Hidden tragedies, hidden truths (because, in literary criticism, the truth is *always* where you put it)


This is more than usually not-completely serious. At least, for such a dark topic, it comes in from an overly sunny backwards angle, with a cheek full of tongue. It gets more serious later, but it doesn’t qualify for the role of a “useful resource” so be warned. By way of all the apology you’re getting, I’ve scattered the latter half of the post with semi-random helpful links, just in case it sets you thinking. Stick with them for the genuine advice; stay here if you’re well-enough off that you can afford the luxury of me amusing myself with a sort-of thought experiment in misusing critical thinking.

Benefits of listening to Jack? It’s better than a poke in the eye. And we don’t repeat a single song in the workday– Jack FM.

Disadvantages: sometimes they play things that suck (they just do it a lot less than some what I could mention). So it was that today I got stuck listening to Kate Nash’s Foundations again. Which has always struck me as a soulless, naïve sort of a song. In the event you’ve happily skipped it, you can catch up with it here:

See? I’m pretty sure I ain’t copping any blame for thinking that was staggeringly shallow. Holding onto the cracks? What good is that meant to do, you inflectionless moron?

…Or so I thought. But then I realised I wasn’t listening closely enough: it’s not just holding onto cracks, but specifically, the cracks in our [relationship’s] foundations. Which begs the question, ‘what good is that meant to do, you inflectionless moron?’

Answer: none at all. On account of this isn’t the shallow pap initially suggested by the surface tone of the song, but is actually quite a clever piece about someone trapped in an abusive relationship.

If this comes as no surprise at all, I apologise, but you need to understand that my reaction to Remains of the Day was something like ‘Yay Stevens! Nuts to Miss Kenton, she’s a disloyal flake, and you’re better off without the feckless cow. Better to go back home and see if you can’t train that slacker Faraday to behave in a manner more befitting! “Banter” indeed…’ Which, they tell me, slightly misses the point somehow… .

Anyway, I offer that by way of demonstrating that I generally show too much faith to notice an unreliable narrator on the first couple of passes, and it took me several encounters with the song to realise that the narrator is not the wronged woman she claims, but is a manipulative and vicious sociopath. It’s very well done, I’ve got to say. The hints are there, but you have to separate them from the backdrop of imagined injuries the narrator thrusts to the fore of her narrative.

At this point it’s also worth noting the delivery of the song, which remains static throughout the tale: short, broken sentences, delivered in an almost always level, consistent voice. This is a narrator working hard to control the story they’re telling, carefully regulating the words they offer us, even at the expense of their fluidity of expression. In itself, this is disturbing; it’s not the watchfulness of someone struggling to frame their words through their emotions, but of someone carefully taking notes of how she covers each event. More alarming, though, is the subtext to that coverage, which is what I’d like to focus on, because the surface deceit speaks well enough for itself.

Let’s examine the first stanza for a moment:

Thursday night, everything’s fine, except you’ve got that look in your eye /
when I’m tellin’ a story and you find it boring /
you’re thinking of something to say. /
You’ll go along with it then drop it and humiliate me /
in front of our friends. /
Then I’ll use that voice that you find annoyin’ and say something like /
“yeah, intelligent input, darlin’, why don’t you just have another beer then?” /
Then you’ll call me a bitch and everyone we’re with will be embarrassed, /
and I wont give a shit.

Not quite an average night out. Our narrator and her nameless partner are somewhere – most likely in a pub, although the reconstructed vision in the music video confines us to a significantly domestic setting – with some friends, and she is telling an anecdote. He listens along, thinking of ways he can add to the conversation. When she has finished speaking (after he has “gone along with it”) he “drops in” his contribution. Note that we do not know what this contribution is, only that the narrator feels “humiliated”.

I suggest that, in the absence of any indicators to the contrary, the narrator is humiliated because the focus of conversation has moved away from her. She told this story, the focus should be on her! Not on her partner, but on her, always her. (The video, you’ll note, continues this theme, barely showing us the partner at all: the focus is always on the narrator, or on inanimate objects stop-motioned into puppetry to support her narrative). Self-centred as our narrator is, the only way she can retrieve the focus in this specific instance is to belittle her partner, and so she mocks him, not only his immediate conversational input, but also his aspirations to further participation in her social activities.

He retaliates, attempting to put her down in a reflexive response to the genuine humiliation and hurt she has dealt him: he calls her a bitch. Like any normal people, the friends are embarrassed. We can take it as read that the narrator’s partner is embarrassed – humiliated again – as an immediate consequence of his misguided attempt to assert himself but “she won’t give a shit”. It isn’t that she is oblivious to the awkwardness, but that she does not care about the welfare and comfort of her friends.

The syntax is significant, here: we move from a narrative account of what will happen (“You are thinking”, “You will go along,” I will use that voice”) to a sudden negation (“I will not give a shit”). The change is unexpected and jarring, just as her (lack of) reaction is unexpected and jarring. Subtly, the narrator has placed herself outside of both the cultural and narrative norms. Beyond that, the assertion “won’t” has its own significance, since it implies not a lack of ability (can/cannot) but a lack of capacity (will/will not): the payoff isn’t there, and so her friend’s comfort is not worth her time or effort.

I want to skip over the chorus at this point, because I think it deserves separate examination of its own. Instead, let’s take a look at the second stanza:

You said I must eat so many lemons ’cause I am so bitter. /
I said “I’d rather be with your friends mate ’cause they are much fitter.” /
Yes, it was childish and you got aggressive, and I must admit that I was a bit scared
but it gives me thrills to wind you up.

This is a significant break from the rhythm of the main narrative: the accusation of bitterness has genuinely got to the narrator, and she unconsciously emphasises her riposte “fitter” and also lets slip a key clue to her motives: “it gives [her] thrills” to treat her partner in this way.

Again, there’s a tension between the surface presentation of events and what’s actually happening – a constant theme of the song, continually re-enforced in the accompanying video, with it’s ongoing undertones of physical violence; acts of hand-slapping, arm-wrestling, shadow-boxing and foot-kicking that are never referenced through the narrator’s voice,  but which we see her initiate from the corner of her mind’s eye as she reconstructs reality around our listening ear.

Notice that whilst the lyrics claim the partner got aggressive, “scaring” our narrator, actual detail on the aggression is scant. In such a litany of woe, is this not surprising? The narrator is more than happy to list every other fault her partner has, so why shy away so quickly from details of his aggression? More than that, why is she “a bit scared” by this aggression? One would expect mid-argument aggression to be genuinely scary, not merely “a bit” scary, otherwise it would not be particularly memorable (especially in such a dysfunctional, hostility-prone relationship as the narrator happily admits this to be).

I suggest the only reason is not that the aggression did not happen, but that it was not ‘aggression’ in the way the word is normally used. Rather it is assertion: ‘Why don’t you, then?’ he may have said, or ‘I don’t care – if you don’t love me, I should leave you anyway.’ Once we have realised her barbs have caused him to become assertive, her fear makes sense: she does not become ‘a bit scared’ because of aggression, but because she can see her control of her partner momentarily – and only temporarily – slip. Again, our narrator cannot abide the loss of control, and so her ongoing need for control is at one and the same time the reason for her fear, and also for the minimal nature of it. She is scared, but only a bit: the loss of control frightens her ego, but she remains confident that her control of her partner is stronger than the little will to fight she has left him, and that confidence mutes not only her fear,  but  also her partner, whom she carefully deprives of speech from hereon.

Indeed, as her partner’s voice is carefully edited out of the narrative, so does the narrator become more aggressive; the slight glimpses of her violent nature we have seen so far begin to give way to actual neglect, as in the third and final verse:

Your face is pasty ’cause you’ve gone and got so wasted, what a surprise. /
Don’t want to look at your face ’cause it’s makin’ me sick. /
You’ve gone and got sick on my trainers, I only got these yesterday. /

Oh, my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this. /

Well, I’ll leave you there ’till the mornin’, and I purposely wont turn the heating on /
and dear God, I hope I’m not stuck with this one.

Here we see the narrator shift responsibility away from herself. I do not object to accepting that he “has gone” and got drunk (the nature of the narrator’s sociopathic tendancy seems to be towards the embellishment of facts in her favour, rather than towards their complete fabrication), but notice how his desire to drink excessively is presented in a vacuum, divorced from their relationship. Indeed, it only becomesrelevant to the narrator when he is sick on her trainers (although whether as a genuine accident or as his last subconscious act of defiance we will never know).

Her reaction (predictably) is both disproportionate and chilling. Since her partner has been sick she cannot pretend that his drunkenness is not serious, but rather than seeking to make him as comfortable as she can (whether by helping him to the bathroom, or by offering him a glass of water) she instead seeks to make him uncomfortable, leaving him where he is and “purposely” not turning on the heating – implying both the deliberation put into the weighing-up of her actions, and the purpose (of punishing him) with which she neglects his wellbeing.

Far, far, darker is the closing line of the verse, “Dear God, I hope I’m not stuck with this one”. On the surface, perhaps we could yet be persuaded that this is a cry for help, from a woman who wants out of her relationship, but somehow can’t effect an exit. But that doesn’t fit with the rest of her attitude, which even on the surface level paints her as an assertive person (for example, the deliberate antagonism of “that voice” and the childish taunting about his “fitter” friends, which fail to support the theory she is the cowed member of the relationship).

That leaves us with three basic options: that she hopes to drive him away (again, shunning responsibility for her actions), that she’s hoping to snare another man behind his back, and then throw him out (but in the meantime, she is willing to risk getting “stuck” for the security and control of an ongoing relationship, in contrast to the uncertain, uncontrolled chaos of being ‘single and looking’) or – in an interpretation far more fantastic, but still not particularly out of character – that he will quietly die in the night, choking to death unheeded, in a freezing mire of his own sick.

Disturbing indeed. About the only thing remaining is the chorus, and that’s where things get really interesting, and the narrator allows a faint chink of humanity to glimmer through her workaday sadism:

My fingertips are holding onto /
The cracks in our foundation /
And I know that I should let go, but I can’t /
And every time we fight, I know it’s not right /
Every time that you’re upset and I smile /
I know I should forget, but I can’t.

The first two lines of the chorus are what clued me into the real meaning of this song, because nobodywould hold onto a crack in a foundation. A foundation, as any fule kno, is the underlying structure which exists to hold up something much bigger than itself. A well-built foundation will spread the load of the building above, ensuring that all of the weight is distributed downwards, and helpfully provide stability to the whole structure, even if part of the foundations cover a patch of bad or unstable ground. Foundations might crack, and this is a cause for concern, but the solution to cracking foundations is to patch them up again, not break out your finest Dutchboy impression.

Thus the only reason to stick your fingernails into the cracks would be to agitate the bears pry the cracks open wider. That, and the hidden-in-plain-sight viciousness of smiling at her partner’s misery, is what helped me to realise what a horrible bitch the narrator is. Once you revisit the song on that understanding, it’s pretty obvious that the narrator is lying through her teeth the whole time.

Brilliantly, Nash casts us, the unknown listener, in the role of the narrator’s boyfriend, forcing the casual listener to dole out sympathy when the actions she ascribes to us trigger unease: we are so busy thinking how awful it would be if we treated our partners as her boyfriend ‘does’ that we do not stop to make a closer investigation of the facts.

And yet, Nash wants us to find the narrator out, and invests her with just the faintest glimmer of self-awareness: “I know that I should let go, but I can’t“. She knows this is wrong, that normal people do not treat their partners in this way, but she literally can’t help herself. Even though she knows herself to be at fault, she still inflicts misery on her boyfriend, because she is incapable of anything else. Abusers do not change, even when they express awareness and contrition.

(Usually. What I mean is ‘abusers rarely change,’ but that reduces the impact of the preceding line. Since this is actually important, however, I’m sacrificing narrative pace for the dissemination of more accurate information).

The whole song is brilliant, because it works on so many levels, with a different message to each level.

  • On the surface, it appears to tell of a woman trapped in a loveless partnership, which may even be abusive. (See all the little ways in which abuse grinds her down)
  • On closer viewing, we realise that she is the abuser (If you suspect someone is in an abusive relationship, do not let their partner speak for them).
  • Which means her boyfriend is the victim (Men can also be victims of domestic violence at the hands of male or female partners. When this happens, it is harder for them to be heard – qv the assumption we made in the first bullet point)

The video is even cleverer: the narrator packs her suitcase, takes a last look around the flat, and leaves. As the door closes, the camera remains static and we see the poster on the back of the door: “Don’t Fall For This” – suggesting, on the first level, that the poster is what the narrator thinks (ie, do not fall into the trap of a loveless or abusive relationship), but actually possessing three other meanings: firstly, do not fall for the lies this abuser has told you, secondly, do not fall for someone like this, and thirdly, do not fall for the perception that domestic abuse only affects women.

Originally a health & safety poster, the message "Don't fall for this" becomes brilliantly dual-edged in the closing frames of the music video

As a guerrilla awareness campaign, I’ve got to say Foundations is genius. From showcasing the subtle digs that together form a pattern of emotional abuse, to the pattern of escalation and the parallel silencing of the abused boyfriend and the sudden jolt you get when you realise that all you’ve heard so far is a lie designed to protect the narrator from her lack of control (and the subsequent questions that might raise about other couples you know) the whole song forms a brilliantly subtle protest against domestic abuse.

Even sweeter, is the way it is disguised as a mirror of itself: it sounds like a song about an abusive relationship – and it is – but you were looking in the wrong place. That, above all, elevates Foundations to the level of genuine Art, with the screamingly hidden message we should all be aware of, and willing to speak out against, domestic abuse, in all of its forms.

So, there you go, the true meaning of Foundations. You’d have thought people would have clocked it already, except I expect most people have better things to do than sit around stubbornly over-interpreting a fleeting scrap of quasi-popular culture until it breaks. Which is a shame, because it’s actually quite fun. (Plus, if the profiling doesn’t pan out, I won’t need more than another couple of posts like this to get myself a snazzy book deal with Cambridge Scholars some publisher of unconsidered trifles…)

Hm. A post that ended up feeling heavier than it should have been, probably. But, genuinely, I think it’s a good song for the above reasons (because even thought it’s probably not what Nash thought it was saying, it’s what it could be saying, and that works pretty well. ‘s the magic of –Criticism and Interpretation, that is).

Still, by way of some light relief, here is a funny comic about domestic abuse, which Dan shared a week or so back…

An excellent pun, based on Boromir's line in the film version of LoTR

Oh, and on a barely related note, can I just say how very impressed I was by the Boss Button over at both the Scottish Women’s Aid and the ManKindwebsites? Someone’s put genuine thought into the possibility a viewer might seriously need to GTFO of those in a hurry, and I really like the way they took the trouble to make it as easy and obvious as they could, rather than relying on their having a high enough agility stat to Alt-Tab before the door’s fully open. Nice work.

Arbitrary Day: How I Got A Present After All!

This year I joined Reddit. I’m quite enjoying it, and it makes up for the fact I accidentally let my account on Legend of the Green Dragon finally lapse. It’s a nice friendly place (mostly, although some of the subreddits creep me out), and there’s a nice sense of community; apart from the odd crazy subreddit, and the occasional passing troll, there’s a real sense that we’re all nice people who look out for each other.

Not long after I’d set up, I started seeing links to Arbitrary Day, which is a sort of secret Santa thing, but run in the summer (I guess they picked the summer so Australians wouldn’t feel so left out when they opened their Christmas presents). Reddit had run an actual Secret Santa last Christmas, and apparently that worked really well.

It sounded like it might be quite fun to give a present to a completely random stranger, so I signed myself up, and said I didn’t mind shipping out to anywhere, and after everyone got matched up with a giftee, I wound up shipping to a lovely guy somewhere in Illinois. I got pretty lucky, I think: his short description made him sound like the sort of person you could get presents for quite easily, even in Aberystwyth: he was a teacher (so he got a nice mug from the Arts Centre) and he liked reading (so he got a copy of Aberystwyth Mon Amour) and he was in a band and played guitar and bass (so I figured he might like Richard Thompson, and Andy’s Records not only came up with the goods, but then decided it had been ages since Andy had heard any Richard Thompson, and started playing it over the loudspeakers.

I was quite pleased with it, really. It ended up costing more than the suggested cost of a gift, but that was alright by me, because I was taking a bit of a scattergun approach to the thing anyway to try and make sure the guy liked at least part of the gift. I wasn’t sure how long postage to America would take, so I sent it off early, figuring that he wouldn’t mind.

As it was I struck pretty lucky: he liked all of the gift – especially the CD, which he’d been meaning to buy himself – and as a Calvinesque bonus, my giftee’s son apparently spent most of the day playing with the bubblewrap I’d added to the box to keep things from getting broken. I got awesome warm fuzzies from that, and was quite looking forward to finding out what I’d get.

It turns out that what I got was, uh, nothing. Whoever got assigned to me checked my details and address the day before the official shipping date, but never confirmed shipping anything. I waited a few weeks, and nothing turned up. Then I got distracted by moving house, and once I was here on Earth I did a reformat and re-install of my system and so it was a while before I was back on Reddit.

After a while I raised the subject of what I ought to do about having not recieved anything (I wasn’t expecting anything huge, y’ken, but it would’ve been nice to have a mystery box to open, and evidently the bit of the plan where that happened had gone wrong). It turns out that with all the business of moving to Earth, I’d managed to miss a re-matching service, where people who hadn’t got gifts could arrange to get gifts.

This, however, is the point at which I get to boast about what an awesome community feeling you get on Reddit, because a guy I’d never heard from before sent me a message and offered to send me out a fresh gift, if I wanted. Awesome! (There followed also a bit of dancing around whether that would be fair on people, and the fact that I was probably not in the same country) but, nevertheless, I eventually got another message to say my replacement gift was in the post.

So, for your viewing whatzit, here, in Glorious If Fuzzy Cameraphone-o-Vision are photos of me on my own Fake Arbitrary Day:

Just taken the box away from the postman

Just taken the box away from the postman

Very well taped shut!

Very well taped shut!

Opening the box

Opening the box

Awesome, a guide to Safeway\'s current offers!

Awesome, a guide to Safeway's current offers!

A surprisingly detailed book on the basics of balloon sculpture.

A surprisingly detailed book on the basics of balloon sculpture.

Books by Dan Savage!

Books by Dan Savage!

(I love how happy Vault Boy looks in that photo)

Interesting cookery books. There was one of me reading the CIP data but I thought that might look too stereotypical

Interesting cookery books. There was one of me reading the CIP data but I thought that might look too stereotypical

Yes, yes I am reading the shipping information. What?

Yes, yes I am reading the shipping information. What?

Also not pictured was a DVD with a PDF of every single column of Savage Love since 1999, and an MP3 of all but the most recent episode of the Podcast. Awesome stuff!

(Seriously, I should get people to not send me presents more often, this kindness of strangers stuff is awesome!)

So that put a nice bounce in my week! Exclamation marks all round!

It isn’t this bloody in-game. But somehow I got a bit carried away…

So Dan, Lyndon, Finbar and I kicked arse at Arkham Horror last Geek Night…

Dan was playing Monterey Jack, Lyndon Darrell Simmons, and Finbar Joe Diamond. I arrived from a beer run to see that I’d fetched up with the student, Amanda Sharpe.

I took an instant dislike to Amanda, for the simple reason that anyone who has spent two years studying at Miskatonic University and still thinks it is a good idea to look closely at disturbing paintings with a ‘hazy depiction of some horrible creature rising up out of the ocean’ is dangerously stupid and shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.

But I figured, it could be worse; she had a balanced stamina / sanity of 5-5 and managed to get herself a shotgun for her common item right from the off. Plus, her picture has her wearing glasses, which, as any fule kno, make everyone look a hundred times more awesome right off the bat.

And how very right I was…

Early on, we got a few gates shut – it was a close run thing, with Finbar doing some amazing work as a freelance Gug hunter (except for the one point where he sold two Gug corpses to a shady chap down the docks, who apparently wanted them to re-animate them and dump them over in the Black Cave, with the result that Joe Diamond managed to find his way into R’lyeh and go so completely insane that he not only dropped his colt but also became lost in time and space without bethinking himself to let go of the two Gugskin rugs he was wearing over each arm). Dan and Rory seemed to be constantly in and out of the other worlds, and Dan managed to seal the Woods for good, which saved us on more than one occasion.

Amanda’s special ability is essentially an ability to skip multiple lectures at once: every time she draws from the skill deck, she takes two cards and picks which one to have as a skill. I’d thought early on it’d be worth getting her back from the Bank to the University, therefore, but there had been rumours of a Terrible Experiment taking place at the University, and she isn’t exactly set for fighting…


Amanda didn’t feel safe trying to make it through the streets, especially with the noise of a pitched battle drifting over the rooftops, and it wasn’t as though she could afford the tuition without help anyway. However, she knew Jack had already found a scrawled sheet of paper on a desk in the Unnameable, and whilst he’d thought it was nonsensical and left without any useful information, she thought her lore skill might be high enough that she might have more luck.

Outside, investigators were working hard to dispatch the ghastly results of the Experiment, and she took refuge in the Unnameable until things had quietened down a little, little realising that a Portal had opened on the Unvisited Isle. She was already deep in the house, exploring the upstairs rooms and carefully avoiding the stairway to the attic when it dawned on her that the scrabbling within the walls was getting louder and louder, and she realised to her horror that the crawlspaces of the house were teeming with rats, tumbling over one another as they fought their way through the walls to encircle her.

Pausing only to thank heaven for her high running skill, she tore down the stairs, flinging herself out of the door as the rats swarmed behind her, and pelting headlong into the darkened streets.


The Merchant District is a bad place for a young girl to be out on her own at night, and Amanda had enough natural timidity to know how scary the area could be, but she was in such a state of blind panic at her narrow escape that she had no thought of stealth, and it was only when she was within a few feet of the centre of the street that she realised there was someone – or something – lurking in the shadows. Terror of the rats behind her almost forgotten, she charged forwards with reckless haste, driving her knee hard into the middle of the shapeless form. It howled, and as it shuddered hideous tentacles quivered above her head and she realised in shock that she had just kneed a Star-Spawn squarely in the daddysacks. For a lesser mind, unused to unnatural things, the discovery would have been too much, but not for Amanda: long nights working at the Bank of Arkham had given her more mental resilience than she thought and in a matter of seconds she had regained control of her terror, snatched the shotgun from her back and unloaded both barrels, firing and reloading again until the street was smeared with rancid ichor, and the windows of the Unnamable reverberated with the noise of the reports.

Badly shaken, and dragging a corpse behind her, the young librarian [yes, I’d promoted her to an LIS student for being awesome] staggered on towards Arkham Asylum, painfully aware that her damaged grasp of reality could only hold on for so long.


Spattered with gore, she made it to the desk, and the shocked night attendant was trying to get her to release her catatonic grip on the shotgun and get her a mug of coffee whilst she slowly recovered her wits when she realised she’d seen a figure moving in the Easttown streets, with the consequence that her conversation went something like this:

Amanda: O God! The rats! Horrible – screaming, so many… And the tentacles! So much blood, the squeaking! You have to help me, I think I’m going – wait! Wait! Stop right there!

[Exits. Loud Krrk-chhhck as she passes door, USL.

PAUSE. There is a dulled report, and a faint howl of pain. PAUSE. A second muffled explosion. PAUSE.

Amanda re-enters, considerably more bloodsoaked, dragging headless corpse of cultist, which she drops onto remains of Star-Spawn.]

Amanda: (cont.) – I think I’m going mad! Pills! Please, o God, please, get me some pills, or something, anything! These foreign voices in my head, the whispers, the rats! The chittering as they rise from the deep– help me, please, it’s like I don’t even know what’s real anymore!

Thankfully, Joe Diamond happened to swing by for a quick pep pill at the same time, and everyone was more than happy for him to give the screaming bloodied maniac a dollar to get herself checked out by the resident shrink in double-quick time. The doctors aren’t quite sure what to make of her garbled tales, but manage to soothe her enough that she re-balances her sanity. She checks out a moment later, still dragging the corpses behind her, and as she reaches the street she is met by a courier, who hands her a package: apparently her friends, the photographer and the archaeologist had been frantically casting away clues to protect the seal of the Elder Sign in the woods, and their good work has not been in vain: this is a trophy from the spoils!

Unwrapping the parcel, she finds an enchanted sword, seeming to hum gently in the sudden quiet of the night and, pleased to have an extra line of defence, she straps it to her belt, re-holsters the shotgun across her back, and moves cautiously towards the glowing light that seems to emanate from Independence Square: she’s sure it wasn’t there when she left the bank earlier…


Indeed it was not. She discovers a portal has opened, and is sucked through a twisted portal to the Plateau of Leng! All seemed quiet, however, and her system cried out for rest. She paused under the faint shade of a finely detailed ice statue seemingly depicting Ithaqua eating… well, she wasn’t sure, though it seemed pretty grim, even to her gore-smeared eyes, and her recent experiences made her scared to look to hard on hideous things. Still, with her eyes closed the peace gave her a welcome opportunity for her to restore some stamina before pressing on.

Seeing the portal back to Independence Square, she prepared herself for the physical exertion of forcing the gate shut – preparation which proved well worth it because whilst she had been in another world the gate on the Unvisited Isle had spat forth another surge of monsters, and the Merchant District was once again full of Hellish monstrosities. Thus it was that as soon as Amanda dropped back through into Independence Square she found herself bouncing off the head of a Dimensional Shambler, an experience which nearly frightened her out of her wits. Unable to risk the luxury of running away from the portal she had explored at such cost, she was forced to fight which, she did with a degree of skill she found almost frightening: three double hits from the shotgun saw the beast collapse with an almost pleasing look of pain.

Though she and her friends were sealing portals as fast as they could, the city was filled with evil, and the whisper in her head had become a roar: it seemed there was very little time left to linger.


She was able seal the portal with an Elder Sign she’d borrowed from Monterey Jack and paused to take stock: she was of shattered mind, but sound body. She was equipped for both magical and physical combat, and she was momentarily safe. One lens of her spectacles had cracked, and the weakness filled with viscera, leaving her vision permanently cross-hatched with blood. She was dragging around no end of bloody corpses, and it was starting to draw attention. For some reason, that seemed a greater priority than mental respite, so she found her way to the police station, locked the bodies and the gate token in the gaol, and so impressed the police that they appointed her the official Deputy Librarian Student of Arkham.

The offer came with a salary of a dollar a turn, which was more than she’d ever got from the bank, and since the bulk of the police force were dedicated to searching the streets for any photographers that were out violating the curfew, it made sense they should employ someone to seek out the monsters which made the curfew necessary. To this they added a regulation Deputy Sidearm and free use of the Patrol Waggon, as long as she didn’t break it. Vague recollections of Western tales, and vigilante heroes, stirred in Amanda’s memory, mixing with the whispering voices that swaddled her, and she accepted the role with pride.

When she got word that Diamond Jack, who had so willingly helped her restore her sanity, had himself gone insane trying to fight a Mi-Go in a bid to push through and seal the portal on the Unvisited Isle and had to be forcibly sectioned, she set out for the Asylum without a thought, running through the streets to the Asylum, leaving the patrol waggon behind solely so she could detour through Riverside and slaughter a zombie, with a perfect bullet-to-the-head from her Revolver, and an almost unnecessary dismemberment with the enchanted sword, with the result that when she re-appeared at the Asylum she presented such a terrifying vision that the desk clerk hid in the back office until she’d been dosed up on laudanum and dozed off in a chair.


The path to the Unvisited Isle was now clear, at least, and it seemed likely that someone would have to die to even the odds for everyone else. Amanda, with a strange mix of resignation and excitement volunteered herself, though said several times she was doomed, because to get to the portal she’d have to fight her way past a Cthonian, a Witch, a Formless Spawn and the Mi-Go that had only recently acquired a taste for human blood, but the massive dose of drugs supplied by the Asylum filled her with determination, for all they were a temporary and fast-waning fix.

Still, with everyone else trying to keep the streets clear, explore R’lyeh or simply get their brain back together, Amanda felt it was about time she took the opportunity to take revenge on the invaders.


Leaving the Asylum, she checked her equipment – shotgun slung over her back, Deputy’s Revolver holstered below her left shoulder, Enchanted Sword sheathed beside her left hip – muttered the incantation to empower herself with the Voice of Ra, and clambered into the Patrol Waggon, gibbering that she was about to die horribly, and feeling her sanity already ebbing away as the power of the magic she was using overrode the sedatives in her system.

The Waggon, of course, was top heavy, and it almost lost its grip on the slippery Merchant District streets, but Amanda hurled her full weight to the right and, with a horrible cracking noise, the waggon righted itself, hurtling on towards the Unvisited Isle. She could just make out the dim, segmented coils of the Cthonian in the distance, and keeping her left foot hard down on the accelerator, and her right knee jammed up against the steering wheel, she leant out of the window, opened with a volley of buckshot, and then flung herself through the door as the Waggon slammed into the Cthonian at fifty miles an hour, shearing through the monstrous bulk as it drove the worm back against a gaslamp, and spattering the remains against the wall beyond with such a gout of blood that Amanda’s already unravelling grip on reality began to unwind ever faster.


Amanda had the wit to roll as she slammed into the cobbles, and came up kneeling to attack the Witch with the shotgun – both barrels hit her full in the face, her corpse seeming to spin around the axis of her hips, rotating in the air before a shattered hand caught on the ground and dragged the rest of the corpse back to earth with a sickening crunch [This was amazing: I got five hits on four dice, thanks to that shotgun. Amanda was getting seriously badass].

By now, things were getting tense; the Formless Spawn emerged from the shadows, and it took all Amanda’s Bravery to will herself into the fight. There wasn’t enough light, and the bloody and shattered glasses were virtually worthless: she threw them aside in disgust, as the roaring whispers began to chant in triumph. Blinking, she tried to will away the bloodstained fragmentation of her sight, but found her head was too muzzy to realise the glasses which had caused it were gone.

Yet the network of bloodlines across her vision made it somehow easier to detect the Spawn and though her shotgun and revolver would be useless, the power of the Enchanted Sword, backed by the mighty Voice of Ra afforded her a narrow victory, to the howling delight of the insane private eye, now bouncing up and down in his straightjacket as he sensed the panic of his hated nemesis, the wretched Mi-Go.


Her success so far gave her a glimmer of hope and though her sanity was in tatters, and her mission to the portal long forgotten, the faint shreds of her awareness held together just enough for her to realise that she had to – that she wanted to – hurt this thing: any higher function that might have told her why was long past, but she had weapons, and she had an enemy, and she felt like she could never see enough blood pouring into the gutters. The Mi-Go lost its antennae to a wild swing of the sword, and curled desperately with a chitinous clattering of plates but whatever it thought of as flesh ripped open under the force of the revolver fire, and it slumped down. The Asylum rocked to Diamond’s scream of triumph and the Mi-Go’s multiple wings flapping feebly in its death throes until Amanda clambered over it, hacking and hacking and hacking with the sword until each alternating wing was shorn free and the remainder juddered in time to the pitiful clicking shrieks of her vanquished foe. With the guardians of the portal gone, Amanda’s bloodlust had little time to cool before she was dragged through the rift and driven to the Abyss.


Staggering, and struggling wipe her eyes free of the jagged bloodlines fighting to weave their way through her retina and leave her wandering blind, she moved on, and was just able to make out a dim form in the distance. She fired wildly: it looked as though she only winged the figure, but her rapidly-developed skill as a marksman gave her the chance to reload and fire again before the shape could turn. The second shell hit the creature full in the chest and it seemed to explode, its remains hitting the ground with the delightful flat squelch that told her of a good job well done. Approaching, she found it had probably been a cultist once, a youngish man, and wondered vaguely if it had any companions she could hunt down.

She was stumbling along in search of other life to quench when she was struck by deja-vu: she had returned to the Isle, perhaps some time ago, she wasn’t sure. There was nothing here but herself and the portal, but the noise of empty flesh flapping in the cold breeze shocked her, and it dawned on her that she needed to see the portal sealed, or more monsters might reappear before she was ready for them.


She succeeded on the first attempt, her power to fight the Universe seemingly infinitely increasing, and her collection of Clues was enough to slam the Isle shut for ever.

She looked for the Patrol Waggon, but what was left of it had been crushed into a truly hideous shape by the death throes of the Cthonian, and her brain hazily knew she would not be able to twist it back into working order. So it was on instinct and on foot, this time, that she headed towards the sanctity of the Asylum, where a gasping voice informed her through the letterbox to take the bottle of pills left on the step and eat three of them before she came in. The voice seemed friendly, but for some reason she hesitated: it had been some time since she’d extinguished a life, she was disappointed to find the whispers in her head were fading, and she was angry at the way the growing silence hurt.


Dimly, she was aware of her companions cheering that the last portal had been sealed, Shub-Niggurath finally defeated, and though she was rejoiced to have shared in another victory, the noise of the disturbance grated, caused a few synapses to twitch. She was after all, the Deputy of Arkham – it was only right that she should investigate the source of the riot, should disperse the demons, should restore the peace. The bloodnet of her vision seemed to triangulate the cries: she should go to the Black Cave, find the monsters before they came out, save Arkham from the Ancient Ones.

As she turned towards Rivertown, her foot kicked over a small jar of tablets, sent them bouncing down the steps. There was a muffled gasp from something in the grand building behind her, but she ignored it, following the tiny container as it rolled into the streets and trundled down the path towards Rivertown and the shouting. The little pills inside the jar tumbled together as they fell, accelerating, rattling, grinding gently against the glass… whispering.

That was better.

From ‘Cataloguing rules as party conversation’ to ‘Reports in relation to RPGs.’ All the fun that’s fit to Mark As Read, huh?

Eech. I should be working on a report, at this moment in time: essentially Your university is going to launch foundation degrees, how will this affect the library & the readers?. I hate that sort of stuff, because whilst I realise that we’re supposed to be demonstrating the use of the theory, I don’t feel comfortable making up backstory in order to have a platform on which to stand everything else. It’s a ‘pre 1992 university,’ apparently, and that’s about all the guidance we get.

That is not enough guidance, I feel: from there I can say anything from ‘but the library building was completely re-done with corporate sponsorship in 1998 and has seven floors, complete with Student Shop and Coffee Bar on the entry level, Floor 5’ to ‘the library is housed in the Old Building, is Grade I listed and has the unique feature of two floors, each with a periodical gallery, originally designated to house the Arts and the Natural Sciences. The central Loans Desk has been left as it was, though admin work now takes place at a new desk, installed opposite the exit. The University is currently discussing arrangements for external access to the second floor for disabled students, but it severly limited by the various prevervation orders in place.’

…The problem, basically, is that I want the briefing for this report to be Oblivion, and what I’ve got is Morrowind. Oblivion is a fantastic game, and I really do enjoy playing it. Morrowind may well be a good game, but I could never get into it, because it was too open ended.

At the start of Oblivion, you’re in clink, but you get let out by narrative imperative the Emperor, who happens to need the escape route in your cell, and who dies almost as soon as you’ve had chance to collect one of each base weapon class, learn how to sneak, pick a lock and work your way back to the plot. For reasons best known to himself, he gives you the Amulet of the Maguffin, the token of his Emperordom, and tells you to push off and find a monk who knows where his illegitemate-but-everyone-else-in-the-family-is-dead Son is. At which point, you can either do so, or wander off and do open-ended things. It’s a nice obvious quest hook, and you can catch it, or not, or catch it later as the mood takes you.

At the start of Morrowind, as far as I can recall, you get off a boat, wander through an administation building, and get told that there’s a guy who lives over in Villagetown and you should go and see him. Doing so results in his suggesting you work for him, possibly for some secret reason. Go and do a minor quest in Noobsville, quoth he, and then… uh… yeah, I dunno. There doesn’t seem to be a main quest there. Now bear in mind the first computer games I ever played were Hillsfar, Spellcasting 201 and Paperboy 2. I like obvious objectives in games. I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom of open-ended stuff, it’s amazing to be able to do something in some place and reap the consequences later – which is why Deus Ex was so mindblowing for me – but it’s nice to have a solid known objective you can fall back on, not only to get you started, but to give you something to aim for once wandering in the wilderness gets dull.

And having to make up my own character backstory in a piece of academic work kinda bugs me: what if I go with Option A, and say “based on the findings of the various studies we’ve done (qv), perhaps we can devote the fourth floor to books for Foundation Degrees, and create a seperate collection there,” and then go on to discuss advantages and limitations and things, and Juanita decides that she’s never heard anything so retarded in her life because what the Hell was I thinking imagining more than three floors anyway, why haven’t I talked about the crushing space constrictions affecting the library service?


Of course, I know what’s going to happen: I’m going to Exposit it to within an inch of it’s life; this report to the Vice Chancellor is going to be the library equivilant of Chapter One, the one that goes

“As you know, your father – the King – had no other children. I greatly fear that this attack by Mordok was intended to kill you too. For if you are not present at the Celebrations tomorrow you will be declared dead and Mordok will seize power!”

and to which the only possible answer is

“Faithful old Knight, the only person who apparently knows the secret way out of the Castle – although I’d like to point out that it’s also a secret way into the castle, and how did Mordok’s forces manage to get past the seventeen well-defended gates unoticed anyway? Fine, fine, we’ll leave that to page two-hundred and sixty-seven – but, Allegedly Faithful Old Knight Who Was Always Passed Over By My Father For The Stewardship, I know all that. What, you think I lived just long enough to fulfil the Prophecy and make some Outcast Friends With Secret Knowledge without spotting the lack of siblings!? Dude, lay off the musty tomes already. Nice mysterious sigil ring, by the way. Why’s it glowing ominously red?”

But I’ll feel bad about doing it.

And anyway, I want to be working on my Dissertation reasearch, but I can’t really do that before I pass Part 1!

Still, in other news: have my eye on a job which would be awesome. Shall have to wait and see…

Savage Love: Best. Caller. Ever.

Podcast No. 164: The Story so far:
Dan Savage has called a woman back; she’s been making extra money doing live sex shows on webcam, and her boyfriend is not happy about it (that is, once he found out she was doing it on the quiet, he wasn’t happy about it). Dan wants to know how essential this extra money is.

Savage: Is there something else you can do besides that? I mean, what’s your career goals besides fingering yourself on webcam?

Caller: [Laughs] I actually have two jobs now; I’m a librarian, actually.

My profession kicks arse

(Belated reports of) murdery goodness.

The murder mystery was awesome; I enjoyed it a lot more than the fixed form ones, which I think is because a lot of the important bits of fixed-form stuff are read out from booklets (assuming they’ve been made properly, which I’d like to point out is not always the case), and it’s nice to have extra leeway.

(Having said that, I think it needs a fixed-form into to act as a launching platform, so everyone can introduce themselves & possibly say where they were at what times, because that would leave me feeling less like I need to build the Statue of Liberty to stop this sort of thing [Man, do I miss having a foreign advisor. She kicked arse.])

But once things got going, it was really awesome. I genuinely think I did well early on because I wasnae stingy with the information (which I attribute entirely to having called up The Game of Diplomacy back when I was working at the Bod, and snippets of which kept coming back at me; there’s an awesome sketch Sharp does of the opening stages where a chap is going around saying ‘You’ve got to help me, Turkey’s sister is going to marry Germany’s cousin next week, if you don’t ally with me then he’ll roll right over you before I can even cross the Channel,’ and similar Lies Of Awesomeness [Italy, as I recall, gives up right at the start and gets drunk in the corner…]). Anyway, that was dead handy that was, and I offer to all of you the notion that it’s good to share information with someone you know you can trust to reciprocate with no ulterior motive whatsoever.

(Slightly dissapointed to find that book so expensive on Amazon, sigh. It really is very good; I believe it must be the source of the quote I can only occasionally find excuse to shoehorn into conversations: ‘A ruthless do-or-die merchant who’d knife his own granny in Spring 1901 if he got the chance.’ Hey ho.)

Anyway, the whole thing went awesomely, and it was really interesting to see the way the interactions changed over the course of the thingy. Plus I got astoundingly drunk by dint of mixing both blue and green cocktails – I employed what was, frankly, slightly suspect reasoning, and argued that blue and green paints can be combined so why not drinks – and then woke up without a hangover. I must drink more vintage champagne again at some point, so I can remind myself what a hangover feels like.

Awesome fun, as I say.

In other news, Miriam is well(ish) again. At least, she’s back and running on the requisite number of cylinders, which is important. Her central locking’s gone, however. By ‘gone’ I mean ‘works perfectly, but the actual keyhole on the driver’s side does bugger all, so to lock or unlock her from the outside you have to hike over to the near side door which I suspect is the sort of thing that will get old very fast, although it is just the sort of quirk that Miriam revels in having, and it’s at least better than having a sunroof that leaked whenever it rained.

O, and I’m working absurdly too much, but the Department is being a whole world of co-operative, and has cancelled every other lecture this week so as to leave me more time to play Tropico 3. At least, I assume that’s why they’re doing it, and that it’s an issue of co-operation rather than competence. (I’m nice like that).


Ah, Red Alert 3: Soviet March, I grow fonder of you as a ringtone day by day.

In this case, look you, because you’ve contrived to be the ringtone heralding an offer for part-time work. More than that, for convenient take-it-or-leave-it-and-be-paid-accordingly part-time work, which is liable to be dead handy for me with my collection of other commitments and overdrafts to satisfy all at once. Huzzah!

Therefore, presently, and assuming a clear health check and a green light from the CRB people, I return to work as a cleaner-type person (Undertakers, prostitutes and cleaners: always in demand, that’s us. And, considering the alternatives, cleaning’s not a bad job to be engaged in, all fun aside)

(Alarmingly, by my reckoning this brings my all-time interview:job offer ratio to, er… 9:8 (that’s what not having a driving license will do to you, that is). The reason I say alarmingly is because I assume my luck’ll have to turn eventually, and if it’s going to I’d much rather it dropped out now rather than when it super-really counts, but there you go – I don’t propose to complain too much, I just worry that it’s one of those things that only works when you don’t bank on it, and I’m not sure how to look like I’m not banking on it!)

Betimes, I’ve netted myself perhaps the most cool voluntary work I could have contrived, as a sort of giving-advice-and-opinions bod for a fictioneer. Can’t say I’ve got much experience of that sort of thing per se, but it’s giving me a chance to brush up on some very rusty skills I’ve not pressed for some time, so that’s nice.

O, and a heads up to the guy who just came up the drive and stuffed a ‘Do you want your drive to be pressure-washed?’ flyer through the door: talking loudly on a mobile below an open window kinda diminished the secrecy of the sentence “Mate, can you keep a secret, yeah? I’ve actually got another girlfriend she doesn’t know about.” (Bonus tip: if you must go about keeping secrets, you’ll find they work better if you don’t tell people regardless of how close you are to other bodies)

(A heavy blonde day even for someone as fair-headed as you, huh? You square-set late-teens six footer, you…)

End of another coffee break

But before it fades out entirely, I figure I’ll mention the incredibly vivid dream I got woken up from, because I came out of the whole enterprise looking really awesome (in my head, that is. I don’t imagine it’ll translate so well, but that’s your lookout, not mine). Typically, I’m hazy on the background but there was a duel, and everything, plus generic Regency backdrop, and fancy house. Whole thing was in black and white, though, which is really quite unusual for me. I can’t remember why we were fighting, which is a shame since I’d have liked to know, and I did ask the chap who checked the wadding, but he said he wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

Very nice flinters, is most of what I remember, and I picked the one on the left out of the box because I can clearly remember thinking that I ought to have taken the one on the right instead, though I couldn’t work out why, except it had a different pattern of hatching on the grip. Surprisingly the other chap was weirdly faceless, in the sense that I couldn’t quite make out what he looked like, although I vaguely knew he was a nasty piece of work and was probably the one in the wrong. Very tall thin bloke, blond hair and a black cane, presumably in order to make it clear he was the bad ‘un, but I remember thinking not being able to his features was a bad start to aiming at him… Presumably to save getting a new background curtain we adopted the film-friendly ’10 paces, turn, fire’ routine, and I think I’d got to about my eighth stride when the sod shot me in the leg from behind, which stung.

Awesomely I improbably executed a very nice spin with the whole extended arm thing (which I’m fairly sure wouldn’t work, I think the balance of the barrel would be wrong given the angle I was at) and managed to get him in the arm, with consequent winning & obvious disgrace for cheating in a duel in front of all the witnesses what had helpfully appeared alongside the bank (of the river. I don’t know why there was a river, but it served for somewhere to put witnesses) I remember thinking he was a fool to cheat in front of witnesses (or, indeed, for either of us to fight anywhere within a thousand yards of witnesses at all) but somebody said his second chappie had told him I’d cheated already and switched the flinters so his didn’t have a ball in it, though I evidently didn’t, since we both got shot. (Did I mention the bit where I was awesome and pirouetting with a leg gone dead on me and still got him square below the shoulder? For I was dead cool, and everything.)

Anyway, he buzzed off to live a new & quiet life in the Foreign Legion, or somesuch Godawful fate, and I got to keep his awesome house, as I recall, which had a fabulous library with tea + cake and a fire… And then we had the traditional fade-to-random-chase routine, obligatory in all dreams since 1697, and I found I’d fetched up in India and was running away on an elephant with an orderly who kept shouting at me. Woke up shortly after, feeling very groggy. I don’t pull out of REM sleep with any grace at all.

Pop psychology interpretations welcome, why not.

(Though personally I’m inclined to put it down as the fault of too much Lovejoy, listening to Moonlight Shadow and (at the end, at least) Flashman. O, and you get No Points for identifying the novel I apparently thieved that library from, though I suppose we should be grateful I didn’t inherit the crazy housekeeper along with the rest of the house. Am assuming the duel-y dude wasn’t Max, hard to imagine him going around shooting people in the leg…)

Still, I’m surprised it’s stuck with me this long, most of the stuff my brain comes up with vanishes before the kettle’s boiled…

Four One More Years!

Now with semi-random emboldening, to clarify what’s important in amongst all these words…

Well, since I’ve not yet had any frantic e-mails or letters or ‘phone calls of retraction, I guess now is as reasonable a time as any to leak some breaking news out into the public domain: UWA Aberystwyth would like to offer me a place on the Library and Information Studies course as a Masters student, starting on the 28th of September, 2009. Plus, on the basis of my having started as an undergraduate around the 28th of September 2003, and having graduated from UWA three years later, they’d like to give me 10% off my tuition fees, which is very nice of them!

All things considered, this is a Good Thing, since it means I’ll get not only a professional qualification that (as I understand it) will allow me to get membership of CILIP – dead handy, that is – but also a spiffy new degree, which will not only make me look like a well-rounded, clever sort of person, but which should also net me a little more cash, long-term.

Not only that, but in the event that I actually finish and get the thing, I’ll be one of a comparatively small number of people who hold not only a degree from UWA, but also a degree from AU. Yes, I think that is a really interesting fact. I’ll wheel it out at parties in the event people look like they’re getting bored of hearing about the development of MARC formatting*.

Jen is currently in town, which is awesome. Brief trip to pub yesterday, which included entertaining reminiscences about Apocalypse Wow! and other ghosts. Since I’m about to be returning to studenthood [terrifying thought, except I’ll be able to stop paying tax and that], I find this heartening – I think Jen is the first person I met during my Fresher’s Week that I’m still in any kind of contact with outside of Facecoke, and that dun’t really count as contact. It was good, because the thought of going back to University as a student type was making me feel properly old, and while talking about t’Old Days didn’t exactly stop me feeling old, it at least made me more cheerful about the whole thing.

Plus, y’know, Jen’s awesome, so it’s nice to have her back in town :-)

Good news all round, pretty much!

Have fun!

You really don’t have to read this bit if you don’t want to. I can’t think why you’d not want to, but if you really don’t, you can shove off now.

*this is, in fact, really interesting. See, back in the 1960s electronic data storage was really expensive and any computerised library records had to be stored in fixed-length fields, which not only limited search capabilities, but also caused costly wastage when you had an author with a four-character surname being stored in a fixed-length ten-character field. So, on the one hand, you had some fields that, for certain items, weren’t long enough, but couldn’t be extended, and on the other hand, you had some that were too long, but couldn’t be shortened.

Sometimes this would happen within one record, and it really crippled the potential value of the emerging computer as an alternative method of record management (the standard at the time, of course, being the traditional 3×5 inch catalogue card, which also had limited capacity and couldn’t be relied upon to get regular updates unless someone remembered to check all the cross-references from one card to another – which was time consuming even for small collections.

The problem they had was that there wasn’t any way to vary the length of a data field, because you had to tell the computer that the Author Surname field started at character #20, and ended at character #30 – it was the only way the machine knew what order the data lived in, and nobody could think of a way round that (of course, the majority of librarians had little understanding of computers, and the computer engineers rarely thought of libraries as being a market for computers, since the established members of each profession looked on the other as the very anathema of what they stood for – a view which remains surprisingly common to this day, in spite of all the advances made in the past twenty-odd years).

Now about this time the Library of Congress had appointed a new committee which was supposed to be looking at their surplus of 3×5 cards. (Especially in the US, these cards were still pretty cutting edge – as late as 1900 most American libraries still had their catalogues printed in book form only, which made them amazingly hard to update – by comparison, the index cards were a dream come true, except that they took up too much room.

The committee, therefore, was looking at two solutions to the card storage problem: 1) Rent a big warehouse to store some of the cards, or 2) Rent a floor in a big warehouse to store some of the cards**. The LC was feeling pretty good about itself, around this time, because of course it wasn’t long since the 1956 Committee on Catalogue Code Revision had presented its findings (themselves a revision of the fairly shoddy 1946 rules), so they weren’t in the market to change the way cataloguing was done. However, it was at about this time that — Oi! You little bugger, I saw you open that new tab! Hey! O, now you come back here! Honestly, I was right in the middle of my story!***

*sigh* Bye, then…

**Some things change very, very slowly, it appears…

***Cite me!

[All humour aside, that is honestly a really interesting story. I’d be happy to finish it sometime. And kudos to Keith Trickey for clueing me in on it.

Update, in the manner of an unhelpfully-titled pile of generic.

Been listening to a lot more Billy Joel lately, especially at work (not least because I keep forgetting to take my MP3 player to work, so I’m using the N95 instead.).

I do concentrate better with music in the background, as long as I know it relatively well (otherwise I have to keep breaking concentration to listen to the words!), so it’s nice to have an office where nobody minds on the grounds that ‘it does help you concentrate, especially when you’re doing something repetative.’ Colleagues WIN, I think…

…On the other hand, there’s something very, very wrong-feeling about playing Red Alert 3 while a background copy of Winamp belts out, uh, Leningrad.

On the plus side, every faction in RA3 seems to have adopted the traditionally Soviet policy of only employing women with tight-fitting costumes as their chosen military liason to the Completely Untested Commander With No Experience Of The Week…

Back still hurts. Knees still hurt. Left elbow seems to be setting up to hurt on a regular basis, the bastard. If I’m snappish that’s possibly why. The backache is a sod because I don’t know what will set it off, and the elbow is making me really irritable because it’s never happened before, so I’m not used to it giving out knee-style pain, which is making it much harder to ignore the damn thing than it would be if it was just a knee, and only doing what I expect of it. /whinge

Upside: field trip to the archives today, I’m looking forward to that!

I think that’s everything, for now, though.

A word of advice…

…to those who have leather jackets, shaved heads, and ‘L-O-V-E’ and ‘H-A-T-E’ tattooed over their knuckles:

Don’t wear chunky gold-coloured signet rings on your little finger.

A pair of fists that proclaim ‘LOVE’ and ‘HAT’ are never going to look cool.

Just a thought…

‘If Tyler Durden knew how to change a tap, he wouldn’t have to punch people in the face.’

Today’s blog post title comes from a nice little essay by Ferrett, whose LiveJournal I read.

Since it’s less than a fortnight since I was spectacularly failing at changing the washer in a tap (although, to be fair, a plumber had previously said the whole thing was seized; I was mainly there as a checking-he-isn’t-a-lying-git capacity), that one struck a chord.

I’m feeling fairly cheerful, at the moment. I expect it’ll wear off presently, when I finally come to my senses, but I’m doing OK. I was a bit worried when I went to bed yesterday, because I’d developed a splitting headache behind my eye, and I thought it could be caused by the mixing of wine and whisky last night, but I’m fine this morning, so I was probably just tired. Still am, actually.

(I think work ought to give me an incentive to get out of bed in the morning*; we only have a single storage heater, so getting out from under the covers means making my knees start to hurt unless I immediately get some trousers on, except that [because we only have one storage heater] any trousers I can find are also really cold, and turn out to speed the chill into my bones. Plus, y’know, it’s a bed. Nobody likes getting out of one of those, even to make their phone stop playing ‘They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard, when it’s nice and warm and cosy.’)

I have spent most of the last few days having meetings. The first one was with Hugh Preston, who is the Admissions Dude** out at what I think of as DILS, but which now seems to be simply DIS; the Department of Information Studies. It is looking increasingly like doing a Masters is a sensible thing to do; not only do I get the M out of it, but (because of the way the course is carefully set up) it’ll qualify me for membership of CILIP, too. Both of these things seem to have a fairly immediate impact on the kind of jobs one can get, so it’s looking like a good plan.

The second meeting I had was with Mike Smith, whom I may have mentioned before, way back when I was being a Student. Essentially, he is awesome (which I’ve thought for ages, but he gets bonus Awesome because it turns out he seems to really like me, as well, which is shiny) and will give me an academic reference, which I’d need to actually get onto the aforementioned course.

I’m still a little torn between doing the course Part Time and doing the course Full Time. The main difference is that if I do it Part Time it will take 2 – 5 years, and I have to be in a Relevant Job, but I can start this April and the University will pay my tuition for me while I’m working here (until the end of June), and after that I can run off to The South, or something. With the sole exception of that last point, all of those are both Pros and Cons pretty much equally.

If I do it Full Time it will take about 12 months, I don’t need to worry about finding a Relevant Job or else in the meantime, and I have to stay in Aber for at least 9 months (although once I’m down to the actual Writing A Diss stage, I can go and do so from ‘pretty much anywhere.’ These are all relatively positive, and the only major problem is that I will magically Not Have Anything Paid For, although since the University would only be paying the first two or three months of my tuition if I went Part Time, that’s not so huge a thing as it might otherwise sound.

So… we’ll see.

And that’s all you people are getting from me, for now.

O, except I finished the Allied campaign on Red Alert 3, and I really need to write to EA at some point, to find out why they’d preffer me not to buy any of the games they’re releasing.

(Yeah, I know I keep banging on about this. It just bugs me that these people are sufficiently retarded to think that making a game with invasive anti-piracy measures which you don’t get on the inevitable pirate copies will encourage people to pay hard currency for the inferior copy-protected version, rather than pirate it for free. I just can’t help but feel that anyone incapable of spotting the FAIL inherent in that philosophy is probably someone who shouldn’t be allowed metal cutlery, never mind influence over the gaming industry…)

Anyway, I don’t mean to keep you from your surfing with an argument you all know and agree with; I just figured all of the EA executives might swing by on a Googlewhim***, realise they’re all cretins and commit seppuku in pennance…


* Money doesn’t count. Or, at least, not this ammount of money.
** Actual title may vary.
*** You can use this word. I don’t mind.

Must be winter…

Every day this past fortnight that I have woken up I have done so with my left knee killing me and my back playing hob so as not to feel left out. After a remarkably mild year for that kind of thing, I’m out of practice at the whole “constant background pain” thing, which is a right bugger.

I had toothache the other week, and that hurt like crazy, as well. (Although, to be fair, I find that re-assuring, since it means I now have a dentist such that I’ve not got toothache all the time and cease to notice it.)

Next month I have a dentist’s appointment, in (of course) Shrewsbury. Very kindly they’ve given me the time off work gratis (rather than my having to book it from annual leave). Only for this one occasion, of course, but all being well I won’t need another check for at least six months, so I hope I can dodge that bullet and hang onto my leave for when I need it.

Wedding venue scouting was good. It actually did me a Hell of a lot of good to sit and re-read all the brochures everyone sent me, just so I could remember how angry they made me. I mean, seriously, who in the name of God sends out brochures that say (when you boil off the insincere congratulations) “You will give us large sums of money in used Treasury notes, and in return you will get to do exactly as we tell you, eat what we tell you to, throw yourselves out building you’ve paid to use when we tell you to, and then you can give us more money.”

…I think what baffles me more than anything about that is that it must work, or it wouldn’t be profitable to keep doing it. I just find it annoying. One of the things I like about Prospective Venue A is that it gives a firm impression of being flexible. It gives a fairly strong impression of Turquoise as well, of course, but mainly it’s an impression of flexible. And I think the turquoise will be quieter with the shutters open and the lights on.

And, finally: if you’ve not seen it already, zoom your browser* now to this beauty of a story over at El Reg, which has got me literally laughing ’till my eyes watered, and everyone looked at me funny.

*’chug’ in IE

Multiple Things.

Well, first up I’ve just had a haircut. Was surprisingly quick, and fairly painless. I don’t get on with haircuts, as a rule. Unless I know the barber I never have anything to say, and I just sit there gawping at my own reflection and wondering if I’m moving my head too much.

The barber in Hadley was a decent guy, once I got to know him, and Gino in Newport is the only chap I’ve met who knows what I mean when I say “Er, well, a general trim, I guess. Sort of a short-back-and-sides, but short on top as well, and I don’t want a fringe*”.

Also, of course, the hanging about while the queue depletes before your very eyes can be pretty lame, especially if you’ve not got a book. This haircut only took twenty minutes, though, thus getting me to the “really uncomfy feeling of hairs stuck down the back of my collar” even faster than I expected. Whee.

My face has mysteriously become oval**, and my eyes seem to have got bigger. Like I say, I don’t get hair.

On the plus side, I shouldn’t need it cutting again before the Spring, which means it should be able to grow to a nice warmish sort of length before the frosts come, thus providing me with further insulation. Win.

Supreme Court meme:
Sarah Palin has famously (in America, that is, over here we didn’t notice; I got this from zoethe) been asked to list some Supreme Court rulings, and came up with a grand total of One (Roe V. Wade, natch) before descending into silence. This pleases me, because that means I know more about American law than a prospective Vice President of the United States of America***. I can name two Supreme Court rulings, only one of which is Roe V. Wade.

Anyway, there’s now a meme. It goes like this:

Post info about ONE Supreme Court decision, modern or historical to your blog. Any decision, as long as it’s not Roe v. Wade.

…then there’s some stuff about spreading the fun, but you all know I’m just showing off my dubiously-aquired knowledge.

Anyway, I pick the Only Other Supreme Court Ruling I’ve ever heard of (not bad going, really; I didn’t even hear about the Supreme Court until I was 19 or so).

I pick Hustler Magazine, Inc. V. Falwell.

Background to the ruling is as follows:
– Jerry Falwell is one of those famous TV Fundies.
– Campari is an alcoholic beverage, which in the 1980s ran an ad campaign where famous people “talked about their first time” (drinking Campari. See what they did there?)
– Hustler Magazine is a porno mag, the kind men read “strictly for the photos of the naked women.”

…y’can all see where this is going already, right?

Back in the early 1980s Hustler printed a mock Campari Ad wherein Falwell “talked about his first time.” The clever twist was that it was his first time having sex. With his mother, while they were both drunk on Campari. In an outhouse.****

Falwell wasn’t too pleased about this, and sued for libel, and hurt feelings, and what have you. Very long story short: it went to the Supreme Court in 1988. The Supreme Court had a think and then, by 8 votes to 0, came up with the following ruling:

The creators of parodies of public figures are protected against civil liability by the First Amendment, unless the parody includes false statements of fact made in knowing or reckless disregard of the truth.

Since the Ad in Hustler was listed in that edition’s contents as “Fiction; Ad and Personality Parody,” and since the fake Campari ad said it was a parody, and they didn’t actually think Falwell lost it to his mother whilst drunk on Campari [I’m paraphrasing], the ad wasn’t made in knowing or reckless disregard of the truth, but more in a spirit of fun.

Basically, “It’s OK to say such things about famous people, just as long as you don’t try and pass them off as being actually true.”

Given that Sarah Palin is a prospective Vice President of the United States of America, I’m growing really fond of that ruling… I mean, dinosaurs. Ffs.

Well lunch is nearly over, and I’ve got hairs all down the back of my neck. Guess I’ll leave the post about the N95, and the Answers to the bits of the meme nobody got yet for another time, huh?


*I’ve never worked out what a fringe is for. It spends three months growing into my eyes, gets chopped off, and then starts all over again. Why?

** Still, pudgy, but oval. Less moon-like, anyway, which is a start.

***For a given, and mainly wrong, value of “know,” anyway.

**** I honestly don’t know which bit of that paragraph I find more disturbing.

No Clever Title for me!

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks. (I offer this mainly as a reason for why I’ve not managed to update anything, rather than as a warning that a massive post is on its way; you’re safe to continue reading!)

I’ve contrived to buy a car, and to drive it through some truly appalling weather, which was interesting, especially the bit in the middle of Stafford where I had a choice of drowning the exhaust or aquaplaning, whilst driving through a good foot and a half of water.

Still, the machine is still running, which is good. The sunroof has developed a leak, which is less good, although I can see how huddling in the carpark of Morrisons, Stone, with the rain so loud on the roof you can’t hear yourself speak might be a factor in that.

It feels very odd to get into the car and just go somewhere. Admittedly, so far I’ve only gone out to Morrisons, but even that felt peculiar, what with there only being me in the car.

On the plus side, there only being me in the car helps, because I’m still getting the hang of the difference in ‘feel between this new one and Mike’s, uhm. Corsa?

Anyway, I’m being incredibly boring, so I’ll shut up about that.

The reason I was out in the dreadful storm was because I went up and dug Annie out of Cheadle (which appeared to have some sort of a bookshop), and we (viz, Annie + my mother and sister) went to Gladstone. Any AGS people have a recollection of visiting it? I’m sure I went once before, back in the mists of time.

It was really fun. There were tasty savoury oatcakes (as opposed to the breakfast-with-syrup variety I’m used to in South Shropshire), and a light up model, and some toilets. And a gorgeous Sunburst-style deco washbasin. With the same taps as we have at home. And a set of bath taps, the same as we have at home. And a recipie for pobs [hard to find a good link for that].

This happens every time we go to a museum. Just once it would be nice to walk round all the exhibits without having to think “That’s not an antique, that’s our cake tin / jam pan / thing in the back shed. That’s what it does, is it?” But, then, I’d probably miss it, if it didn’t happen.

I made a pot. (Kinda. The Woman Who Pottered did quite a lot the work, with helpful explanations of why I had to do something different, to make sure I didn’t foul it up utterly.) I am quite pleased with it. They can’t afford to run the kilns, even with their pile of Free Coal which is sitting in the courtyard getting damp, but I have got hold of a really nice guy who works in the Arts Centre, and was completely unfazed by my phoning him up to ask if I can borrow his oven. He reckons I should go back after term starts, and put a glaze on it. Annie seems to think it will not explode in the kiln, so I shall try and take it up to the man on Monday, and I shall have a nice pot. Hooray!

Then, at some point many years from now, it will get dropped, or toppled or otherwise accidentally broke, and I can feel miserable about losing it. Sigh.*

Survived, as I said, the storm. Came back to Aber, by dint of giving Dan a lift, and seem to have had a very long week, mainly comprised of resolving to go to bed Early, and then doing nothing of the sort. Badminton was fun, however, and Statto and I got some topical news satire done, which is good.

I know there’s a whole other pile of things which have been going on, but I’m not sure I can remember what else I intended to blog about. I am not now going to York, so I am spared a completely stupidly long journey, and can do a mere stupidly long journey, instead.

EQ is now on a new server, but this should work anyway.

That seems like a broadly opportune point to hit the “publish”-y button. Although I notice, in saying that, that I have stopped using phrases like “marginally sensible” in favour of “broadly.” I am not sure if that is an improvement.

I am hungry. Poxy Llanbadarn and it’s poxy total lack of shops. I shall sulk at it.

* I include this observation because I think it provides a valuable insight into my psychological makeup, and the nature of the bulk of my fretting about everything. (Yes, I do normally trim these things out.)

Wow. This is just frying my brain!

Quick post before I get back to whatever desk I work at on Friday afternoons!

I read a lot of webcomics, partly because it helps me to work out what day of the week it is while I drink my morning coffee (For example; if it’s a day without a new Candi, but with a new menage a 3, and not a new Darths & Droids, then it’s Saturday, and I can go back to bedn without bothering to finish filling myself with caffeine).

But this is the first time I’ve discovered a webcomic told through the medium of a Round Robin game.

Lots of different artists each get one panel to advance the story, and that panel can contain as many frames as they can fit in that one panel. The effect (so far as I’ve managed to read it!) is fabulously anarchic, and very funny. Or, at least, it’s got me sniggering over the keyboard, which is typically a good sign, even if it is confusing everyone else in the room.

O – and did I mention that it’s a round-robin style comic where the only fixed element of the plot is that there’s been a murder? Win!

It appears to live over at, and you can read full pages as they happen from this link here.

Unless, y’know, you were all going to spend your Friday afternoon being super productive, or something…

“Pretty much spot on”…

…and other good ways for an optician to describe the glasses you’re wearing.

Buzzed over to D&A this morning (I say “buzzed;” I was there until the bank shut, which is going to slow everything down a bit). It seems there’s been some very minor shift in my left eye, but the difference is “less than half a lens” so it’s not actually worth changing my prescription. Win.

On the other hand, since they had a sale on, I’ve got some new glasses, because the frames on my normal ones are now three years old and getting a bit fatigued-looking. That and it’ll give me two pairs of glasses that have the anti-glare protection, which I anticipate being useful in the event that I get any insurance, ever. Which, to be fair, I will, it’ll just cost me lots.

It’s not the “costing lots” that I object to, per se, it’s more that the reason it costs lots is because they think I’ll use the car to get drunk and try and impress girls by doing dangerous things. I find that insulting; it’s like they think I’ve got to be 23 without realising that there are better ways to waste petrol than trying to make women fancy me. Pouring it down the drain, for instance, or into the water supply. Bah. I shall cough up nonetheless, and then fling the damn machine off the road when I fail, yet again, to tell my left from my right, I expect.

Anyway, I’m getting new glasses. More encouragingly, the optician woman seemed to think I was likely to stay on more or less the same prescription I have now for the forseeable future, which is a big step up from the last time I went and had lights shone at me.

I’m still finding work fun, and I’m still finding work tiring; come Thursday mornings I’m really having to struggle to get out of bed which, when I’ve got a reason to get up and start doing things, is unusual for me. I think, however, that I’ll get back into the swing of things relatively well; I’m still getting more sleep than I was when I was commuting from Wallingford, so I think it’s just a matter of adjusting to having a routine that revolves around more than “when the CoD4 servers are least busy.”

In other news, I was listening to, er, something, on the Radio yesterday, and caught a fabulous quote, viz:

“The Potteries, in the North of the West Midlands, are an unlikely setting for a revolution…”

Yes, that’s right, there’s never been a Revolution in the Midlands. All those integrated kilns and transport networks are just an example of a cottage industry that was allowed to get out of hand.

Well, it made me laugh. But then I had to slog though an entire Geography project on How The Industrial Revolution Changed The Area*. It seemed to involve a retail-cum-business park, but I could be remembering a different trip.

Ah well. On with the Weekend Tasks of Everything I Didn’t Do This Week…

*I didn’t actually do the project, I think I just handed in a few scrappy sheets of A4. But I was meant to do it, which is good enough for me.

“It corners like it’s on rails.”*

For those of you who don’t pick up my semi-comedic status updates on Facebook (and I can think of potentially four of you, and that’s it), I’ve been taking a look at the new version, which they’ve done up nice, and tried to hide all the useless applications away, and things.

By and large I’m really quite fond of this New Facecoke, it really does seem to be neater and cleaner, and if it’s taken away all my beloved Applications That Tell You What I Want You To Think My Personality Is, it’s also shifted all those bloody Zombies off people’s pages (Is there ever a time when a Zombie-related thing is an application you encourage to go near a computer? I can’t think of any).

It has, however, a downside. And that downside seems to be that it was Designed After The Millenium.

At some point in the very late 90s, and unbeknownst to be, who was using Win 3.1 on a Pentium (before they started numbering the sods) right up until January 2002, there was some Council Of Evil that decreed that, henceforth, any new, mainstream, computer software had to come with ugly rounded corners. I’m running Win XP back home, and, thank God, it has a “Windows Classic” setting, which is precisely the first thing I turn on whenever I re-install Windows (as opposed to an Internet Connection, which is precisely the last thing I turn on whenever I re-install Windows).

The UWA AU terminal I’m using at the moment is running Vista, and it’s bubbly as Sin. Blecccch.

What is *with* this, people?

I do not believe that anyone who knew me could honestly accuse me of “not liking curves.” On the contrary, I am a huge fan of curves. Many of my most attractive friends have curves. Indeed, if you asked me to list several things that I find attractive in women, “curves” would be right in at number four-ish, after “being a nice person,” “big eyes,” and “not objecting to overweight librarians with beards.”

But whilst I am an only occasionally slavering fan of curves in their proper place, I do not carry this fandom to excess. Cars, if they do not overdo it, can look very well with curves, and so can smaller things like rubber balls, and larger things like the Cotswolds, and I have no objection to their remaining just as shapely as they are.

Where I get fed up with curves is when they feature in place of sharp angular corners in operating systems or application windows. I do not see the need to take a perfectly good, sharp, crisp line, and spoil it by filing off the edges.

I can accept that we don’t all want the glory days of DOS back (and, actually, since I’ve only just discovered Tab-complete, I was probably never a very efficient DOS user, since I’d type things like “Copy a:\work\eng\chau1.rtf c:\jta\work\eng\xwrk\chau1.rtf” out in longhand every time, which, in retrospect, may not have been the fastest way to do it, and which is certainly slower than “click, Ctrl+c, alt+tab, Ctrl+v”. But do we really have to have curves?

Has there been some study done that “found 63% of people found curvy edges instead of corners made them less afraid of computers,” or something? Or are you developers just doing this to annoy everyone? I’m curious as to where and why this came to be inflicted on us all. (Well, me, specifically, but everyone else seems to have it, too.)

Bloody WordPress is doing it, an’ all!

*Cite me! I was the only quote JTA could think of that involved corners, and I feel lonely and innapropriate!

I’m getting up in the morning

But it’s OK, because I’m going to be paid to do so (eventually; in the meantime I’m living on rice* so I can keep feeding the electricity meter).

Yes, tomorrow I return to the exalted ranks of the employed taxpayers (as opposed to the unemployed taxpayer, which is what I’ve been since October. It’s been a while.)

I’m not looking forward to continually walking up the Hill, mind; I reckon that’ll either be uncomfortably hot or wet and miserable, depending which season we’re in, and I’m not too great at moderating my speed; I tend to hack up the thing at pretty much ‘As fast as I can go,’ which means my calves start acheing like mad by Bronglais, but never mind.

I’m guessing I’ll get me a UWA email address again, which will be nice (although technically, I guess it will be my first ever UA email address, but that just sounds odd to me. I really ought to go to bed about now, and, indeed I’m just starting to feel tired (because I was up until 03:00 while a download finished this morning, so I’ve had something of a long day.)

I was going to get an early night, and be in bed by 22-00 this evening; that doesn’t seem to have worked out properly, I think because I’m just not used to that anymore. On the plus side, my sleeping patterns tend to iron out fairly neatly once I’ve got an actual routine to work with (the lack of a proper solid routine really got me down in the first few months after I left the Bod.) so I’m sure it’ll all be good.

Meanwhile, I think I’m just rambling, so I direct you to look at my shiny little favicon (LiveJournal users click here) which ought to be displaying in the title bar (if it isn’t, please do comment to that effect, and I shall swear at it). I downloaded it all by myself from those amazing people over at, y’know, the ones that make the amazingly funny semi-regular news satire and parody site, although since Statto is in Japan just at the minute, we’re not writing anything until he brings me back some Ghibli DVDs :-)

Anyway, I’m going to post this, finish up going “Ohhh!” [emph. on the h’s] to Nathan Fillion’s awesome entrance as Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible, and shove off to bed.

Have fun!

*Not just rice, obviously, because then I’d die. The reason I’m living mainly on rice is because it’s cheap, so I can still buy meat, and thus get some actual Newtrition(TM) into my diet.

I like getting post!


Well, I mean I know that the week before last was teh awesomeness anyway, but guys. Man, I love selling things. Rock!

I have just recieved my cheque from the fab guys over at Campus Clothing, who, you’ll recall from my endless banging on about it, were paying me money to sell toptastic Graduation memorabilia to anyone and everyone who came past the stall.

I was getting paid, as I’ve said, a really decent rate of £55/day, which was nice, although, as I mentioned in this huge post it was pretty exhausting stuff, since I was up at the Arts Centre by 07-50 and not heading back down the Hill until somewhere between 18-30 and 19-00.

Still, it wasn’t a bad way to make just shy of three week’s rent, plus bonuses for having fun selling people things.

Anyway, I cavort merrily into Tangentia. My apologies.

I have just recieved my cheque. With the cheque is a letter, which runs after this fashion:

Cheque enclosed – thanks for all your help & we have paid you £67.00, not £55.00 day rate, to compensate for long days. Regards,
P.S. Bonus payments yet to be calculated.”

I’m up the better part of a further fifty quid. I am walking on air people; I can not only pay the rent, I can actually afford food, too! I love those guys.

My apologies to Charlie in the office downstairs for playing loud and celebratory Rammstein with a subwoofer right about his head. I am cheerful.

Boxing Day

Well, Christmas is going well so far. I like Aber.

I’d just like to get onto Abnib the link to the latest-looking Flash thingy from JibJab (They did, if you recall, the ‘This Land‘ animation about the last US presidential elections).

Anyhoo, this one is based on Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ & is fairly good. Slightly more America-centric than the original, to be fair, so there were a few things I didn’t get at all, but hey, ‘s fairly amusing.

O, and, being American, it misses the “and” from the phrase “two thousand and seven” (2007), which is a bit weird, but it’d spoil the rhythm to say it ‘properly’ anyway.

Here it is, anyway.

Merry Christmastide!

(Man, it’s been ages since I blogged…)

Edited Sunday August 23rd 2009: Please see Comment 4 for clarification on inquest findings & accidental death. (I can’t readily adjust the post this far on, but please be aware of Comment 4, from Charlie Stroud, before reading the post, & bear in mind my memory has played me false. Thanks.)

I woke up this morning.

I appreciate that’s not really the sort of incisive opening line that normally draws you in*, but I start with it regardless because I think, all things considered, it’s something of an achievement in itself, since, in spite of everything, up to & including me, I’m still here, ten years further down the line.

(and, yes, slightly coming to bits. Never used to be this weak, dunno what’s going on with that.)

But, hey, I’m still here.

Naomi, a Quaker from Telford Meeting once changed her surname to Stillhere as an affirmation; “I am still here, in spite of everything the world throws at me.” I quote that as it appeared on the order of service from her funeral; in the latter week of May 2000 she was finally overwhelmed and threw herself from a bridge in London.

I wished at the time that had the guts to do the same. As it was, however, I repeatedly chickened out of anything of the sort, and thus, by and by, I came to waking up this morning, which I do think is something of an acheivement since, if I’d had just a wee bit more backbone, I’d never have come close.

Congratulations, past JTA; you are indeed a useless gutless spinless shit, and I owe you one for it. I know it isn’t much help but cheers! nevertheless, and remember that if you’re stubborn enough life seems to get bored of shoveling shit in your face.

Time I got to bed; I’ve got a whole another lot of waking up to do tomorrow. G’night.

* The best opening line I ever read ran ‘If you were a pigeon, you could fuck forty times a day.’ I can’t for the life of me remember the rest of the book, but it started fantastically.

“…And JOIN me! In a public BURNING!”*

Well as you’ve no doubt noticed, it’s been just a bit wet lately.

And I wondered if I’m the only person to have seen the link between that and the rather amusing Simpsons movie advert from last week?

Note the humourless pagan lady in the sixth and seventh paragraphs:

“We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind. “We’ll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away.”

Worked, then…

So who wants to grab the faggots, matches and kindling and round up some Pagans and wander back up Broad Street? (We don’t actually have to set light to ’em, but we could see if they could do some sort of “We admit we’re silly cretins” dance, which would, at least, cheer people up.

*Usual vague offer of pint for citing source applies.

“In the name of God — go!”*

Seriously, shove off out of it, you swines.

No, I’m not talking about Israel having another pop at the Lebanese. I’m not even supporting the dismissal of the Long Parliament – I’m sat here twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the Act of Union to be over and done with, so we can have an English parliament without a bunch of Scottish MPs cluttering it up and making a bloody nuisance of themselves.

It would appear that the bulk of Scotland is in favour of going off and being “Scotland” again, and I think Wales would rather like to do the same, given an Assembly with slightly more teeth and some members who might be capable of actually forming a coalition, rather than just talking about it (Although I think if they go, they’d better go good and hard, because it’ll be a logistical nightmare to just give them the old Principality back and try to re-militarise Ludlow – can you imagine trying to corner a tank at the traffic lights above the Feathers?)

I personally would like to see the whole thing come to bits because I’m not a fan of, eg, Top-up fees, the legislation for which only came through because the Scottish MPs – who knew damn well it wouldn’t affect them – voted in favour of it. If they’d not been there then the whole thing would’ve got defeated by the English MPs – who it would affect – and who knew damn well it was a daft idea. I’d like a break-up that left a Welsh and Scottish representation in Westiminster on a purely national level (which is to say something that leads to Trevor McDonald saying “Mr. Ben Jones, MP for Wales today joined forces with his Scottish counterpart Mr. Jock McTavish to protest against the under-representation of their two vast constituencies in British politics.”) I think that would balance things out a bit. And England can put an representative for England into the Scottish Parliament and another into the Welsh Assembly.

After all, in the whole run-up to the local elections we’re told that there’s going to be huge moves for devolution, and now it seems to have gone a bit quiet. I’m probably missing something, but I can’t find much in the news to say, eg, “Her Majesty has today called for the re-appointment of the Prince Bishops to the seats of Durham and Chester in what has been seen as the first move towards defending England from the secessionist Celtic republics of Scotland and Wales…”

Which is a shame. Because, apart from anything else, (including the fact that nobody much wants to be in the Union anymore) I don’t think it would do much harm. I can’t imagine we’re going to revert to border raids if we say “actually the UK was a nice idea at one point, but it’s now looking a bit feeble, let’s put an end to it,” and I’m fairly sick of living in the only bit of the Union that’s left without representation at what we might call the National level. Sure, I can vote for a MP who can go off and be with lots of other MPs, but where’s my AM, hmm?

And, quite apart from anything else, ‘God Save the Queen,’ as the national anthem of the UK is frankly pants when you compare it to ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (or, even, to be fair, ‘I vow to thee, my country’).

I’m assuming, mind you, that a break-up would be nice and amicable, and without closed borders and checkpoints and things. I’m imagining, here, more of a “separate beds” thing than an “acrimonious divorce with obscenities scratched into the bonnets of the ex’s car at midnight,” but I’m fairly confident we can manage that. I admit Wales might be a bit shakey (If we see Scotland as the wife in the break-up I’m fairly sure Wales is the child that always suffers, if only because after 700-odd years it’d be a damn big shock to suddenly get put outside with a suitcase full of toys and told to get on with it) but I reckon it’s worth a go. Anyone who really hates the idea can move to one of the other places and we can see if we can all still be friends. It’s got to be worth a go.

It’s just a thought, but I’m all for it. I’m not, really, in favour of the Regicide, but I will grant that he was good at stirring up trouble. (So, of course, was Leo Amery, so I can probably claim to be quoting him). Speaking as a pro-devolutionist, therefore, and working on the assumption that we can still meet up for coffee and things without sniping about who used to steal all the metaphorical duvet each time we bump into one another at a party, let’s have some of that dissolving, shall we?

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing lately…. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God,—go!

Well, that’s enough making a nuisance of myself; I should go do an afternoon’s work…

*Or “Don’t stuff your head up with things you don’t understand

Dudes! I finally posted about my holiday!

The Avon Ring Narroboat Holiday Page:
The full write-up of the holiday now exits. It’s huge. At 18, 695 words, it is, I think, the longest thing I’ve ever written, and it’s probably taken me close on 24 hours of actual writing time. I blame this entirely on my starting to write it and then thinking “Heh, I wonder if I can try and do a Jerome K. Jerome style of writing?” That, and my thinking “I really want to try to get down everything that happened so I don’t forget it.”

You don’t have to read it all, I realise that’s pretty damn vast. But it’s there if you want it; go click the link.

Have fun!

Somnrisusing. Or something like that.

I had the weirdest experience, this morning. At 06:00 I laughed myself awake. I’ve never done that before. It was… odd.

See, what happened was, I was having this dream, which featured a land-rover and some really muddy hills, and me, Norman, Nick Frost and a third guy whose fact I don’t even slightly remember, were slogging over them.

At which point, the whole scene faded to the dining room at Manse Road, where I lived until about 2001, with the old leather sofa that used to be in there, and the little brown sofa from Hafan and the little table we got and then gave to Dan and Claire.

And on the table were shots, I think of Vodka, or something equally foul, and… Nick Frost was knocking back these shots and trying to sing the song that Lister, Petersen, Selby & Chen sing in a Red Dwarf flashback scene in something like series one (“I’ve been to Titan / I’ve been to Polanski / I can name ninety men / Who’ve slept with Kochanski”) …except he was really drunk, and kept getting it wrong, and had to keep drinking shots as forfeits, and then he’d get it wrong again…

At this point, in my dream, I was in a laugh-out-loud giggle loop, and I kept thinking “I need to stop laughing, or I’ll wake up!” After what seemed to be half an hour of this, I did wake up, sniggering madly away with, as Jeff says, my shoulders going like I’m drilling the road…

…except, it turned out, I wasn’t actually laughing. I know this, because I was finding this dream so funny, and shaking with laughter so much, that Ruth woke up, under the impression I’d finally cracked and was sobbing hysterically and trying to keep quiet about it so I didn’t wake her. Presently, therefore, she asked me what was wrong, and I said something like “It’s… so… funnnnny!!” and then I thought “Er, no it isn’t. Why in the name of God am I giggling so much?!”

I still can’t work out what was funny about it now. Or why Norman was there, or anything else about it.

But laughing yourself awake at 6am is kinda new to me, so I thought I’d foist the concept on the Internet and save myself the trouble of thinking about it anymore. Anyone who’s had that happen to them, mind, is more’n welcome to tell me about it…


I’ve just got called down to the front desk to collect some flowers that had randomly turned up there. Cue some very puzzled porters. And an even more puzzled JTA, actually.

[If you’re no’ a fan o’ sappy weediness, ye shud look awa’ noo…]*

Just for the record, Ruth is far too good for me, and I don’t deserve her at all, and I love her enormously, and she has a wonderful talent for making life seem better, even when everything is tiring and stressful and bleak. So a huge thank-you, and I love you to her, and hooray, because you are so very wonderful and kind! And also I appear to be full of cheer and smiles. Hooray!

[Yez can all carry on wi’ yer readin’ from heer. It’s safe noo]

*I’ve been typing in vaguely Scots since December. I’ve no idea why.

2007: All Good So Far…

…2006 ended interestingly, as well. Got a lift North to Maulds Meaburn, yonder Cumbrian village what Dan mentions, and where, at weekends, Ruth’s father hangs out, away from nuisances like telephones bearing people who want to speak to him.

We arrived – Ruth’s mother (the Rev.), her brother Robin and I – in horrible weather, and bang between the starter and the main course of a dinner Tom & Judith were giving for a couple of friends they had staying for New Year. The timing, all things considered, could have been better, but, dutifully sticking to the Plan (I like sticking to a plan, it means the only trouble you really face is bringing the Plan about and hoping it all goes like you thought it would) I carted Tom away from the table and into the living room, where, full of nerves, I asked him if he’d give me permission to marry Ruth.

…This would appear to be a good point to insert a clarifying parentheses…

(Firstly, I was asking, rather than making a bald matter-of-fact announcement, because we were rather keen that he understood we weren’t – and, indeed, still aren’t – planning on doing anything just yet; we’re waiting until 2010, so we can save up some cash, Ruth can finish her degree, we can say we’re at least a reasonably respectable age [mid twenties], and we can have a nice round number from which to remember anniversaries. By asking a question, rather than making a statement, I was not only inviting further questions [because I didn’t force a simple ‘O, right, that’s a surprise’ issue] and I was, in theory, signaling that we’d rather like him to be OK with it, without giving away too much of the fact we’ve rather been waiting for a chance to do the Ask Tom bit and this was the first chance we’d got…)

In accordance with the plan, he didn’t raise objections once he’d been re-assured on points such as “No, I don’t mean this Summer, I mean at some sensible time” and “Aye, we’ve thought about it and it’s something we’d both like to do,” and “No, we’re not planning on including unhelpful members of the clergy or mendacious white dresses,” and thus we reach a stage at which the whole thing gets rather more public, since we’re not concerned about breaking it gently-ish to sundry family members.

So, aye. That made for a good end to 2006, that did. And, indeed, a good start to 2007, and, when Waitrose opens tomorrow, a good excuse to nab a bottle of their 1999 Moet, the only drink that’s ever given me a hangover, but which is fantastically nice.

In anticipation of some potentially asked questions:

  • We’re no doing a “traditional” church wedding because they’re a bit, uh, naff, especially since Ruth only really likes Churches for their musical potential, and I remain deeply mistrustful of the vast capacity for abuse the system of organised religion seems to build into itself in the same way the human body contrives toenails. We’re rather more likely to be doing a Quaker wedding instead, but that’s still some stages of planning away, since I’ll need to speak to my Meeting first, and tell ’em.
  • Yes, probably is a bit of a shock. And, quite possibly, to one or two of you more than others. Still, we like it, and are really very happy with the way it’s all panning out, so we anticipate reactions of “I’m not that bothered, please don’t keep telling me about it, shut up” and “Hey, that’s cool, I hope it all goes well and you’re happy.” You’re welcome to have variations on them, and, of course, completely different reactions, but, by and large, we’d preffer the latter…
  • We are indeed a wee bit young. But since we’ll be not nearly so young in three and some months year’s time, that’s probably no huge problem. And we have gone through considerable periods of mass stress and penury, some fairly crap times, and some wrist-slashingly abysmal times, so I don’t reckon you could say we’re too young to understand how tough the world can be, or that we’ll go to bits in the event of our first “real” problem, because you’d not get past the first comma before I shoved your fists up yer bum. [I still get tetchy when people say I dunno what shit life can be…]
  • I know, I know, I know… telling people via the Internet: lazy, cheezy, and just a wee bit insulting. But the alternative would be ringing you all up, in which case I’d miss someone, and really upset them, or sending out a load of e-mails, which would either be personal, but two lines long, or an impersonal and even more insulting “hello people, here is news, bye”… Sometimes mass communication is kinda handy…
  • And, finally, aye, we’ve done the ring bit. Note “we’ve,” – technically, I think, Ruth’s the only person entitled to one, but that smacks to me of a pre-feminist “women are chattels and should be marked as belonging to people” plot to deprive me of the excuse to buy a nice bit of jewelery, so bugger that for a lark, I’m having one as well. And it’s very nice. Kudos to David Lloyd, who are an excellent family chain of jewelers in good old Shropshire, [Newport, Wellington, Ludlow, probably Shrewsbury and some other places] and who’ve done us good on what’s now three occasions, and four bits of sundry gold and silverware. Though, to be fair, House of Williams actually made the things, David Lloyd just ordered ’em and handed them over, with excellent timing, the morning after I returned to Newport.

So there’s a bit of news for you. I’m hoping that I’ve successfully conveyed what’s been going on with a reasonable explanation and sufficient notes to explain that we’re all hugely cheerful about it at this end (and Tom didn’t vanish and return with an axe, or anything), but I imagine Ruth will contrive a post herself, so you can grab a bit of the other side of the story.

And, aye,

Happy New Year

Extra, Extra! JTA finds time to do a proper post!

…Realises hasn’t much to Say!

Life here carries on as hectic as ever, I’m afraid. Well, not at the moment; I’m on Evening Duty in a Reading Room, which is quite fun, and rather Big School Library-ish, when there aren’t people wanting to come over and get their grubby fingers onto books they’ve pulled up from the Stack.

Fantastic weekend, for which belated cheers go out to Alec & Suz and Matt-in-the-Hatt and Sian – all enormously last minute and surprising, but I managed to catch some sleep up on the Sunday, so I’m glad I contrived to lever myself out of bed!

I’m still getting my head round the way this place works, but I think I’ve mostly got it sorted out, now; or, at least, I’m probably in a position to be able to work out a vague map, or something, which, as we all know, is Rule One (#5) of Exploration (Rule One #’s 1-4 covering things like ‘have someone who can detect traps,’ ‘if you’re stuck go back and look for hidden buttons,’ and ‘don’t step on the pressure plate without looking about a bit first’ [now I wanna play Eye of the Beholder again… Never did manage to get onto level 6, actually, had to keep bypassing it…])

A little alarmed at the fact I don’t seem to be getting very good at the commuting, yet, and I’m still knackered almost all the time. That’s a bit annoying.

More annoying is the way winter seems to be coming on, brining with it the usual aches and pains and trouble with my knees. As soon as I’ve got a minute I’m going to have to go and register with a doctor and demand they do something better than saying “have these Ibruprofen tablets” by way of fixing the problem – we’re talking little pink pills worth 400 Mgs a go, and I’m up to the point where if I only take one, it does pretty much nothing. If they were giving me morphine, I’d’ve been put into rehab by now…

Still, beyond that, all’s pretty much well, and I’ve not been completely swamped by anything yet. Give it time and I expect I will, but I’ll worry about that when it happens.

Have confirmed my time off for the Real Ale Ramble, at least (Thursday-Wednesday, to give time to get up to Aber beforehand, and to collapse in a heap afterwards), so that’s all fantastic, and means we can start things like “Booking the train tickets in advance,” in a bid to save a wee bit of cash, which is good, especially since I’m going to be getting a new monitor, presently (read: when I get paid), in order to use the computer which we’re planning to manhandle down here in the near future.

And that’s more-or-less that, I reckon. Another update in another week, like as not.

Have fun!

Happy Birthday HoTS!

Well, sort of. See, Home on The Strange isn’t actually a year old, so it’s not it’s birthday. It’s more one of those ‘fake’ anniversaries bestowed upon small babies and new relationships; worse even than “six months old,” is today’s HoTS celebration; it’s, er, 100 episodes old.

Still, everyone has to start somewhere; even Dudley’s Dungeon had to start somewhere, and if ever a webcomic was running along on minimal material, you’d think that’d be it. [Assuming you don’t count ‘LOL TEH NEWT!!’ as material, anyway…]
So, yeah. I’m doing links to the funniest HoTS ever. For me that’s a bit hard, but I’m going to plump for The Slap Dance Is Always Better When The GM’s Crying and send you off there.

I’m also going to put in a link to the HoTS that isn’t the funniest – it’s not even that amusing, to be fair – but which doesn’t try to be funny, and doesn’t need to be funny; that’s this one, which is brilliant.

I’d do links to others, as well, but that would annoy you all, so I won’t.

Have fun!