday Part I - Events

A two-part post today, there's a few things I want to seperate and explore at different times.

Another bastard 5am alarm clock ring woke me up this morning. Or rather, it got me out of bed. My body clock has this weird thing where it wakes me either 20 minutes before or after I'm supposed to get up / the time my alarm clock goes off. By after, I mean I'm completely and utterly useless for a good 20 minutes or so after I get up. Not today though. I would have thought that a 5am start would have meant me fully waking up after the alarm, but I was wide awake way before it went off. Stranger things have happened.

Got to work, in a different department from the one I was in last Friday. This time it was Soft Cheese. You can laugh out loud if you like... The job I was given was even more mind-numbing than stacking pots of cream. Today I had to clean out these big metal cubes-on-wheels, which transport the cream stuff around. They're a piece of piss to clean, just hose them down, then put them in an industrial-sized dishwasher. I'm not talking about the pretty big ones that you find in a restaurant kitchen; nope, this one was the size of a fairly large room in an average house. And all to wash one flipping "dolly." That's what they're called. They're only about a yard in each direction, not exactly massive. Wasted resources anyone?

As I said, the job was mind-numbing, but it was also deafening. The machines all around were fucking loud, so I got given some ear plugs to wear. This is as well as the hairnet... Fucking hairnets! The earplugs were brilliant, completely blocking out around 90% of all sound. You could stand right next to someone talking to you, and be forced to lip-read to understand what they were saying. This silence, coupled with working on my own, gave me plenty of time to let my mind wander. And wander it did, hence Part II of this post.

At the first break, I was sitting in the canteen, chatting away to some guys and munching a fried breakfast, when this figure walked past. I didn't really see her properly, but thought "Pretty lady, looks a bit like Michelle." A couple of minutes later I was doing my usual thing of looking all round the place I'm in, seeing what's going on, when I saw Michelle. We both did a double take and said "What are you doing here?!" Weird. I didn't really have time to chat to her then, since I had to go back to work fairly sharpish, but I met her at lunch and we chatted for a while.

Michelle is one of my friends who is gorgeous, but doesn't believe it when you tell her. She's also the nicest, friendliest person ever. I swear if Satan ever walked this Earth, Michelle would end up chatting to him and not finding a single fault in him. Anyway, she had just got her A-Level exam results, and was really made up by them. She's off on a gap year, then probably a gap year. Whilst I was chatting away, I was making a conscious effort not to talk about myself. I've noticed recently that when I meet people that I haven't seen for a while, I end up talking about myself far too much compared to how much they talk and I listen. Arrogant and self-centred? Me? I think so.

Straight after work I had to dash to the dentist to get a filling. I don't have a problem with the dentist, it doesn't bother me at all. The only painful part was the injection to numb the tooth and surrounding area. It felt like the needle he was putting in was about an inch across rather than less than a millimetre. Now all I have to show for it is a mouth which is totally numb on one side. Completely numb. It feels so weird. I was drinking from a big bottle of lemonade earlier, and all I could feel was the liquid going over the left side of my lips. I couldn't feel anything at all on the right side, even though the logical part of my brain was telling me that something was happening there. Meh, more strangeness for the day.

The final thing to mention is just how bad my hands smell right now. I think it's a mixture of cream and sweat from these plastic gloves I had to wear at work. I've washed them a whole load of times, and they still smell. I feel like Lady Macbeth (Out, Out damned spot). Hows about that? I'm so learned, I can throw in Shakespeare references all over the place...

RobCam - A Title

I call this picture "The Duality Of Man." Other titles which sprang to mind included "Audition For A Batman Film" and "The result of magnetising half of your face and dipping it into lead filings." The latter was too long, and the former was just not funny.

Anyway, this was during the removal of my beloved beard, my companion for the last 4 weeks. I figured it would make for a pretty funny picture. I reckon the last straw was the wearing of that stupid fucking "Beardnet" on Friday. That and my Mum telling me I looked like a terrorist...

Wednesday, August 13

Grrr: Work

My stupid arsing bastard employment agency. I rang them up on Monday to see if they had any work for the rest of the week for me, and they told me that I could go to this place in a nearby town on the Tuesday, and possibly for the rest of the week. After a series of phonecalls to organise transport and to find out whether I really was needed, it was sorted. Be ready to catch the organised lift at 7.30am Tuesday. No worries.

At about 6pm Monday afternoon I got another phone call to tell me I wasn't needed after all. Bastards. Then, at 10pm I got yet another phone call, but this time asking me to work that very night. It was down at Fiege Merlin, the place I had worked at for a month or so a few weeks ago. It's pretty easy work, and I thought I'd be finished by 4/5am latest, so I said yes, I could make it.

I got down there to find out that actually I was working at a different part of the site than previously. This time I would be shifting big bastard-heavy washing machines and fridges ("white goods" to those in the trade...) around all night. Plus, their shift was 10pm till 6am, usually with at least an hour of overtime. It was going to be a long night.

I fully admit to not being the strongest person around, and this became evident pretty early on. It wasn't such a big deal, since there were these truck things that you lift the boxes with to help you. You know what I mean, 2 wheels, 5 foot tall, a little lip to shove underneath the thing you're lifting. Even though they take the weight whilst on the move, they're still fucking hard work. You have to lift the nearside of the box a little to shove the lip underneath, then lift the entire farside of the box in order to tilt it and be able to move it. It's fucking hard work.

We didn't finish until gone 7am, and I came straight home and crashed into my bed. Actually, that's a lie. I went first to see if this roadside burger-bar I know (Den's Diner) was open. They do the best Breakfast Baps, with everything imaginable in it. Sausages, bacon, tomato, fried egg and something else which I can't remember right now. Okay, that isn't everything imaginable, but it's pretty damn close. Except at that time it wasn't open. Dammit. I couldn't be arsed to go home for 20 minutes, then to pop back round to it, so I just went to bed.

3pm is a good time to wake up. I love lying in until that sort of time, although by the time you get to 6 o'clock it begins to feel weird. "Hmmm, it's getting towards the evening, and I've only been awake for 3 hours." It messes with your mind.

I went out in the evening to go play some pool with a mate of mine. 5-2 to me is the current score, although he is 2-1 up for snooker. I don't mind, pool is much more of a drinkers game...

That leaves today. I've done pretty much fuck-all, but I did get a phone call from Bailey's about work tomorrow. Back to the cream factory that I was at last Friday. At least this time I've shaved my beard off, so I'll only have to wear a hairnet. For fucks sake. I hate fucking hairnets. I swear I told Bailey's at the start of the summer that I didn't want to do food production. Bastards. Just proves that no matter what you aim to do / have, you always settle for less. To think I was planning just to work in offices this summer...

Monday, August 11

Playing Catch-Up

Righty, my computer (and by "my" I mean the family computer with Internet) has been an absolute bastard the past couple of days, and seems to coincide its frequent crashes with the times that I really want to do something on the Internet. Such as posting to my blog for all of you, my lovely readers. The preceding post is something I wrote on Sunday afternoon but hadn't posted due to the fucking bastard stupid computer. It's a little review / series of thoughts on a book I finished reading that day.

On the subject of books, I'm torn as to what to read next. I've picked up my copy of The Divine Comedy by Dante and read the introduction, which is another one of those ultra-scholarly essays on the text itself. This particular introduction, however, isn't as bad as the one which accompanies my copy of The Communist Manifesto, and it certainly describes well the context in which Dante was writing. My other choice is Made In America by Bill Bryson. I love Bryson's books, and I read this book some time ago. I saw it lying around in my kitchen today, which I guess means somebody else in my family is reading it. I read a couple of chapters whilst watching the cricket on TV, and really got into it. The history of language is something which interests me anyway, and I enjoy the style Bryson employs, so I reckon The Divine Comedy will have to wait until the end of the week...

In other news, it goes from bad to slightly better to worse with my parents. Things had improved since Wednesday's events, and we were at least on civil speaking terms during Friday and Saturday. Mainly because they weren't here for most of Saturday. They were out at a friend's house or something, and I had the house to myself. Sunbathing and watching football all day is a good thing. They went out that night too, to some fireworks / lasers / classical music outdoor thingy, so I inivited a few mates round for a couple of beers before heading out to the pubs. Everything was going fine, all having a good laugh and probably being a little too loud for the neighbours, but nothing majorly wrong.

That was, until I went upstairs to close all of the windows before we left. When I came back down, everyone was crowding round the little water fountain that stands on the patio in my back garden. Somebody (Jy!) had got some washing-up liquid from one of my cupboards and put some into the fountain. It wasn't foaming a huge amount, but there was some coming out. I switched it off, went out and thought nothing more of it. Then I got a txt from my sister around midnight to say "you're in so much trouble about the fountain." I was pretty drunk by this point, so I wasn't overly bothered.

Sunday morning rolled around, and I woke about 9am to hear from out of my window my Mum and Dad talking about how angry they were with me and so on and so forth. I was too tired and hungover to bother with them at that point, so I went back to sleep. By the time I eventually got up, my Dad had gone to work. I should explain here that my Dad has the kind of job where he's away for 10 days, then back for a week, ad infinitum. My Mum I can cope with, but I couldn't be bothered to have my Dad moaning at me again.

The upshot of it all is that I'm basically screwed. The rest of my family are off on holiday for a fortnight fairly soon, leaving me alone in the house. This has never been a problem before, and I always keep the house tidy / intact for their return. This time, they were quite happy for me to be planning a few barbecues and having a few mates round for some beers whilst they were away. They were quite aware that I was going to be doing this, and didn't have a problem with it. NOW, they've told my neighbours to keep an eye on the house, and to phone my uncle if there is any more than about 1 other person in the house. I'm basically confined to a hermit-like existence for that fortnight. And all because of one of my mates thinking that pouring washing-up liquid into the fountain would be funny. Bastard!

Eleven Plus One...

I've just finished reading Twelve by Nick McDonnell for the second time. The tagline on the front cover reads "As fast as speed, as relentless as acid." Abstaining from drugs in the way in which I do, I can't comment on whether this is 100% accurate or not, but I can state that the pace of the book is so fast as to force you to read the entire book in one or two sittings.

Which is a good thing, since the story increases in pace to an incredible crescendo. I thought the first three-quarters of the book were hurried / fast, but they are nothing compared to the last few chapters. The various intertwining plotlines are brought to an extreme climax and combined to form a truly dramatic and somewhat unexpected end to five days in the lives of young, upper-class New Yorkers.

The chapters are short, concise and structured in a manner such as to entice the reader to move onto the next chapter without drawing breath. Compare this to American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, a novel to which many allusions have been made by critics and reviewers. The chapters in that book are long, rambling affairs, and leave the reader wanting to pause at least momentarily before moving onto the next.

McDonnell uses flashbacks to good effect, fleshing out the main character by giving hints as to his past and as to his character as a whole. These are helpfully printed in italics, which makes them very easy to follow and understand.

As noted, only the main character, White Mike, is given these flashbacks, but the other characters receive their own chapters, usually in a situation where they are by themselves in order to explore their emotions and thoughts. These thoughts are also expressed in italics to highlight their existence and to draw attention to them. Even in the occasions where more than one character is present, only the thoughts of one are given. This reminds me personally of Shakespeare's sometimes heavy-handed use of the aside in his plays.

The entire novel is written in the third person, but, coupled with the use of italicised thoughts and complete rejection of personal pronouns in favour of repetition of the characters' names, this does not detract from the development of characters, an aspect which is sometimes reduced to a lesser role in other third-person novels. The Irvine Welsh novel Trainspotting is a good example of the opposite, but the constant changing of characters is sometimes difficult to follow due to the lack of names used throughout the first-person-based novel.

One criticism of Twelve that does spring to mind is that McDonnell seems to try a little too hard to reference popular culture and contemporary living. It iis understandable that he is trying to portray the materialistic world in which his characters live, but it often goes over the top. One example is where he describes the clothing that two white guys are wearing in an attempt to be more black. Do we really need to be told that FUBU (the clothing range) stands for For Us, By Us? If the reader is in the target audience, they are going to know this already...

Leaving that aside, Twelve is an excellent novel which is both satirical and an accurate description of the times we live in. There seems to be a novel which defines every five-year period since 1985. American Psycho was the first, then Trainspotting, then Fight Club, and now Twelve. Like, it's just so great!

In other news, my suntan is looking fucking sweet.
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