Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aaaaand again:

Whilst perusing our SharePoint portal today, my deranged colleague asked me if I was going to log a defect for a minor cosmetic issue I'd noticed by the site's login box. One of the background graphics was slightly distorted; I said it looked to me like a hare-lip, but no, I wouldn't be logging it as a defect. Half an hour later I had to go to a meeting with James, one of the portal developers in a different building, reviewing open defects. The chap sitting opposite James had a hare-lip. Which I couldn't stop staring at. Not because I was being insensitive, but because it was a sign from God an interesting co-incidence.

Clarification: It was I that had mentioned "hare-lip", I'd never been to that floor of the building and had never met or seen either of these 2 guys before.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More co-incidences. I thought I'd be upfront about it at least and tell you straight off. I don't want you getting halfway through the post and then face-palming yourself with, "Oh not again. Get over it!". So, you know the format:

1. This one's a bit self-referential (is that the right word?). I was telling Simon, my new work buddy, about a co-incidence I had last week. I had seen that someone had posted some free tickets to a gig at the Roundhouse in London for a guy named Holger Czukay. I'm always up for a freebie, particularly if it's at the Roundhouse, which is a great venue. Unfortunately I couldn't go and also I had no idea who Keyser Soze, or whoever, was. Later that evening I discovered that he was a co-founder of krautrock band Can when I read his name in a review of an unrelated CD in The Wire - it was literally the first paragraph I read. Simon wasn't that impressed with the co-incidence, and come to think of it, I'm not now either. They always seem weirder when they happen personally and out of the blue. Anyways...

2. I was telling Simon this (in hindsight, un-) interesting story, when I had a heart palpitation. I exclaimed a faint, "Oh" and checked my pulse. He enquired, in his sardonic Brummie brogue, "What's wrong, have you trodden on a frog". I was pretty shocked by his throwaway jocular query. And why? Last night at about 8.30pm whilst walking up the path to water our fledgling vegetable patch I trod on what I thought was, and felt like, a slippery cat poop. Of course it wasn't a poop, it was a frog which, bizarrely and thankfully, hopped off unharmed.

Now, this is the sort of thing that the Lost script writers wove into a 6 season TV series, so whether you find it interesting or not is irrelevant - I've got some killer material here. Now if only I can rope in some "hot" actors and a tropical paradise setting...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's been a gorgeous Bank Holiday weekend so far, so no time to be sitting down tappy tapping stuff and nonsense, but I did have two co-incidences today to keep that little topic spinning along:

1. Toby had a friend over to stay last night and so we had to drop him off this morning after I got back from some fast and furious mountain biking down near Henley. In the car on the way to Newbury we 'lounged' to the Best of Acid Jazz album, which I often dust off as soon as we get prolonged periods of sunshine (predictable? moi?). US3's Cantaloop was just finishing as we parked up and headed into town to get something to eat. We chose ASK as a fairly safe bet (except actually I had to send my calzone back as the pancetta in it was raw!!) and, as we walked in, playing on their stereo was Herbie Hancock's Water Melon Man which, as I'm sure you know, was the source of the samples for Us3's Cantaloop. Cantaloop? Canta-spook more like.

2. Idly flicking through the micro-blog links on Ben Goldacre's, I ended up at a site blogging about a book reader app for the iPhone called Eucalyptus (it looks very cool - I'm starting to get hunger pangs for one of these iPhones now; dangerous...). I watched the short demo movie which turned the pages (as though they were real pages) of Jules Vernes - Around The World In 80 Days, just as an advert came on the TV for next Sunday's family film...Around The World In 80 Days (the rubbish one with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan).


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The mystery of the moniker revealed...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Regulars to these pages will recall that for a while I cataloged a lot of my observed "co-incidences" as they happened to me in my everyday life. Then I went through a quiet patch, got bored blogging and gave up. On reflection however, and in light of recent co-incidences, I think I have decided that I have a duty to record them and make them available should anyone wish to gather data and conduct the sort of study and investigation that Arthur Koestler may have done regarding synchronicity. So, with plenty enough ado:

1. Coming home on the bus tonight I listed to Simon Mayo standing in for Chris Evans. He played a country and western cover version of Green Day's - Time Of Your Life. From the beginning intro I thought it sounded like The Proclaimers. Imagine my surprise (you'll have to imagine it as I didn't film myself) when, after the news and traffic reports he played....The Proclaimers new single.

Not a major co-incidence I suppose, so don't start tutting at me. It's a warm up. So, I would suggest the possibility that the beginning of the Green Day cover version did sound like The Proclaimers and that maybe that was what inspired the playlist order. Easily explained, if it needed explaining at all you might say. Without such a logical consideration though you can easily see how these co-incidences could be interpreted differently. Like, say, as a message from God (to go out and buy the new Proclaimers single maybe). OK, so, a light-weight, everyday, low-level one to ease you in. Now, how about this one:

2. Yesterday I took Toby out to do some boring food shopping. He asked when we were out if we could go to the big pet store, Pets@Home. I said yes, on a whim. We turned up and began by peering into the many mini-aquariums displaying the little fishies for sale. I entertained the little tyke with tales of how they got the fish to go different colours by pouring various types of liquid into each tank. Ink for the blue fish, Tango for the orange etc etc. I noticed that most of the colourful and interesting little fishes were all cichlids, which I recalled from a TV documentary on the Nile Perch, to all originate from Lake Victoria in Africa. We left shortly afterwards as we were making idiots of ourselves laughing at this...


"London's burning, London's burning, fetch the engine, fetch the engine. Fire, fire. Fire, fire. Pour on water, pour on...?...ahhh, sorry, going to have to stop you there. Two things. Firstly, with these claws, it's an absolute bitch getting the hose rings screwed onto the hydrants properly. And secondly, we have kind of a debilitating aversion to water. So this isn't really going to work out for us all to be honest. We were thinking maybe the dogs could step in? You know they love water and they love to fetch, "Fetch the engine boy, go on, fetch the engine". Is that OK? Good. OK, we're off for a little nap now - it's toasty here isn't it? Sorry we couldn't really help out. I've left you a headless mouse in your porch by way of apology. I know you'll like it. Bye"


Later that evening I made the decision to work through my backlog of books and arbitrarily chose the first in the pile to start reading - Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. On page 27 this lunchtime I read about the differences between related species of the cichlids of Lake Victoria. Spook.

Now, some "co-incidences" I judge to actually be sub-conscious decisions which are made and which actually lead you inexorably to a "co-incidence situation". In this case it could have been that me remembering about the origins of the fish sparked me thinking, sub-consciously, about the animal world, species and genus etc, which I have a passing interest in as a result of much reading about evolution. It may even have been the case that I'd flicked through The Third Chimpanzee some time ago, glanced at and stored the cichlid reference, and it was this that prompted me to not only choose to start reading a book, but to start reading that specific book. It wasn't though. I've not even opened that book since I got it at Xmas, and the only reason I chose it, like I said if you were paying attention, was that it was first in the pile. The other remarkable thing of note I suppose is how uncommon the word cichlid is and the sequence of events that a. led me to the aquarium and b. to encounter a word that I can consciously recall hearing\reading just 3 times in the past 3 or 4 years. Two of those occasions being within the past 24 hours.

Even that second point I'll admit doesn't sound that impressive really. Most co-incidences that you have yourself are probably just ignored. Or, to be more fair, are filtered out by you as being unimportant. Humans though as you may know are pattern seeking animals and it is this innate ability to note patterns, cause and effect, consequences and results etc that make us the dominant species on the planet. Sometimes this ability can go a bit haywire, like with me seeing faces in everyday objects and saying, "ooh, that's a co-incidence" when a song I've been singing suddenly comes on the radio. But at least I have the good sense not to attribute it to anything holy, divine or supernatural.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Aiee, no time for bloggee! Apologies for the lack of updates lone reader, but I usually try to cram some keyboard bashing in at lunchtime during work hours. I've started a much busier role at work however so I'm finding that I don't actually have the spare time that I used to have. What this really means of course is that I'm not willing to spend my own personal time updating the blog. I don't value you enough (lone reader) to spend my time typing out rubbish for you to ignore. This is very rude of me to say of course but it does provide a perfect, real world example for you to use when arguing at a dinner party against the notion of 'honesty being the best policy'. Whilst on the subject of honesty, I can honestly say that Level 42's - Heaven In My Hands is one of my top ten favourite songs of all time, and I'm not ashamed to let it be known (to the approximate 3 people who read this blog).

Wolverine - I haven't seen it, probably won't at the cinema, but I'm sure I'll rent the DVD. No comments on the film per se then, but oh my god, could Hugh Jackman do with getting a little perspective on that whole "leak" thing. Someone leaked the movie, geeks downloaded it. Geeks that will probably go see it at the cinema, buy the film, action pose the figure, stand in front of the poster with a double comb-over and knitting needles cellotaped to the back of their hands going, "grrrrowl!" etc etc. Hugh commented on the leak saying, "it's a serious crime". He said that the "FBI are onto it and they're taking it very, very seriously".

Jesus, Professor Xavier, quick, can you use your psychic abilities to project some perspective into his adamantium skull? Terrorism and child pornography are very, very serious crimes, worthy of FBI interest.

Basically, my view is that the film and music industry have, through increased marketing, now cultivated such a hunger for their products that the lap-dog consumers they used to have at their beck and call (I'm thinking, 20 different movie\album release schedules for each targeted global market, "and each of you will wait your turn"), are not only biting the hand that feeds them, they are downloading the food and eating it without cutlery or a garnish. As has been said many times before, post-Napster for instance, don't be scared "big companies", embrace the new demands of your market and adapt to them. My 2 cents worth: pay the actors less; produce the film for less; make it available without all the razzle dazzle and waste on promotion. Skip ALL of that and you have a product which is agile: better value for money and delivered when the customer wants it.

Hugh Jackman gets $20 million a film. He's already earned enough to support him and his family very comfortably for the rest of his life. The person who leaked the film could potentially face a custodial sentence lasting a year or more. If you think this is just, you are an idiot.

Peace homies!!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It's just, literally, occurred to me for no good reason that for some years now I have been selfishly harbouring the ultimate (ie most reliable) cure for the human hiccups. As you can well understand, there are certain things that must be in the public domain for the good of humanity and this I believe is one of them. So, without further ado (although I may have already used too much "ado") I will now divulge all.

If you are currently hiccupping or have performed one or more of the 'build-up' hiccups\backward burps that signal a bout of looping hiccups then you are experiencing, or are about to experience, what is simply an involuntary spasming of the diaphragm. This spasming, this 'body out of kilter with itself', is the single and only cause of hiccups. Drinking a glass a water, receiving a fright or holding your breath will not reliably cure your hiccups for the simple reason that hiccups are not caused by dehydration, a deficit of anxiety, or a surfeit of oxygen*. Hiccups are a purely physiological phenomenon and as such can be treated very practically, thus:

1. Inhale a lung-full of air (a proper, deep, lung-full) and hold it.
2. Simultaneously tense your stomach (abdominal) muscles and crunch your torso down onto your diaphragm. You may find it useful to hunch your shoulders forward and down slightly as you do so.
3. Continue to hold your breath, tense your abdomen and compress your diaphragm all at the same time for as long as you can - about 30 to 40 seconds should do it.

To use an analogy, what you are doing in effect is trying to hold with both hands the jumping frog that is your hiccupping diaphragm. Once you restrict the frog's movement and ability to jump, you will have brought the diaphragm back under the unconscious control of your body and brain and the hiccupping will cease.

Now, after this 30 to 40 second routine, as long as you don't pass out, pop an eye vein or tear a muscle somewhere, your hiccups should be gone. Simples.

Whilst writing this I had a quick scout on the net, and there are some seriously idiotic methods folks have suggested to cure hiccups, including "pressure on the eyeballs, traction on the tongue and inducing vomiting". I have actually had the bilious misfortune to vomit whilst hiccupping and it wasn't pleasant.
More importantly it did not stop me from hiccupping. Pushing your eyeballs and pulling your tongue sounds equally unpleasant and I wouldn't bother with either of those suggestions. My method works because the solution relies on you controlling the rogue element in your body by your own means. Don't trust the interweb quacks: trust me, I'm a doctor.

*I realise that some of you may be trying to argue (I can't hear you by the way) that those classic remedies I listed (not the eye-gouging, tongue twisting, sick-up ones) all attempt, in a very vague way, to also address the spasming diaphragm. However, to use my amphibious analogy a second time, this would be like trying gingerly to contain a jumping frog using one hand and then leaping and yelping a lot when it touches your skin, allowing it to continue on it's jumping rampage. Actually, that might also be quite a good hiccup cure in itself. I'll get back to you on that one.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Q. When will avian flu and swine flu combine into a more virulent strain?
A. When pigs can fly.

They're great aren't they, topical jokes? Seriously though, we had a bit of a scare with Toby this morning. He woke up claiming to feel really ill. We thought he was telling porkies, but then he came out in all these rashers. Luckily the doctor gave us some oinkment.

It really is no joking matter though (as those monumentally poor attempts at humour clearly illustrate). But I don't just mean the main flu situation, I mean the media coverage. Feverish is the word is it not? I mean come on, let's have some restraint; calmness; perspective; purlease. From the reams of printed matter and gigs of webspace already devoted to this latest "threat to the world" I have been able to discern that, at a personal level, there probably is something to be concerned about (and probably something to take action about) once it reaches your local community. Then you take the commonsense prevention measures that haven't really changed in the last 100 years or so, with the exception that you now also line the white-coat pockets (again) of Big Pharma by taking the Tamiflu\Relenza drug. But to be honest, as a fit and healthy 38 year old male citizen of the United Kingdom, with all that that affords me, I'm in a better position than the majority of the people in this world likely to be infected by flu, and I would prefer that the UK government gave my course of flu drugs to someone that needs it, i.e the third-world population that are destined to be most hit by this latest outbreak. When I say "hit" I am of course using it as a euphemism for decimated; man, woman and child (and pig).

If "we" want to do something about the pandemic, then let's get internationally co-operating and send drugs, not reporters, to the exposed and vulnerable countries NOW. At this rate there's a 100% certainty that I'll be sick of the press and TV hyper-panic long before I get sick from any kind of flu.

There was an excellent article from Deborah Orr in The Independent and also one from Ben Goldacre in The Guardian, which, although seem to be at odds with each other, sum up pretty much my views on this entire phenomenon. Nuff said.

I'll take this opportunity now to publicly coin my oft muttered idiom, "Nothing ever happens" so that we can then revisit this topic in a year's time to determine if anything really did happen. Which brings me, via Del Amitri (yes I know), to my latest Spotify playlist, "The Antidote to the Swine Flu Fever" by themightyflu.

Hot Chocolate – It Started With A Kiss
Them – Gloria [
Explanation - it started supposedly in La Gloria, Mexico]
Pigbag – Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
Tori Amos – Caught a Lite Sneeze
George Benson – Shiver
The Smiths – Panic
Public Enemy – Don’t Believe the Hype
The Coral – Pass It On
Electric Light Orchestra – All Over the World
Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens

The soundtrack to "parmageddon" (credit to Ben Goldacre)? You decide.

Enjoy, carriers.