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A day in the life

7 December, 2010

Live for the second

In very cold weather, it's difficult to heat my house beyond 12°C, so a hot shower is the most pleasant place to be, other than bed.

9 November, 2010


In my new job*, I'm now paying more in National Insurance than I received as a PhD student (admittededly rather a long time ago).  Seems fair, I suppose.

30 June, 2010

With a bump

Whilst I'm writing or editing code, it can be a little disorientating to be forced back into the real world by a phone call.

Doubly so when the caller asks me to confirm that I'm willing to pay import duty on steampunk caffeine molecules.

21 May, 2010

It's not as if I baked a cake

One day this week (not today) was roughly my half-birthday: the same day of the month as my full birthday, but six months away.  I've never bothered to work out the more precise date.

22 March, 2010


It requires a very special skill to visit the kitchen to make a cup of tea then return with a cup containing no tea.

17 February, 2010

Should have taken a frying pan and a day off work

For Shrove Tuesday, there was a pancake stall in the square outside my building yesterday.  I didn't visit it myself, as I'd already seen it in town at the weekend, charging 2 per pancake – an incredible price for 1/3 egg and a little flour & milk.

26 January, 2010


That was uncomfortable.  An ex-colleague called into the office a few minutes ago, and stopped to talk whilst waiting for an appointment.  It was, in theory, a great opportunity to catch up on life events, including a little office gossip (not that I occupy a gossipy environment, very thankfully).

9 January, 2010

That time again

Visiting at ~16:45 probably didn't help, but Sainsbury's was very short of fresh produce this evening: no eggs, and only about a quarter of the normal array of vegetables.  No onions; anyone would think the ground's frozen, or something.

4 January, 2010

Oh yeah...

Re-reading that last entry made me realise it's probably a little cryptic, as I haven't said what the "events since mid-November" have actually been.

21 December, 2009

That's sad

Seeing a student cut a stylised heart into undisturbed snow made me smile this morning.

9 December, 2009

Well, well

Who knew that the Fire Service has its own hydrant maintenance staff?  I'd presumed that was the responsibility of the local council.

25 November, 2009

Taking the hint

When even my dentist's receptionist thinks I look unwell and unhappy, There Must Be Change.

22 October, 2009

Performing beyond the call of possibility

We have new – fresh; vigorous; insightful – members of senior management at work, who are setting Key Performance Indicators in order to quantify their impact on us drones, who are plainly incapable of prioritising our own workloads.

7 August, 2009


Why is the University being repeatedly overflown by Apache attack helicopters today?

29 June, 2009

Different world

A Saturday evening/Sunday spent in Borrowdale with close friends is a very long way from a Monday morning in the office with, well, colleagues.  And I don't mean 120 km by road.

Must do the former more often.

19 June, 2009

Not in a good mood

This morning's 2½-hour meeting with consultants discussed "going forwards" (a phrase I've managed to avoid being inflicted on me until today) at extreme length but failed to reach any conclusions about how to proceed.  Going forwards.

28 April, 2009


Apparently we experienced an earthquake this morning; 3.7 in Ulverston at 11:20.

28 March, 2009

My head is evaporating

Whose foolish idea was menthol shampoo?

24 March, 2009

Cry for help

This morning, I dropped a banana into my bag, for elevenses.

17 March, 2009

Easily pleased

It seems I was quoted in the Guardian this week.

13 January, 2009

Gazelles on ice

If my walk across Alex Square during the lunch rush hour was an adequate sample, it seems platform stiletto shoes are in fashion amongst our students.  As an observer: great.

6 January, 2009

Okay; it's cold

I don't recall breath leaving frost on my beard before, at least not in the UK.

24 December, 2008


My mother owns an aromatherapy CD.

How does that work, then?

18 December, 2008

How do people live this way?

I know a lot of people have to be accustomed to routinely traveling to work in darkness on winter mornings, but I don't, so arriving at 07:30 was a real shock this morning.

30 November, 2008

Road to Hell

Seen on the side of a garage's courtesy car: "Taking you to a better place".

19 November, 2008

Not rocket science

Another 'refinement' of the working environment introduced when we moved into an open-plan office was that the cleaners no longer empty the bin by each desk.  Instead, we use our individual bins as required, then empty them ourselves into larger communal bins, sorting the contents as confidential paper, ordinary paper, and 'general' waste.

16 November, 2008


You may have noticed that I don't like advertisements, but even someone more charitable than me would have to question the logic of posting a flyer through the letterbox of a pebble-dashed house on behalf of a brickwork-sandblasting firm.

Not the best advert for the marketing/delivery service....

5 November, 2008

Goes without saying

A local hire firm offers 'practical' vans.

Damn.  I was particularly looking for something impractical, one metre long with triangular wheels and icing-sugar bodywork.

24 October, 2008

Commitment matters

... though it may have been going a bit far to have declined dental anaesthetic this morning in order to be able to speak at a meeting this afternoon.


17 October, 2008

Yeah; it says here...

"I'm pretty good at separating online time from 'real life'."

Mostly.  However, I have noticed a change since upgrading to broadband at home: whenever I'm on the phone to friends or family, I routinely have Firefox open to check details of whatever we're discussing.

9 October, 2008

Follow instructions

Why is it that whenever I pass the 'Press Office' sign I get a barely-controllable urge to prod and squeeze everything?

1 October, 2008

Out! Now! (Pardon?)

When I was a young child, my father took me to an airshow.  I suspect he was disappointed that my response to a jet engine was to scream and cover my ears, but as proud mothers do, mine took it as evidence that I have 'special' hearing.  I don't think I do; I have problems isolating a particular voice in a room full of noisy conversations, such as in a pub, but otherwise I'm probably normal.

27 September, 2008

Dry lunch

It takes a certain single-mindedness to go out for bread, milk & cheese and return with bread and tomatoes.

26 September, 2008

Nearly a million items

It's great to have access to a university library; pointless if one's interests extend no further than the latest airport bestseller but invaluable to anyone, say, researching local history/geography for photo captions.

24 September, 2008

The zen of e-mail maintenance

I have achieved purity: I've sent an e-mail which, in context and with full justification, contained no text whatsoever.

22 September, 2008

The personnel touch

If an e-mail states that I'm "personally invited to a Health Promotion event for staff", shouldn't it be addressed to someone other than 'Dear Colleague'?

20 September, 2008

Ah; the smell of the countryside

Just to kill any romantic stereotypes: whilst out in very rural North Lancashire today, I passed three different quaint hill farms absolutely reeking of burning plastic.

Environmental standards?  What environmental standards?

5 September, 2008

Audience with La Princesse

Off to see a spider.  Back soon.

26 August, 2008

What else did I miss?

Hmm.  It seems that there's been some sort of sporting event in China recently, of which I saw a total of ~40 seconds.  I can respect the achievements, and that this was the culmination of many people's careers, but I'm afraid I'm just not interested in watching.

20 August, 2008

Nice stripes; pity about the colour

Today is Wednesday: lawn-mowing day for my employer's Estates division.  Never mind that we've experienced (extremely) heavy rain recently, and mowers will rip wet grass out of the ground rather than cleanly cut it: lawns must be mowed on mowing day.
It's like the Somme out there.

13 August, 2008

Last look...

View from my office window, County South, Lancaster University, UK. ©NRT

When I moved into this temporary office last year, I was concerned about the surrounding relatively tall buildings blocking sight of the surrounding countryside, but the grassed quad hasn't felt oppressive, as the large weeping willow has been a pleasant feature and a break in the southern side introduces plenty of light.  I've seen a lot of this sky!

Yet another reason to regret having to move back into my refurbished, open-plan permanent office, in a noisier part of the campus, in a couple of weeks....

Click the image for an enlargement.

7 August, 2008

Perfect audience

Whilst collecting this morning's post, I noticed that the porter was reading a garish website about 'dramatic weight loss'.  When I politely enquired why that'd so fascinate a small, wiry, near-pensioner, he replied that "it just popped up, so I thought it was important".

6 August, 2008

Cheque, please!

I've just taught a ~26-year-old colleague how to write a cheque, as he claims to have never done so before.

21 July, 2008

Just in case anyone's wondering...

... I haven't had an opportunity to update the blog for a few days, a situation which is likely to continue for another week.

Back whenever I'm able.  There Will Be Photos (eventually...).

2 July, 2008

Frame of reference

I suppose that for most people, 'Web' is a sensible 'Subject:' for an e-mail relating to maintenance of a website.

1 July, 2008

Career? What career?

How did I reach a position to be receiving .pdfs entitled 'Cupboard Drawings' and 'Tender Images' (which, disappointingly, doesn't involve fluffy kittehs)?

23 June, 2008

Faint praise?

I've been thanked for my 'inciteful' feedback on a staff survey.

12 June, 2008

Anti-Plague medication?

Yes, literally.  Doxycycline is the antibiotic-of-choice for early treatment of chlamydia, primary syphilis, anthrax and bubonic plague.

8 June, 2008


Okay; who's been rubbing raw chili into my shoulders?

3 June, 2008

Well grounded

I don't know whether many students take lucky charms into exams, but I suspect most are fairly discrete; a small teddy bear, perhaps.

3 June, 2008

Aw, bless

Overheard student:

Thursday's really busy: lecture, a meeting with [name], and then I've got to get lunch!

30 May, 2008

Feel sick...

Yesterday afternoon, a bouquet of flowers* was delivered for one of my colleagues, but he was unable to carry them home so left them in the office overnight; they're still here.
All day passers-by have been failing to pass by, instead calling in to comment on the freesias' "beautiful" fragrance.

It seems I'm the only one who thinks it's absolutely nauseating....

16 May, 2008

What just happened?

Hmm.  A couple of minutes ago I stood up to get some lunch.

Now I'm back at my desk with a cup of tea.  And no lunch.

14 May, 2008

Keep up....

I didn't think I'd ever say this, but perhaps I need a little less sleep: I'm too alert at present, and thinking quicker than I can converse.

8 May, 2008

Feeling good

I reached the office an hour late this morning, having been for a ~20 km bike ride in T-shirt & shorts, as it's a sunny day which promises to get quite hot.  I feel great.

5 May, 2008

I'll pass. No, really.

Buying a sandwich and bag of crisps from the Students' Union shop, I was offered a free bottle of water.

4 May, 2008

Attempted warning

My spellchecker 'corrected' 'worst-case scenario' to 'Worcester scenario'.

2 May, 2008

Time locked

Just for a change, I returned to my office from the postroom via the long route* this morning, passing the office & lab I occupied as a PhD student.

29 April, 2008

No fun any more

Aw....  I'm getting so good at spouting buzzwords at cold-calling CRM/CMS vendors that I totally switch off, and I didn't even enjoy totally misleading the last one.

21 April, 2008

Restraint beyond the call of duty

A colleague in Events tells me she held a door open for an elderly male dignitary on Friday, was told she was "the prettiest doorstop I've met all day" and didn't embed the door handle in his head.  Wow.

17 April, 2008


I needed to promote a lecture on 'quantum future' (?) this morning, but encountered a familiar conflict: the flyer, printed weeks ago, stated one seminar room, but the organiser's e-mail, possibly incorporating an amendment, stated a different lecture theatre.

The solution was obvious.

11 April, 2008

Would you let them in?

On my way to work this morning, I passed a van belonging to some sort of home-help, independent-living -enablement agency.  I didn't catch the name, as the slogan rather distracted me:

[Company name] – Hearing Voices

7 April, 2008

Don't ask me to talk

Why does dental anaesthetic make the affected area feel massively swollen?  Why not smaller; why any perceived change in size at all?

19 March, 2008

Neeed sleeeep...

Walking along the corridor a moment ago, I smiled at the person approaching the other side of a door wearing a 'Marbles' t-shirt*.

12 March, 2008

À Paris

Bientôt de retour.

4 March, 2008

Wake up call

Note to self: remember to close the back door before going to bed, thereby avoiding the necessity of showering in a room at 2°C.

3 March, 2008

Corporate rates

A campus-wide power cut today meant that my scheduled three-hour meeting about CRM (i.e. rather reliant on the availability of a networked PC and projection facilities) was moved to a nearby hotel.  I hadn't had an opportunity to grab any lunch, as the lack of electricity had also closed all the shops on campus, so my boss was kind enough to buy me a sandwich from the bar.

1 March, 2008

Hippies with mortgages

Traffic was rather heavy in town this afternoon, as an anti-capitalist march was criss-crossing the one-way system: a small group of campaigners in oh-so-amusing costumes were protesting against plans to open a department store in the city centre and a supermarket in Scotforth.

26 February, 2008

Hide that blimp!

I missed a meeting this morning, instead atttending one which compressed four days of work¹ into two hours².

However, I did receive the 'handout' from the first meeting, a 30-page document "to which [one of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors] spoke".  A fifty-something professor lecturing an inanimate object.  Yep; pretty normal for a university.

24 February, 2008

Wide open

In principle, it's a great idea for a website to draw on a master stylesheet and store repeatedly-used images in a common directory, but it's a bit of a bugger when one needs to design a new section from a geographical location lacking editing access to those central directories.
Hence, whilst I'd usually work at home out-of-hours (when I must, not by choice!), I've had to spend a significant chunk of the weekend at my office PC.  It's remarkably productive to work without the interruptions of colleagues, e-mail and the phone, and with the incentive of being able to go home as soon as I finish.

15 February, 2008

Lost sale

As the department's designated 'techie' (a very relative term - real techies would find my level of knowledge laughable), I've been asked to advise on ordering a new PC for a colleague.

30 January, 2008

System crash

That was a little scary.

22 January, 2008

Ooh! Flying machine!

Heh.  I suppose I have to acknowledge I live in a bit of a backwater when I wonder whether there's been a traffic accident simply because I can hear the helicopter.  The helicopter: the police helicopter, which is the only helicopter I'm likely to hear in the Lancaster area.

19 January, 2008

Chilled cheese

Why is it that a few moments after eating a piece of really good mature cheddar, I break into a cold sweat?
It's a strange sensation, like spirit alcohol evaporating off the exposed skin of my hands and forehead.

3 January, 2008

Thrill of the chase

I'll be travelling back up country with my mother tomorrow, from Devon to her home in North Wales.  Neither of us will fancy cooking after a ~7 hour drive, so she's saved a voucher for a free meal from a certain chain of roadside diners.
I don't particularly like fast food, but it'll do.

21 December, 2007

Don't see that every night

I don't know who was more startled, the 'large cat' I spotted on my yard wall so went out to scare away, or the fox that it turned out to be.

22 November, 2007

Sic transit

Well, that's it.  Everything in my office, from the PC to the wastepaper bin to the cleaner trying to empty it (it was a joke, okay?) has been labelled for the removal men and I'm going home for the rest of the week.  Publications has left the building.

19 November, 2007

A true manager

This morning, I woke instantly, from fast asleep to rigidly anxious in an almost audible rush of adrenaline.

16 November, 2007

Gregg'd again

I suppose it's good for departmental cohesion that there's a baker on campus, but the staff are useless.  Yet again, an order for eight individual cakes has produced a bag of seven items, two of them not the ones requested.

Still, better than having to make my own, I suppose.

12 November, 2007


Seen in the University's internal e-mail 'newsletter':

WANTED: Flemish / Shepherd's / Other Bagpipes: instrument, information, tuition.
Please contact [snipped].
Is that a small ad, or statutory warning?

12 November, 2007

Thought it was too cheap

I'm not entirely sure why I'm advertising my foolishness, but thinking I was ordering Wong Kar Wai's 1995 film 'Fallen Angels' from Amazon, I've accidentally bought some straight-to-video slasher-horror film by the same name.

24 October, 2007

Tender memories

Incredulity overheard in Alex Square:

"Apparently, there used to be pound notes."

19 October, 2007

Rumblings of discontent

Remember I mentioned being asked about availability for the staff chrismas meal?  It seems twelve people (of twenty or so) have declined to attend.

Yay!  Morale!

4 October, 2007

News is free

A couple of minutes ago, I was stopped in Alex Square by someone wishing to sell me a cut-price subscription to The Guardian.

Pay for the newspaper, whilst the website offers the same content?  Are you mad, sir?

3 October, 2007

False start

I tried to book a place on a staff development course this morning, entitled 'Running Successful Projects'.

27 September, 2007

Curtains for me

Sometimes my job seems a little random.

26 September, 2007

Cutting it fine

When it's brilliantly sunny outside and the trees still have most of their leaves, it seems strange to receive an e-mail investigating availability for the work christmas meal.

24 September, 2007

Black spot

I can report that according to the Ministry Pollution Index (determined by blowing my nose after a day in a city) the air quality in Central London (particulates, anyway) is comparable to that of Prague, and worse than Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Wien, Venezia, Liverpool and Manchester, amongst others; even worse than Warszawa and New York.

24 September, 2007

The morning found me miles away

I couldn't have planned this even if I'd thought to....

20 September, 2007

Sky falling!

The price of milk on campus has increased!
It's surprisingly unsettling when things like that happen.

18 September, 2007


I don't have a particularly fatty diet, but as I've described before, every few months my body decides it needs a minor binge, and I feel the urge for a traditional 'cooked breakfast' (as an evening meal): bacon, sausages, a fried tomato and baked beans.  I occasionally add a slice of black pudding, but never, ever, under any circumstances, an egg.  That'd totally ruin it.

6 September, 2007

Guten Morgen, Wien

I feel the urge for apfelstrudel, perhaps even a little chocolate torte.

Back soon.

5 September, 2007

Fancy, that

Thirty years ago, if I took sandwiches to school, it's likely that they'd have contained cheese¹ & tomato, probably enlivened by a little black pepper.
It suddenly struck me that today's equivalent would have been inconceivable in 1977.

29 August, 2007

Not yet!

It seems this year's non-Summer has confused the trees, too.  Cycling home from work a few minutes ago (yes, at 20:00; don't ask), I noticed an alarming amount of red and yellow at the tips of several branches, especially of sycamores.

It's only August, but it looks as if the leaves will be falling within a couple of weeks.

29 August, 2007

What am I supposed to do with that?

This is hardly a novel complaint, but isn't it annoying when a colleague hands one a sheet of typed text, asking for it to be "put on the web"?  The text has obviously been typed, almost certainly using a computer, yet somehow it's considered sensible to print it out and make one retype it, and somehow it's considered "obstructive" to request an electronic copy.

27 August, 2007

You can say that again

I'm regularly relieved to be required to report in writing.  Inadvertently composed whilst proofing:
"Redundant.  A resident Residence Officer obviously resides officially."

22 August, 2007

Beyond marketing

I spent an hour or so this morning touring the College's residences, as I need a few photos for the website.  My first act on completion was to thoroughly wash my hands.  If the corridors smell of vegetable oil, socks and even (in one instance) damp, what's coating the door handles, light switches, etc.?  Ew.

19 August, 2007

Culinary advice

Roll-mop herrings: filleted fish rolled around slices of onion and pickled in sweet vinegar.  Yum.

16 July, 2007

Pressures of work

Dunno when, or indeed if, I'm going to find time to post anything here this week, so don't worry if it all seems to go quiet.

24 June, 2007

New & improved

Label on washing tablets: "New, Effective Formula!"

Not a great advert for the previous formula – it sounds as if an apology to earlier customers might be appropriate.

8 June, 2007


If you give a colleague a lift to work, that's great.

6 June, 2007

Discoveries of the day

  • Ingleton, North Yorkshire, a major focus (if not the major focus) of caving in the UK, is not named in Google Maps, at any zoom level.  The streets and buildings are shown, but the settlement isn't named.  Search for 'Ingleton' and you'll get a tiny hamlet in Co. Durham.

23 May, 2007

As confirmed by a University spokesperson...

Oh dear.

As I write, my colleague, a clerical assistant working on (print format) promotional publications, is fielding a random phone call from a person wanting her to endorse his solution to global warming.

17 May, 2007

Cosmologist's apostrophe

Occasionally, I receive reminders that I work at a prestigious research-led university.
Subtle indications, like the return address on an internal mail envelope being ' [NAME], Physic's'.

14 May, 2007

Get on with it

Ever find the world is moving too slowly?

24 April, 2007

This means you

It seemed a little gratuitous to mention it here, but a student was run-over by a truck yesterday afternoon, right outside my window.  The scream was memorable.

15 April, 2007

Not exactly summer

But I have seen my first Swallow of the year, near Ingleton, N.Yorkshire.

13 April, 2007

Work to live, right?

Going to bed last night and waking this morning, I had every intention of skipping work today and going for a walk in the Lakes – the Langdale Pikes, maybe Bow Fell.  I'd catch up work tomorrow (Saturday), of course.

27 March, 2007

Grazie, Venezia, e buona notte

I'm back (obviously).

More in a later entry, perhaps, but in short: if you haven't visited Venice, do so.  Highly recommended.

22 March, 2007

Fino a Martedì

Off to Venice for the weekend.

I've heard the streets can be a bit damp, so I'd better pump up my bike tyres as far as they'll go, and mustn't forget to keep pedalling.

20 March, 2007

But how...?

A sign on the photocopier says it's out of order.

The sign itself is a photocopy.

20 February, 2007


Ever dropped small change into the thigh pocket of a pair of combats, then realised one isn't actually wearing combats that day?

Ahem.  No, nor me.  No-one saw anything.  Didn't happen.

18 February, 2007

Scenic route

I was considering a bike ride in the Yorkshire Dales this morning, and in order to eliminate the 15-20 mile lead-in (just getting to the Dales, before starting the 'proper' ride), I checked the train timetable.
Great; there was a train to Bentham, leaving at 10:20, arriving at... 16:59?  That's 6:39 hours for a 30-35 minute route!

16 February, 2007

You think you know people

... then discover that an ex-colleague, a senior psychologist, has thrown himself off a cliff in Hawaii.

8 February, 2007

Is it 18:00 yet?

Yep, that's my work ethic.

Well, maybe just at the moment.

26 January, 2007

Not one I'd have chosen

Ever heard of someone naming a baby girl 'Trinity' (in the UK)?

Now I have.

20 January, 2007

Improbable wounds no.1

How the **** have I managed to slice the tips of two fingers with a chicken?

7 January, 2007

It's my cinema; mine, I tell you

Wow.  Considering the films I normally watch at The Dukes tend to attract single-figure audiences, it's great to see a long queue outside the cinema less than five minutes before the scheduled start time.  It's especially impressive for a film in Spanish.

30 December, 2006


Message displayed by my bank's cashtill before I inserted my card:

Ask about our gift vouchers!

29 December, 2006

Taste explosion

A crescent of melon, sliced into bite-sized segments is very familiar, so imagine my reaction when it turned out to be pineapple.
I think that was deliberate – my 'compliments' to the chef. ;)

28 December, 2006

Mildly traumatised

It would be appreciated if everyone could avoid use of the word 'Next' for a few days.

Thank you for your consideration.

26 December, 2006

Extracting the digit

A couple of months ago, I bought a Freeview digital TV receiver (set-top box) for my mother's birthday.  There was a complication in connecting it to the existing network of TV, VCR and DVD Recorder, so I left the final configuration to my mother's partner, a self-defined enthusiast.

22 December, 2006

Kids today

Just seen: a skirt (or was it a belt?) which I genuinely, literally, not at all metaphorically, couldn't distinguish from a belt (or was it a skirt?).

Worn with leggings, thankfully.

21 December, 2006

I remember that...

Wow.  A sunset.  Haven't seen one of those for weeks.

20 December, 2006

What can I say?

Is it only me who finds it difficult to hold a neutral, unrevealing conversation about leather and garters with my (female, attractive) line manager?

18 December, 2006

Conflict of cultures

An admin officer has instructed a cleaner to wash the, admittedly very dusty, main stairs in my building, so now they're thoroughly wet just as the contractors are bringing in sacks of cement.  It could be plaster, I suppose, but whatever; it's something powdery which will react with water to leave a rather persistent residue.

15 December, 2006

See-through shirt

I spend too much time in Photoshop.

11 December, 2006

Safety check, my arse.

About a week ago, I received a letter from my gas supplier, informing me that an engineer would need to visit my home in order to conduct a vital safety check, in accordance with the company's statutory responsibilities.

8 December, 2006

CSI Bailrigg

Something odd seen whilst cycling to work this morning: a man who had been raking dead leaves before stopping to comfort a small child screaming in terror or shock, the whole little tableau accompanied by a smell of death* distinct from even 20 m away.

5 December, 2006

Forward planning

Just noticed that my boss has a box file on her shelf, labeled:


2 December, 2006

Living dangerously

I've just made a cup of English Breakfast tea, at 19:56 in the evening.

I'm a rebel, me.

29 November, 2006


Notice circulated to staff a couple of minutes ago:

There is a sign on the toilet doors saying they are closed but the men working in there will come out if anyone wants to use them.

24 November, 2006

Trying to tell me something?

A cold-caller has just tried to persuade me, nominally a graphic/web designer, to take a Photoshop training course.

At least I think it was an unsolicited call....

15 November, 2006

Engage autosave

A notification has been circulated, telling us that there'll be an electrical shutdown on Saturday for the installation of new connections.  It advises staff to "save all work/documents before leaving their offices on Friday".
Do people really leave files unsaved and open all weekend?

10 November, 2006

Incommunicado, okay?

Given that I worked from home today specifically to escape the phone, e-mail and chatty colleagues, it's a little disappointing to have spent at least 75 minutes on work-related e-mails.

I've had enough.  Time for a pint*.

8 November, 2006

Pattern recognition

I visited J & F for a meal last night, and happened to notice a pot of Marmite on a kitchen shelf, next to a jar of vegetable bouillion *.

5 November, 2006

Something I like about the Gregson

Well, there are several things I like about Lancaster's Gregson Centre, but the one I want to mention is this: after spending over an hour there last night, my clothes smell faintly of fried food.

2 November, 2006

My left foot is ticking

Most disconcerting....

28 October, 2006


I stopped sleeping with the windows open a couple of weeks ago when I was ill, but for no real reason, I'd been trying to manage without central heating until the start of November.

25 October, 2006

Business or pleasure?

J. has rung in sick, reporting he's in bed with a 'chesty cough'.

Or did he say 'tasty Goth'?

24 October, 2006

It's here

Condensation on my bedroom window; visible breath whilst cycling; the first frost melting in watery sunshine: the weather's on the change.

18 October, 2006

Geese getting fat yet?

How can one make a precise menu selection for the 'work' christmas meal two full months before the event?  I don't even know what to have for lunch today!

12 October, 2006

Cycling with sheep

Cycle commuters in real urban centres like Manchester and Leeds might face tougher traffic conditions than in sleepy little Lancaster, but at least they don't have to share road space with truckloads of sheep* on their way to the livestock market.

9 October, 2006

I'm meltiiiing...

The Michelmas (autumn) term has begun so, by definition, the University's central heating has been turned on, irrespective of whether the weather demands it.  That's routine, and not worth questioning; at least individual radiators can be turned down/off (well, those with functioning valves, anyway).

5 October, 2006

Hair today

I've just realised that it's fifteen years, perhaps to the week, since my last real haircut i.e. by a professional hairdresser rather than merely the ends being tidied by friends/family.
I'd have thought it'd be longer by now.  It's still going strong, though, so I'm not complaining!

4 October, 2006

Fr. Malaprop

A certain office colleague is completing a dental registration form, and has stated his occupation as 'cleric'.  He's a clerk.

Near enough....

25 September, 2006

Aisles decked

It's the moment for which you've all been waiting: the Sainsbury's christmas stock is now on the shelves.

24 September, 2006

Momentarily vacant

Have you ever taken a bunch of keys from your pocket and, just for a moment, wondered not which key you need but what these odd metal things actually are?

13 September, 2006

In a world of my own

Update on the noisy office environment: acknowledging that, as Tim suggested, my employers were in breach of health & safety regulations, we've now been issued with proper ear defenders.

11 September, 2006

Drowning out Opeth

ARGH!  THE CONTRACTORS ARE (ah; it's stopped) using a pneumatic drill inside thE BUILDING (bugger!)!

8 September, 2006

What disruption?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my office building is being remodelled, which has involved extensive demolition.  One entire corner has gone, as have all internal walls on 1½ floors (one entire floor and one wing of the next floor).
I had presumed that was the noisy phase of the work finished, but an admin officer has just gone door-to-door officially issuing earplugs....

3 September, 2006


If there's a worse sound to hear whilst dismantling a vacuum cleaner than 'ping!', accompanied by a half-seen flash of something tiny, metallic and airborne, I'm almost glad I don't know it.

21 August, 2006

Need fresh air

Following a delivery this morning, I'm now sharing an office with 26,400 campus maps, nominally a year's supply (not counting dedicated recruitment departments).

16 August, 2006

Don't you DARE

This is just about the most intense week of my working year: Clearing, whereby school-leavers who didn't quite make their grades (or, indeed, did better than anticipated) scrabble around for the remaining places on University courses.  I've already spent two 12-hour+ days on it this week, and the prospective students don't even get their 'A'-Level results until tomorrow.

9 August, 2006

In remission

Stop panicking, everyone!  I know you've all been deeply concerned, and thanks for the kind expressions of your condolences, but my vacuum cleaner hasn't burned-out, after all.

It seems it merely got a little overheated and needed a good night's rest.

5 August, 2006

A better class of fool

Amazon DVD Rental is foolproof (no, this isn't an advert).

22 July, 2006

Bis später

Off to Berlin.

Back soon.

19 July, 2006


The current UK heatwave is rather too obvious a topic to write about.  It's hot, but considerably less humid than last month's heatwave (30-40% rather than 70-80%) so I'm finding it less oppressive.  'Nuff said.

10 July, 2006

Couldn't make it up

J. is out at a staff development course today, but popped in briefly to check his e-mail in the lunch break.  He tells me he was the only one who bothered to turn up for the first session, on... motivational techniques.

7 July, 2006


Whoa.  I had a broken wisdom tooth removed a few minutes ago.  Obviously, local anaesthetic numbed the roof of my mouth, but it feels totally absent.  If I raise my tongue, it's as if it's exploring a void extending up into my cranium.  Very odd.

5 July, 2006

Hot little hands

I suppose it has to be classified as a 'heatwave' when one consciously alters one's routes around campus to avoid sweaty well-used door handles.

It's not pleasant.

4 July, 2006

Small, or far away?

So that's why it's so hot at present: the sun is particularly far away.  The Earth was at its aphelion (furthest point on our eliptical orbit around the Sun) yesterday and today.

4 July, 2006

Weird country

28°C indoors at 03:18.  Can't sleep*.

Yet in the very same room I sometimes wake with a sore throat in winter, from breathing air that drops below 0°C.

1 July, 2006

All mine

I spent the two hours between 16:00 & 18:00 in the garden, reading*.

When I say 'the garden', I mean Williamson Park, as that's how I treat it.  I can almost always find a quiet corner and reasonable privacy (not quite enough for nude sunbathing, but the world isn't ready for that gross horror and net increase in global albedo anyway).

29 June, 2006


I think I'm finally being assimilated into the management culture.  I've just sent out what amounts to an invitation to a meeting about meeting, and in context, that seems to make perfect sense.

28 June, 2006


E-mail .sig of a Green activist who keeps sp*mming an internal newsgroup at the University:

26 June, 2006

Bitten the bullet

At long last, I have a dentist.

25 June, 2006

There they are!

I don't often lose things (thereby guaranteeing I will now), so it was a surprise when I mislaid my sunglasses a few weeks ago.  I searched everywhere, both at home and at work, and finally concluded they were permanently gone.

21 June, 2006

Impulse buy

When I bought my first PC in 1993 or '94, it was a big deal: too expensive to pay-off all at once and since I was a student, my credit rating was insufficient for the finance agreement.  In effect, my mother bought me a PC, and I paid her each month.
Buying my second PC, in 2001, was a shocking anticlimax.  It was almost too easy to buy by debit card, and my immediate reaction was 'is that it?'.  Weird feeling.

14 June, 2006

Away again

Off to Bath shortly.  No, not to bathe – I already did that this year; I'm going to the city of Bath (~5 hours away by train), to attend a conference promoting many of the things I like least about contemporary web admin.
Openness.  Collaboration.  Stuff like that.  Mustn't rant... mustn't rant....

Back soon (not soon enough for me...).

12 June, 2006


I can confirm from personal experience that Madrid does indeed exist, and seems to be thriving.

9 June, 2006

Hasta pronto

Slightly later than expected, I'm off to Madrid.

Back soon.

1 June, 2006

Eh? Eh?

Ugh.  It's been a **** of a morning, and it's still only 10:35.  A punctured tyre is never a good start, and I don't enjoy gathering evidence for a lawsuit against a student, but the infuriating issue is J's ears.

26 May, 2006

Extended support

I was in late this morning, so J. took a phone message for me.  Someone had called from Kraków, wanting help with her laptop.  That's Kraków, Poland, ~1,700km (~1,000 miles) from Lancaster.  Unfortunately, it was sufficiently unusual that J. presumed I'd know all about it, so he didn't bother to take a name or contact details (grrr...).

13 May, 2006


I certainly don't define myself by my job and salary (and polite Brits Don't Talk About Money), but I was still a little startled to discover my mother thought I was earning fully £10,000 (~$18,500) less than I actually do.

It makes me wonder whether she has any idea what I do....

8 May, 2006

Morning pun

Cycling to work this morning, I was overtaken by an van.  Text on the sides and back informed me that it was the company vehicle of a dog-walking service offering a 'four-sprung paw technique'.  Oh dear....

5 May, 2006

Or lipread

I wonder how common this is:
Person A: standing outside a fish & chip shop, with a mobile phone and a dog on a lead.
Person B: standing inside the shop, waiting for her order and on the phone... to Person A.

28 April, 2006

Time & place

I find it mildly objectionable to be approached in the street by those collecting for charity, and almost always decline, irrespective of the cause, but there's something downright offensive and invasive about a collector (a total stranger, not a colleague) going office-to-office in my place of work.

21 April, 2006

Off t'Lakes

Last December, my Lancaster friends and I decided that rather than conform to society's petty rituals and buy one another presents for the meaningless festival of a religion none of us practices, we'd combine our finances and rent a house for a collective holiday later in the year.  It was an excellent idea, and has just come to fruition.

21 April, 2006

Influence is spreading

I wear black – only black – to work, of course, as did (does?) H. (Calephetos, not Helen, though she certainly does too).  L. seems to wear the colour more often than she did, and she seems to have a tendency to recruit people who routinely wear black.  J., er, has a black sweater.

14 April, 2006

Creative description

Having completed a long bike ride without having eaten enough beforehand, I was rather desperate when I passed the Booth's supermarket in Windermere, so bought a bottle of Coke and an individually-wrapped slice of chocolate cake "like Granny used to make", according to the label.

13 April, 2006

Unlucky black shirt

I bought a new T-shirt earlier in the week*, and wore it for the first time today.  I suspect it's going to be unlucky.

3 April, 2006

Spring indicated

Forgot to say: I saw my first swallow (the bird, Hirundo rustica, not the act of ingestion) of 2006 on Saturday, failing to catch insects above the flooded Halton Weir.  It, not me.  I mean the swallow was failing to catch insects, not me; I wasn't flooded, either.  I've lost control of this paragraph, haven't I?  Better stop....

23 March, 2006

One of those evenings

It's 21:31, and my long-distance counsellor and I have finished deconstructing my particularly long day interviewing web consultants (i.e. Helen took a while to talk me down), so I'd better get round to considering an evening meal.

18 March, 2006

I feel great

You wouldn't believe how therapeutic it is to totally destroy a dead (computer!) mouse.  To place it on a concrete floor and literally jump on it with the full force of ~70kg in size 10 para boots.  I'd already removed the ball, so it flattened wonderfully.

Again!  Again!

13 March, 2006

Shut... up...

I'm employed as a web designer/administrator, which means that to a certain extent, I'm paid for my thoughts.  It's more than possible for me to be fully absorbed in work when I don't actually have my hands on the keyboard.
That, plus the fact that I dislike small talk, means that when some... clerical assistant asks whether I "did anything at the weekend", it's disproportionately annoying.

3 March, 2006

Gothically invalid weather

Yep; we experienced a 20-min blizzard about an hour ago, so everything's white.  It seems to be starting again as I type.

27 February, 2006

Getting colder, and boiling

I haven't had an especial reason to mention it, but I have a slight cold: blocked nose, sore throat, occasional slight feverishness; uncomfortable but trivial.  I'd thought a cold could be expected to last about ten days, so considering this is the ninth day I've had symptoms, it should be almost over.  Then why am I beginning to develop a slight cough, and don't feel better?

23 February, 2006

Life's grate

Every couple of weeks, I see a certain person around campus.  I think he's a retired academic, perhaps even a professor emeritus (old joke: 'e' means 'out'; 'meritus' means 'deservedly').  He's certainly a little 'unworldly', shambling around in a mismatched tweed suit, cycle clips and trilby hat.  The main reason I notice him is that he has a habit of starting loud, jolly conversations with random strangers in the cashtill queue, in front of the sandwich counter in Spar, or even just walking across Alex Square.

22 February, 2006


This blogging thing, i.e. posting links to and commenting on discoveries made on the web, seems to be rubbing off into 'real life'.

18 February, 2006

Retailers' logic

For reasons I won't elaborate, I need to buy ~500g of suet (the hard fat from around a cow's kidneys).  It also needs to be in 'factory-sealed' packets, so I can't buy fresh, from my local butcher.  I've tried Sainsbury's three times, but although I've found that location on the shelves, it's empty.

13 February, 2006

Lazy Sunday

In describing my day to Andy yesterday, I said that I'd overslept1, read a book2, processed some photos3, had some lunch4, watched a film5 then visited him and Alizon for a meal6.

6 February, 2006

What's it really about?

Quick!  Rush!
As I was unlocking my bike this evening, I noticed a poster advertising that Cartmel College is hosting a screening of England winning the 1966 football World Cup.
There's a blog posting right there, about fans' bizarre desire to cling to an event that occurred forty years ago, but I noticed something else, too.

8 January, 2006

Childhood for sale

I recently spent two almost entire days in my mother's loft, sorting through toys, books, papers and... things: tangible memories, which, since the age of about eight, I put into storage rather than discard.  A lot of time has passed since then, so I've been able to be more discerning, throwing away 3-4 bin bags of outright rubbish, putting aside 1-2 boxes of fairly tatty items for charity shops and 3-4 boxes of decent-quality books suitable for eBay.

6 January, 2006

You asked

A few minutes ago, a colleague and I were shown a potential cover design for the 2007 Undergraduate Prospectus.  Neither of us liked it, though for different reasons.  Mine was that more could have been done with the space (29x21cm, front and back) and that a key graphic element was a photographic impossibility and hence looked 'wrong'.

21 December, 2005

Look busy

Slightly odd productivity tip: miss routine meetings (not important ones, obviously).  It seems people presume you're too busy to attend, which also means they're a little more reluctant to bother you without good reason, so do more of the trivial tasks for themselves.

The fact that I am too busy isn't relevant; it's still a useful trick.

14 December, 2005

Righteous agony

After my lunch-time swim today, the inner side of my right thigh seems to have acquired an independent pulse, and my pectorals feel heavy and swollen (perhaps I shouldn't have had all that oestrogen in my tea this morning...).

But it's a good, healthy pain, right? ;)

6 December, 2005

Old hand

061205-01. © NRT, 2005Hmm.

Low winter sunlight sneaking under the blinds isn't exactly flattering, is it?

6 December, 2005


Whenever I sneeze, I almost always sneeze twice.

Isn't it oddly disappointing when, occasionally, the expected second sneeze doesn't arrive?

28 November, 2005

Dimensional warp

Maybe Amazon are beginning to run out of sensible-sized packaging in the seasonal rush.  I've just received a 30x30x0.5 cm calendar in a 53x40x12 cm box.  That even impressed the Uni. House porter.

This is three days after I also ordered a compact flash card from Amazon, as another supplier wanted to charge postage based on the memory card supposedly weighing 1 kg.

21 November, 2005

Distilled day

Why is it that when I know I have an important task to complete, so important that I clear all other responsibilities to devote a full day to uninterrupted focus, I don't actually start anything substantial until about 16:00, then barely blink until 19:30?

18 November, 2005

Play for today

Scene: quiet (but well-used) country lane, dusk.
Walking on the right edge of the road: a PEDESTRIAN.  In the left verge: a DOG.  The two are linked by an extensible dog lead, invisible in the twilight, across the full width of the road.

Enter: a CYCLIST, at speed.

16 November, 2005

Think I got away with it, pt.2

I'm still alive.

That wasn't a foregone conclusion, since I've just attained an age which my mother told me I'd never see.  Seriously.

16 November, 2005

Think I got away with it, pt.1

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and I had the office to myself (my boss is on leave, and J. had rung in 'ill' (hung over)), so on the spur of the moment, I left early and went for a bike ride.  Each time I do that (go for fairly long impromptu rides, I mean, not leave the office early), I'm mildly concerned about not carrying a bike pump or puncture kit, just in case something happens.
Well, it did.  Twenty-seven miles (43 km) into a 46-mile ride, at the highest point of the Bentham-Slaidburn pass, I suddenly had a totally flat rear tyre*.

13 November, 2005

Note to self

Don't wash all your work trousers at the same time.  If you absolutely must, Friday would be suitable.  Don't leave it until Sunday evening.


11 November, 2005

Man cannot live on cashews alone

I wonder....  Can fatigue and poor eating, and fatigue due to poor eating, and stress (causing poor eating because of the apparent imperative to get on with things rather than cook properly, or indeed at all), affect balance?  I've been stumbling and wobbling all week, and I have no idea why.

8 November, 2005

Free as in forgotten

I've just realised that I haven't received a gas bill for over six months.  I shouldn't need to request a bill, but I'd rather do that than pay a lump sum when the supplier notices.

4 November, 2005

Simple tastes

Can there be greater luxury than lying on the sofa, curled up in a duvet, with a really good cup of tea, watching Macbeth in black & white, in Japanese (Kurosawa's 'Throne Of Blood')?  Er, forget about the last bit.

Short of replacing the cup of tea with Helen (I know; it's a difficult choice), I doubt it.

2 November, 2005


I don't often fry food, but just occasionally, perhaps once every 3-4 months, I feel the urge for a 'fry-up': essentially, a British cooked breakfast, but eaten in the evening.

1 November, 2005

Beautiful morning

Ah, the pleasures of cycling to work on a crisp, sunny Autumn morning:

27 October, 2005

Parental style

Heh.  My boss' usual 'power-suit-and-stiletto-boots' image is slightly weakened by the green streaks in her hair today.  It seems she has the children for this half-term holiday....

25 October, 2005

It's who you know

Mobile phones don't really impinge on my daily life, so the novelty hasn't worn off.  A few minutes ago, I held a conversation with a roofing engineer, who was on my roof.  Heh.

24 October, 2005

Drip... drip....

Waking to the sound of heavy rain outside and water dripping onto one's bedroom ceiling isn't good, is it?

This morning was the first this year for which I'd preset the central heating to come on, so I initially tried to persuade myself that the noise was just the house creaking as it warmed.  No, that was definitely dripping.  I looked in the roof space and couldn't see daylight, but after fetching a torch, one roof beam was visibly very wet, and I could see the drips, one every ten seconds or so.

21 October, 2005

Ton of bricks time

How sensible was it to send sp*m about fake (sorry, 'non-accredited') university degrees to pretty much every member of a university's admin section?

We may be about to find out....

20 October, 2005


I'm British, and we don't like to complain (Ha!  Have you read this blog!?), but sometimes one's natural reserve is pushed that bit too far.

10 October, 2005

Nearly there?

Ten days into October, I've seen my first christmas tree of the year, in a furniture shop window.  I also saw someone in a 'santa' hat this evening, and two people in full 'santa' outfits.

Do I need to comment?

10 October, 2005

Now I need a drink

There's one problem area for a non-drinker: eating out.

Celebrating H's (not Helen; that's in May.  Different H.) birthday at an Italian restaurant this evening, everyone had a starter and main course, and 2-3 people had a dessert and coffee; no real discrepancy.  However, whilst everyone else was on wine and £2.95 bottles of beer, I was drinking tap water.

9 October, 2005

Time flies supersonic

A while (2-3 years?) ago, I recorded a film from TV, to watch later.  I did so last night: 'Kalifornia' (nothing extraordinary; not especially recommended).

What is slightly more remarkable is that an ad break in the film, broadcast on Channel 4, featured one of those 'clubbing annual' CDs, from, er, 1997.  Eight years ago.  Where did they go?

29 September, 2005

Off to Warszawa

Back soon.

14 September, 2005

The daily grind

That's the clichéd description of work, but I rarely regard it so literally (perhaps I'm fortunate).  Today has been an endless stream of hassle and argument, which has worn me down to near-vacancy.  Now I'm even reluctant to glance at anything so potentially contentious as my private e-mail.

Enough.  I'm going home, to recharge for the same again tomorrow.

13 September, 2005


"If you're not really trying, apples take a long time to eat."

Or so J. has just told me.

It can only be a profound metaphor, as I can't imagine why anyone would waste my time and attention on random, utterly banal... stuff.

10 September, 2005

Shut up until the next time

During election campaigns, all parties distribute annoying leaflets.  However, why is it that the only party to continue wasting paper by shoving self-congratulatory leaflets through my letterbox between elections is the Green Party?  Of all people, they'd claim to know better.

8 September, 2005

It burns! It burns!

Argh!  My mouth is on fire!

A while ago I noticed a TV advert for a new, citrus-flavoured variety of Listerine mouthwash, supposedly more mild-tasting than 'original' variety.
I have a damaged tooth (and no dentist) which creates a vulnerabilty to gum infection, so I occasionally need to use a mouthwash to remove trapped food and for its antiseptic effect.  I've always used supermarket own-brand mouthwashes, but I thought I'd try Listerine this time, and satisfy my curiosity about 'original' variety.

2 September, 2005

Tipping point

I thought it was just heavy clouds that were making recent evenings seem dark anomalously early, but it isn't, is it?

26 August, 2005

It was going fine, thanks

I doubt I'm the only one in a tech- or 'creative'-related job who finds it most productive to load something trance-inducing into one's mp3 player and zone-out from the world for 2-3 hours of uninterrupted concentration.

The next time a certain colleague waves at me to turn off the music so I can hear him ask "how's it going?", I'm going to rip his ****ing arm off.

12 August, 2005

No 'Fry-day'

In May, the UK Met Office's seasonal forecast suggested that July and August might be warmer than usual.  An appropriately cautious, vague statement from an experimental service suitable as a rough guide, but not definitive.

However, the tabloid newspapers took the central idea, elaborated on it (i.e. blatently invented 'facts'), and convinced the masses that today would be the hottest of the year.

10 August, 2005

Sticky mess

Has anyone else noticed that this has been an extraordinarily bad year for roadkills?  I don't think I've seen so many smears of fur at the roadside as I have within the last couple of months.  Most corpses have been rabbits, as one would expect, but the wide variety has included sparrows and other small birds, which usually tend not to be hit.

29 July, 2005

Experiment widened

Yay!  Remember I mentioned last year that a number of local education authorities were experimenting with a revised school year, and that other LEAs were likely to follow?  Lancashire just has.

Please see that earlier entry to discover why I, a non-parent, care.

23 July, 2005

T'was nothing

It's surprisingly easy to go to Sainsburys for milk, bread and cheese and return with cheese.  Only cheese.

It must be easy, as I managed it without a thought.

12 July, 2005

Wasted calls

Last Tuesday, I returned from work and noticed that my answerphone had logged a call at about 10:30, but no message, and that the number had been withheld, so I couldn't ring back.  On Wednesday, the same thing happened: an unreturnable call at about 12:30.  There was yet another on Thurday, received (or rather, not received) at ~17:15.

7 July, 2005

London bombs

I don't have much to say, really, but Sal has.

3 July, 2005

Different muscles

I can comfortably cycle 45 miles (72 km) or routinely swim a kilometre.  However, after running a mere one mile (uphill, admittedly, and in tight jeans* and para boots) last night, my legs are in agony.

Well, it surprised me, anyway.

16 June, 2005

Off to Prague

Back soon.  Play nicely.

15 June, 2005

I knew you were going to say that

I believe in telepathy.  Or rather, some means of non-verbal communication whereby one knows precisely what someone will say, a fraction of a second before he/she speaks, and which one subconsciously mirrors.

An example: I've just bought a rail ticket, and at the end of the transaction, the staff member and I said "Cheers" simultaneously.
I never say 'cheers'. It just isn't in my spoken vocabulary, and it wouldn't even occur to me to use the word.  So why did I?

12 June, 2005

Chained up

In order to wash my kitchen floor properly, I need to brush and/or vacuum away any loose dirt first.
If I'm vacuuming the kitchen, I might as well do the adjoining lobby, bathroom and living room.  I might as well do the bedroom, office and stairs, too.
However, in order to do them properly, I need to dust around first.
By the time I've dusted and vacuumed everywhere, I've lost interest and/or need to be elsewhere.

Which is why I haven't actually washed my kitchen floor for, well, weeks.  It's not pleasant.

24 May, 2005

It's raining

What use are waterproofs that get one to work warm and dry, except for a sodden area of, er, upper thigh?
Ew.  I'm going to have to stay behind my desk for an hour or so.

Speaking of floods, why is it that my mailbox contained 827 spam e-mails this morning (yes, that's since 17:30 yesterday), at least 80% of them having been caught by the server's filters, labelled as spam, then sent to my mailbox anyway?

18 May, 2005

Damn pesky kids

Sometimes paranoia can be useful.

The final section of dedicated cycle track before joining the road at Hala passes through a gap in a high hedge.  There's a bollard in the middle of the gap, preventing access by car.
On my way home this evening, I noticed that one side of the gap was totally blocked by a pile of branches and fence posts, and that a group of children ran away into the bushes as soon as I appeared.  Why were they hiding, and why was I being forced onto one side of the path?  I stopped.

17 May, 2005

On the road

Though I take it for granted too often, I do appreciate the fact that I live less than 15 minutes from work.  I may have to power the bike myself, in all weather, but a third of my route is in the countryside, and during rush hour I couldn't do it any faster by car.

It also means that on the rare occasions that I oversleep, I can be fully asleep at 08:30 but at my desk before 09:00.  Still asleep, of course.

11 May, 2005


Whatever the definition of the start of Spring, I'd say it has now reached mid-bounce.  All but the ash trees have full canopies of fresh, pale green leaves, the bluebells are out across the wooded campus margins, and I saw my first swifts of the year on Monday.  I think I heard swallows at the weekend, too.

18 April, 2005

All-seeing eye?

Via an e-mail account at work, which doesn't reveal my name (i.e. 'role@...', not 'name@...'), I've just received a personal invitation to join a freemasons' lodge in Bournemouth, UK (i.e. several hundred miles from here).

However, the sender's e-mail address ends '.mx' – Mexico.

Do you think it might be spam?

17 April, 2005

Food and drug administration

No particular comment on this Guardian article about interactions between diet and medication, which may render medical treatment less effective or even hazardous (others might make certain chemicals more beneficial, I suppose, though that'd make a less exciting mass-media story...).

Anyway, now I've effectively bookmarked it for my own future reference, and hopefully brought it to the attention of others.

[Via Spinneyhead]

15 April, 2005

Maps of toxicity

For the last three days, I've ended my working day with bloodshot, stinging eyes (my own) and somewhat reddened skin.
Returning from a meeting just now, I was struck by a strong smell of solvents in my office, and made the connection.

13 April, 2005

Operating in stereo

This is a bit of a "you had to be there" situation, but I've just caught myself using the mouse in my right hand, as usual, but with my left hand cradling my mp3 player (which is approximately the same size as the mouse) in the same pose, and mirroring all my mouse clicks on its screen.

4 April, 2005

Me'n vaig aquest matí

Off to pay homage to Catalunya.

Back soon.

30 March, 2005

Should have stayed disciplined....

A bad thing about a compulsory week off work to mark some other people's religious festival is that it obliges me to use up my annual leave at a time I wouldn't choose (i.e. when every other ****er is off work too) – see earlier rant.

A good thing about [oh, you get the idea] is that if (ha! when) insomnia hits, it doesn't matter, as I can just go with it, and sleep late the following morning.


27 March, 2005

Call me 'Joe'

Although I can't find any definitive information about it (most Google results seem to merely republish the same text from one unverified source), it seems that today is National (i.e. US) 'Joe' Day, when all those who dislike their own names may opt to be called 'Joe'.

Hi.  I'm Joe.

27 March, 2005

Why should I be affected?

It takes me eleven minutes to cycle from home, through the city centre to Sainsburys, and back, without stopping.  I know that because Sainsburys is closed today, for easter.

Bugger.  I'd thought (and hoped) the days of 'respecting' religious holidays had long gone.

20 March, 2005

Poor show

I enjoy going to the cinema – the non- 'popcorn-and-hollywood-movies' Dukes cinema, anyway – but sometimes it goes wrong, in a way TV or DVDs don't.  The massive screen and surround sound are great, but a DVD is manufactured to work perfectly every time, whereas cinema involves fallible human intervention.

16 March, 2005

Printers coming out of our ears

My department ordered a PC for a new member of staff last week.  It arrived on Monday with two extra boxes: a laser printer and an all-in-one fax/scanner/colour inkjet printer.  We've been criticising the provider for their despatching error, but apparently it was deliberate – they're free gifts!

Why don't they ever do that for private individuals, who have to pay full retail prices, too?

16 March, 2005

Happy birthday, me!

Not an anniversary, though: today I am 400 months old, according to Re-date.  It also tells me I was 17 million minutes old on Sunday.

15 March, 2005

It's not the messiah...

Most working mornings during the past couple of weeks, my eye has been caught by a patch of discarded chewing gum on the road.  It happens to lie in my direct line of sight as I cycle up a steep hill (eyes on the road, not on how much further I have to climb), but I notice it because it has weathered to resemble the face of a man.  The gum itself forms a forehead and short beard, with the cheeks and eye sockets suggested by areas where the tarmac shows through.  I keep meaning to go back with a camera, but always forget.

The important point is that I feel no urge to call eBay or some American tabloid.  Humans are naturally predisposed to see faces in randomness, and a rough lozenge (diamond), quartered and with the top and bottom segments coloured-in, will always look a little like a short-bearded man's face.  There's simply no need for 'divine intervention', when an entirely rational explanation exists.

14 March, 2005

Empty calories

Yesterday morning, I woke, wrote that review of 'The Aviator', ate a bowl of cornflakes, and cycled 17 miles.  I drank a 330ml can of Coke and cycled back.  Seven miles from home, I began to run seriously short of energy, and I had to walk up the final hill (it is pretty much the steepest in Lancaster, but I usually manage to keep cycling).

1 March, 2005

Ghost campus

It's really, really quiet at work this morning.  Few of the rooms on my corridor seem to be occupied, there's no traffic on the road outside the window, and the background noise of the M6 is also absent.

As the current lead story on the BBC News home page's 'ticker tape' header explains, two lorries (one northbound, one southbound) have crashed on the M6, closing the motorway.  Five people have been hospitalised, three due to spilled formaldehyde (they'll keep) and all traffic has been diverted onto the A6 i.e. through the city, which has become gridlocked.  There are roadworks on the A6 anyway, which is hardly helping.

28 February, 2005

Nearly forgot...

A work colleague has just given me a christmas card, having forgotten in December.  It's good to know people care... eventually.

That's slightly odd, but the really weird thing is that it's the second time that's happened within the last week.

26 February, 2005

Still fairly dry

I haven't been keeping an exact count, but I think my alcohol consumption reached double figures this evening.

No, I didn't drink ten pints (5.6 litres) tonight, I mean that I estimate that tonight I had my tenth pint since 22 December.
In the same period, I've consumed a minimum of 20 l (35 pints) of Coca-Cola, at least 50 pints (28 l) of full-fat milk and literally countless cups of tea – easily over 100 l (60 pints), probably a lot more.

Haven't regained a taste for alcohol, then.

23 February, 2005

Stoned masons

It's a little worrying to walk past a group of yellow-jacketed building contractors at 09:45 and be almost knocked over by the smell of cannabis.

I'm not aware of any current work on campus involving cranes or heavy machinery, but still, it's hardly conducive to quality, safe working.  Do what you want in your own time, guys, but not in a potentially lethal working environment.

23 February, 2005

Snow on a sunshiny day

I've just cycled to work in bright sunshine, with snow blowing in my eyes.  Perhaps it was just sublimating out of the cold air, as I couldn't see any obvious snow clouds, just a high-level haze.  Then again, it was continental European snow: tiny, dry, individual crystals falling at low temperatures rather than typical large, wet British clumps falling from low, dense clouds at only a little below freezing.  Maybe it really had fallen many thousands of metres.

17 February, 2005

Spam reduction technique

When the campus-wide e-mail system falls over, you might as well close your client (In my case, MS Exchange via Outlook - hey, I didn't choose it).  Then forget to turn it back on until, at 16:30, your line manager asks why you haven't responded to her enquiry.  Then open your e-mail, and discover that the usual trickle of spam has been transmuted into genuine messages, almost all requiring same-day action.  Consequently, stay at work until 19:15.

It's like umbrellas.  The one day you forget to take yours out with you, it will rain.

15 February, 2005

Brrr! (Pt.3)

Between the heating going off as 22:00 and coming on again at 08:00, the temperature in my home 'office' (back bedroom) dropped a full 10°C last night.  For those primitives still on Fahrenheit, that's a drop of 18°F, indoors, overnight.

Yesterday I went to The Dukes to see 'The Merchant of Venice', wearing a T-shirt and fleece (me, not Antonio).  This morning the roofs and roads were icy.

Bizarre climate....

3 February, 2005

Not enough

Ever have a day demanding a death metal soundtrack, when you've only brought ambient CDs to work?


3 February, 2005

Insufficiently tenuous link

I was kind of embarrassed to mention this at the time, but it almost makes sense now.

Yesterday, students were standing in the University's main square, promoting a play by wearing T-shirts and handing out flyers.  This coincided with an attempt to promote healthy eating by handing out vegetables.  I'm not sure why, but I suppose it seemed logical at the time if the same people performed both tasks - they were standing there anyway, right?

Which finally explains why someone stopped me on the way to the swimming pool yesterday: "Hi!  Come and see 'The Vagina Monologues'!  Have a carrot!"

27 January, 2005

Shiny toes

I think I'm fairly observant.  When my boss mislaid her watch at the college ball, I noticed immediately that it wasn't on her wrist, and she recovered it, which seemed to impress.
However, I also find it very easy to 'tune-out' the familiar - I no longer even register the hideous purple and gold ceiling rose in my living room (not least because I rarely use that room).  And, after all, who really looks at one's own feet?

17 January, 2005

That'll be the problem, then

I wrote that last entry, about high-visibility jackets, from work (after normal working hours, Mr. Employer, sir).  I posted it, then got ready to cycle home.  I switched off the PC, put on my fleece, put on my dayglo yellow jacket, put on my dark purple waterproof jacket, put on my rucksack, picked up my bike helmet, lights and gloves, locked the door, walked downstairs, then thought about the slight flaw in that sequence....

12 January, 2005


Ever seen three students, deep in conversation, wander into the same segment of a standard, one-person-at-a-time revolving door, then be unable to shuffle it round?

'Future of the nation', and all that....

8 January, 2005

Big breaths

My mother always told me to breathe through my nose when out in fog, presumably because the dense moisture traps smoke and pollutants.
It's been clear but really windy here for the past couple of days, and from the thick crust of airborne dust on my windows, I think I'll be wearing a scarf around my face if I go out.  At least fog doesn't leave a coating on glass, which implies it's cleaner.
Perhaps that wasn't the case when my mother was growing up in 1940s, coal-heated Birkenhead, but in modern Lancaster, fueled by gas and electricity, I suspect the greater threats are wind-borne road salt and desiccated cat sh*t.

6 January, 2005

Post your royalty cheques

Waiting (and waiting...) in the sorting office to collect a parcel this morning, I had an opportunity to read even the small print of every available poster.  Hence, I discovered that the Royal Mail claim trademark over the colour red and the phrase 'christmas is coming'.

I know 'pillar box red' is a named shade, but I didn't realise the Royal Mail owns it!

1 January, 2005

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Since my teens, with a gap of the last 6-7 years, a family tradition has been to see in the New Year at the summit of Moel Famau (English: 'Mother of the hills'), the nearest thing to a mountain in north-east Wales.  At 554m (1,818 ft), it's the highest peak of the Clwydian hills, dominating the skyline from Llandudno to Chester.  Consequently, the view from Jubilee Tower, at the summit, encompasses a vast area, including Snowdonia, the Cheshire Plains, the whole Wirral peninsula and Liverpool on the horizon.

27 December, 2004

Walk: Northop Hall - Northop and back

Whilst K. and my mother were enduring the self-inflicted hassle of the 'January' sales, I walked to the next village, Northop, this afternoon, retracing the route of childhood visits to church - yes, I was christian until my mid-teens - following lanes I first encountered from my pushchair as an infant.  The accompanying photos will therefore mean rather more to me than to anyone else, but I hope they're of interest, if only as a snapshot (well, twelve of them) of 'small town' North-East Wales.

25 December, 2004

White christmas

white christmas in walesThe sky and ground were clear this morning, so technically this wasn't a white christmas, but the snow did arrive here in North East Wales in the afternoon and evening.

I can report that walking barefoot in the snow, as I did to take this photograph, is an overrated idea.

23 December, 2004

More leave!

I've just found out that I have an extra day of compulsory leave on 3 January, as the University remains closed until the Tuesday.


Yes, I'm complaining about having too much holiday.  The thing is, though it's compulsory, it counts against my annual leave allocation, and as I said earlier, I wouldn't choose to take any leave at this time of year.  An extra day now is a day less when I do want it.

17 December, 2004

Low light

It this time of year, I'm accustomed to cycling to work in half-light at about 08:30, and returning home in full darkness at sixish.  Today, I'm on my way to the departmental christmas lunch, in town, so it made sense to cycle home then walk from here.  This meant that I saw the route in daylight, for a change.

10 December, 2004

Last of first light

Morning duskStrange light this morning.
Cycling to work, I was dazzled by the low sun, but as I reached campus, the sun rose above the line of the dense cloudbase, so the light suddenly diminished.

6 December, 2004

I can see! I can see! Damn.

I swam with goggles today, for the first time since childhood.
Since September, I've been swimming regularly without them, and enjoying the experience at the time, but a couple of hours later my eyes begin to hurt and my vision becomes misty; by evening the entire exposed parts of my corneas are bloodshot.  For some reason, itchy eyes make me feel tired (probably just association with how my eyes feel when I am tired!), so a midday swim can lead to an unproductive evening.

5 December, 2004

Party time!

Whilst in town this afternoon (I couldn't face the prospect of shopping on a December Saturday, but Sunday's always quieter), I bought:

  • walking boots (leather; Brasher, size 9 (surprisingly; normally I'm a 9½-10))
  • swimming goggles
  • shiny wrapping paper, two rolls
  • rubber gloves
I almost pity any marketing company or government agency trying to correlate my purchases with lifestyle choices....

1 December, 2004

The water's lovely

Grr.  No swim today, as the pool is closed.  At 26°C (79°F), it's "too cold" to open.

My childhood holidays were spent on the North Wales coast, swimming in the sea each day.  Double-digit temperatures too cold?  C'mon!

29 November, 2004

It's later than you think

If anyone is planning to order items from Amazon UK in time for christmas, don't delay too long.  I thought there was plenty of time, but put in an order today anyway, just to get a few presents out of the way.
All items were listed as 'Availability: usually dispatched within 24 hours', but I chose the free delivery option, which apparently adds 3-5 working days (it's rarely been more than two, in practice).  According to my confirmation e-mail, I should expect a package between 8 and 10 December i.e. up to twelve days away.
That could have been a nasty surprise if time had been more of an issue.

28 November, 2004


Walking between pubs tonight, we passed Lancaster's branch of Ann Summers.  The window display featured a black christmas tree decorated with pink furry handcuffs.

**** the handcuffs, but a black christmas tree!  How cool is that?  If black christmas trees were on offer, even I'd consider putting up decorations!

26 November, 2004

Suddenly feeling old

As I was leaving work this evening, I spotted a poster promoting a student for last night's JCR Exec election in Bowland College.  It showed a photo of the student alongside a pink hippo puppet, instantly recognisable as a character from ITV's equivalent to 'Sesame Street', 'Rainbow' (though the latter was less overtly educational), which ran from 1972 to 1992.

20 November, 2004

First snow, '04

Lakeland mistLast year I posted a (dire) photo of the first snow in the Lancaster area on 22 December.  It's a bit colder, earlier this year!

We did have a little snowfall in Lancaster last night, but it's rare for any to stick (sea breezes) so the photo (click to enlarge) shows the Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

18 November, 2004

No cigar

In wet weather, the cycle path between Bailrigg Lane and the University floods.  A puddle about 2m (6½') long and 3-5cm (1-2") deep forms across the full width of the path, and a little further on, another puddle some 6m (20') long submerged the entire path and adjacent grass to a depth of 10cm (4").  It's not a problem for cyclists, except when the smaller one, on a sharp corner, freezes in winter, but it's awkward for pedestrians.  I noticed that Estates workers dug up the verge a few weeks ago, presumably to install drainage.

15 November, 2004

Aquatic credo

Pick a line, and stick to it, unless circumstances alter.  If room to manouvre becomes limited, or someone needs a little extra leeway, be flexible, but if someone butts in gratuitously, be prepared to assert yourself.
If those nearby know the path one is clearly going to take, and one can discern theirs, no-one needs to impede others.
If people are forced onto converging lines, it's inefficient for both to dodge, and preferable to be the dodged than the dodger.

I'm talking about swimming in a communal pool, of course.

10 November, 2004


It looks like Lycos Tripod web hosting is in decline, at least in the UK.  I've just received an e-mail from them, congratulating me on the fact that my long-abandoned first ever website (no link - it's a little embarrassing!) received 97 page impressions within the last 30 days, making it one of the most popular of the Tripod community in the UK.

Ah.  97 page impressions per month.  Isn't that sweet?  At the time of writing, the current incarnation of the Ministry receives more than that every two hours, on average.

Maybe Lycos is targeting the Tripod service at entry-level web authors who don't expect many visitors, but if 97 hits is considered noteworthy, it rather suggests Tripod is not the place for anyone wanting to be seen!

6 November, 2004

Traffic blip

While I was away last weekend, the blog was quite badly spammed.  Only one domain name evaded MT-Blacklist, but there were 500+ instances.  A nuisance, but at least it gave a little insight into Google response times.

3 November, 2004

Heim igjen

I'm back, though since I've managed only about six hours sleep in the last sixty, don't expect anything too substantial for a couple of days!

31 October, 2004

Hallowe'en in NYC

To end an already busy day, having visited the Statue of Liberty, the commercial district, Brooklyn Bridge, Bloomingdales and Central Park, we headed south again at dusk to watch the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.  With only an approximate idea of where it'd be, we caught the subway to Union Square by about 18:00 and headed eastward along 14th St. towards the 'touristy' part of Greenwich, as that seemed the most likely parade route.

29 October, 2004

Out of, er, office

Off to New York - back soon!

27 October, 2004


About a year ago, a major multinational company ran a promotional campaign.  The title of the campaign, and a microsite at the company's website, was a fairly common everyday phrase; for the sake of narrative, let's call it 'Herding Cats', though that isn't the actual term.
I found the campaign interesting, and mentioned it in the blog.  I used the phrase as the entry title, and it's in the URL of the microsite (e.g., but the phrase didn't appear even once within the 153-word entry itself (purely by chance; it's so generic I didn't even think about it).

Last night I received an e-mail from a total stranger, an author in the USA (I'm in the UK) who alleges that the phrase is a registered trademark, that anyone would need express permission to use the phrase in a blog or other publication, and that I should remove the phrase from my website within five days or face legal action.

25 October, 2004

Deregulation reaches Lancaster

I've just received my first item of mail delivered by a private company, UK Mail Ltd. rather than the Royal Mail.
It's just an electricity bill - nothing special, but in its own small way, a landmark.

19 October, 2004

Season's end - has passed

I've just cycled home in the first real anticyclonic rainfall of the season.  We get brief bursts of heavier convectional rainfall in summer, but they're usually over within an hour at most, whereas this is reasonably heavy rain that will keep coming until the front passes, probably in a couple of days.
The dense clouds brought dusk a full two hours early, but my riding conditions were less than optimal anyway.

12 October, 2004

Something not quite right...

It really isn't that difficult a routine: unlock and open the front door, go through it with my bike, close and lock the door, get on my bike, cycle to work.
This morning, I forgot the bike, and got to the end of the street, on foot, before thinking anything was odd.

11 October, 2004

Out of time

Ever had a day when it felt as if the rest of the word was moving that little bit too quickly?

10 October, 2004

What's in the box?

anonymous mobile phone packagingI've deliberately obscured the company logo at the lower right of the box top, but apart from one word in that tiny blue rectangle, there's nothing whatsoever on the top or sides of the box to give any clue about the nature of the contents.  The product doesn't appear in the illustration, which bears no relevance to the contents.

Turn the box upside down, and it's revealed: a Nokia 1100 mobile phone.  So why hide it?  This seems to be rather poor, or at least odd, marketing.

It's interesting that when I pointed this out to my work colleague (and friend!) Laura, she identified the type of product immediately - the packaging seems typical of phone manufacturers.  Perhaps this isn't such odd marketing for a potential customers already familar with the conventions of the market sector

Yes, I've finally bought my first mobile phone.  More on that in a later entry.

7 October, 2004

Off to Edinburgh

As I mentioned quite a while ago, my sister has qualified as a surgical Registrar (I don't know the equivalent US title, but it means she's the lead surgeon in operations).  She's since also qualified as a specialist Registrar in orthopedics, but tomorrow she formally loses her title 'Dr.' in exchange for 'Ms.' (or 'Miss', if she prefers!), in a ceremony at the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.  For reasons of historical professional rivalry, UK surgeons are distinct from medical doctors, so bear the different title.

This will also be an opportunity to explore a city I've never visited for more than an hour or so.  I'm taking the camera!

See you on Sunday.

6 October, 2004

Mind on higher thing, honest

At work, Helena's desk is about two metres from mine.  The kettle is on the floor in the gap.  If I make a cup of tea, I boil the kettle, fill my cup, then put the kettle on Helena's desk.

The next time I attempt to make a cup of tea, I go round the desk to find the (cordless) kettle isn't in it's cradle.  Of course it isn't; it's on Helena's desk.  I put it there myself.  Yet I'm puzzled every single time.

1 October, 2004

Happy birthday, blog!

The Ministry blog is a year old today.

26 September, 2004

The waking edge

Halfway between sleep and waking this morning, I knew how to levitate.
It's like voluntarily swallowing; one can't consciously instruct each specific muscle to act in sequence, but once the body knows the knack, it's perfectly straightforward and just happens.  I knew, with absolute certainty, that if I stood up and shifted my balance in a certain way, I'd be able to hover.  It was so obvious!
Then I opened my eyes, and it was gone.

14 September, 2004

Acupuncture reassurance

I've had no reason to mention it here, but for the past few months I've been experiencing pain in my shoulder, probably work-related (working at a PC for 8½-10 hours per day, five days per week isn't healthy).  This morning I saw a physiotherapist, who gave me acupuncture, which is the point of this posting (ignore that accidental pun; I'm trying to).

I don't like needles.  Last year I underwent surgery to insert a metal plate into my hand, but was more uncomfortable about the thought of the anaesthetic needle than the operation itself.  Hence, I was momentarily concerned about the idea of acupuncture, until the physiotherapist explained a few facts.

8 September, 2004

Black tea

The University's Spar supermarket is being refurbished this week.  Today the chill cabinets are being done, so milk is unavailable.  This means the only place on campus (and hence within ~2 miles (~3 km)) where one can buy milk is Robinsons newsagents.
Normal price of a pint of milk from Spar: 34p.
Today's (probably only today's) price at Robinsons: 52p.

Profiteering b******s.

3 September, 2004

Wild (but quiet) times

The University Library is currently experimenting with new technology allowing users to log books out of the building for themselves.  As the sign says:

It's simple, fast and fun - why not check it out?

Oh, those hedonistic librarians.  What more fun can there be than passing a book through a scanner?  Apart from chuckling at the pun on the phrase "check out", of course.

25 August, 2004

Lancaster's evening deluge

At about 17:40 this evening, the sky was clear and I had my 'office' (back bedroom) curtains drawn to minimise direct sunlight on my PC's monitor.  At 17:40:30 (approximately; you get the idea), rainfall was drowning out my music.
I've probably witnessed heavier rain in Lancaster, but never of this intensity sustained for so long.  Large raindrops were bouncing 30-50 cm back up from the road and roofs until those surfaces became totally submerged by laminar flow.  Gutters couldn't cope, neither those on houses, causing water to fall in sheets from some roofs, nor kerbside gutters, so within 3-4 minutes the entire road was under a couple of inches of water.  My road is relatively flat, orientated across the top of the hill; I could only guess what the downhill roads and those near the bottom were like, so I got ready for a quick bike ride as soon as it stopped.

20 August, 2004

Unexpected flood

Burrow Beck, Hala, Lancaster, UK, 20 August, 2004When I went to bed last night, the sky outside was orange; sodium streetlights reflected off low clouds and drizzle.  This morning, the rain was sufficient to wet the road, but little more, so this view at Hala Square was surprising: the tiny Burrow Beck was so full as to be just about overflowing its banks.  There must have been heavy rain in the night, but this is still a good illustration of the effect of relatively brief rainfall on already saturated ground.

15 August, 2004

Damp squib

Last weekend, new laws came into force in the UK, supposedly to reduce the antisocial use of fireworks.  It's now illegal to discharge fireworks between 23:00 and 07:00, except on designated special occasions such as 5 November, when the curfew begins at midnight, and New Year's Day & Chinese New Year, when the curfew begins at 01:00.  Breaking that curfew carries a penalty of 5,000 ($9,200) or six months imprisonment.
It's also illegal for fireworks louder than 120 dB to be sold at all.

So that must have been gunfire I heard at ~00:30.  Not fireworks.  Oh, no.  That's impossible.

[Apart from being a typically masterful example of sardonic wit (ahem), the title is in honour of a certain Doctor of Psychology who had reached her mid-thirties believing the phrase was 'damp squid'.  Hi, L!]

11 August, 2004

Too easy?

When I bought my first computer in 1993, the purchase was a bit of a hassle.  As a research student, I'd occupied five different addresses in as many years; my credit rating was non-existent.  Hence, my mother provided bank details and I paid the installments into her account, which paid the company.

When I bought my second computer, I paid by debit card via the manufacturer's website; I didn't even need to speak to sales staff.  It was a strange anticlimax after the considerable time and nervous energy expended on researching specifications, prices, etc.

A few minutes ago, I ordered a digital camera.  Amazon already has my address and bank details, so a rather large, carefully-researched purchase came down to a single mouse click.

It was only afterwards that I felt a bit nervous ("What have I done? Was it the right choice?"), and oddly disappointed.  It ought to be more momentous, somehow.

10 August, 2004

Uh oh...

Folklore claims that if cows lie down, it's going to rain.  As I left work this evening, I noticed that the Bailrigg cattle were all at the very top of their field.

When cows seek high ground, is it time to worry?

8 August, 2004

Happy anniversary, house?

That Helen needed to remind me is possibly some indication of how much I relish the fact, but today I have owned my house for a year.  I collected the keys at 22:00 on 8 August, 2003 and unloaded my possessions from Sibsey Street, with the assistance of A. & A., then after a cup of tea at their house, drove to Wales (arriving 02:00) to collect furniture from my mother's house.  Hence, the anniversary of occupancy is 10 August, but I won't be too pedantic (for once).

8 August, 2004

Should have known not to buy a British PC

Despite there being windows open at the front and back of the house, with a desk fan ensuring throughflow of air and the curtains being partially drawn to provide some shade, the ambient temperature here in my office/study/okay, back bedroom is 27°C.

All the computer's fans are fully functional but theoretically redundant, as I've taken the sides off the tower case.

Yet within ten minutes of my pressing the 'on' button, the PC is overheating and literally screaming at me (a temperature alarm?).  The chip heatsink is hotter than I'd choose to touch, merely running Firefox.  I'll have to switch off.

31 July, 2004

White Cross

Jonnie is big on birthdays.  Largely by failing to decide on one definitive event to mark the event, he manages to extend celebrations for up to a week.  This year it was dinner on Wednesday, drinks at a pub last night, and we're going camping later today.  Very cunning....

31 July, 2004

Monopoly broken up

Furness QuadUntil earlier this month, the pale area in the accompanying photo (click to enlarge it) of Furness College quad was occupied by a 'Monopoly' board, which was a landmark for several generations of students.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been maintained and was undeniably scruffy, so has been removed.
I have no idea whether the College was consulted; if this had been Bowland, I'm sure we would have mobilised the JCR to repaint it.

The College is about to undergo major modifications, with several accommodation blocks to be demolished and replaced (photos will follow), so if the board did have to go, this was an appropriate time to clean up the quad.  Presumably the pale paving slabs will have evenly weathered to match their older neighbours before the end of the project.

29 July, 2004

Psycle Path

I've just been challenged for cycling past someone a couple of weeks ago without acknowledging him.

Sorry Jim.  I'd never knowingly blank someone, but it's certainly true that when I'm on the bike, I'm genuinely unaware of other road users as individuals, they're simply obstacles.  I see a car but not the driver, or a bike but not the cyclist.  A face is only relevant in judging the focus of a road user's attention and whether he/she is a hazard; I don't see the person.  I doubt I could even comment on the colour of the car or bike as soon as it passes out of my field of view.

The psychological implications are... unflattering, but I'm just focused, honest!

29 July, 2004

I'm interviewing on Tuesday!

Terrific.  It was only as an e-mail circulated, informing the interviewing panel that a candidate is dyslexic, that I found I'm on the panel!

If the candidate hadn't been dyslexic, I wouldn't have known, so would have come into work in, well, not a suit, and wouldn't have attended the interviews.

And I work in Communications and Marketing....

22 July, 2004

Butt out

I've just bought a laptop/portable computer on behalf of my sister.  I thought spending 1,000 of someone else's money would be more enjoyable....

20 July, 2004

Panic hunger

I suspect the phrase itself is unique to my father and I, but others must experience 'panic hunger' too.

18 July, 2004

In other financial news

A property advert in this week's Citizen (free local paper) features a house in my road.  At least from the street and alley, it looks about the same size as mine, but possibly not of quite the same quality - for one thing, it has old single-glazed windows.

Yet the asking price is 25,000 more than I paid a year ago.

There's no way the current housing market can be sustainable.  It's a bit scary, really.

12 July, 2004

What about us?

This is Graduation week at the University.  An expected total of 4464 students are expected to graduate, graduands of both the University itself and of associated institutions whose degrees are validated by the University. Over the full week, there will be 17 Degree Congregations in the Great Hall.  The Chancellor, HRH Princess Alexandra, will preside at the afternoon ceremonies Mon-Thursday for the final time, as Sir Chris Bonington takes over the role soon.
In addition to those receiving their first degrees (Bachelors-level degrees; higher degrees are awarded separately in December), Honorary Degrees are to be awarded to Dr Ahdaf Soueif, Sir Ian McKellen, Dr David Starkey and Professor Tim Berners-Lee (the last will be awarded in absentia as a HM beats a HRH - he's receiving a knighthood this week).

7 July, 2004

Must... sleep...

Dead can.  What a waste.When I start hurling unopened cans of Coke across the yard for no better reason than exhausted petulance, the insomnia is getting pretty bad.

That's an extraordinarily uncharacteristic thing to do, and definitely not a source of pride.

So why write about it?  Oh, I don't know.

29 June, 2004

The wrong trousers

I didn't mean to wear my combats today.  Nothing in the pockets - no cash, no cashcard: no lunch.

And the office milk is off: no tea, either.


19 June, 2004

I've got Gmail


Many thanks, Anders!

18 June, 2004

Under siege

We're locked in!  All but one door to University House has been locked, and that remaining door is manned by a uniformed security officer checking IDs.

Posters all over campus this week have been promoting the 'Day of Rage', a day of student protests about college relocations, the closure of our highest-rated department, and the perception that the University's senior management have no interest in meaningful consultation.  University House (central admin) would be a prime target for as-yet-undeclared stunts, so access has been cut off.  Staff and visitors are being asked to identify themselves and their destinations before being allowed in.  For once it'd be convenient if I'd dressed more formally.

10 June, 2004

Blog back

On Saturday, I thought the Ministry Blog had died.  The published site was still there, but I noticed that the comments were inaccessible, having been replaced by barely-comprehensible error messages.  I tried to log into the blog admin section; same error message.  Oh well, the server must have been having problems; I'd try again later.
On Sunday, still nothing, so I checked my web host's website for any scheduled maintenance.  Ominously, they announced (after the event) that several changes had been made over the weekend, primarily upgrades to PHP and associated security settings, which drastically changed the functionality of customers' web space.  Far from expressing regret, the blunt message was that anyone who needed the withdrawn services should get a dedicated server.

3 June, 2004

Never do too good a job

A couple of weeks ago, I threw together a mini-site promoting one of the University's courses, and was gratified to be praised for it.
Today the parent department tried to book my services to redesign their entire site, of 150+ static html pages.  It'd take ages....  And no, a database-driven site isn't an option at present; I'd have to hand-code each static page one-by-one.
I hope they'll accept revision of the existing site, perhaps with a fresh page header tacked onto an updated stylesheet, plus extra images scattered amongst the existing pages, rather than a total overhaul and recoding.

3 June, 2004

D'you want to think about that?

The price of milk rose on campus recently, but the barcode readers in Spar have yet to be adjusted.  If one buys a pint, the till says 34p, but the cashier knows to ask for 35p.  If one buys a couple of items, the cashier doesn't think to add on the extra penny, so the old price stands.

Who's the fool: the Spar manager, who loses a penny on each transaction, or the customer who buys more that she would otherwise, just to feel smug about 'saving' an illicit penny?

Names omitted to protect the gullible.

31 May, 2004

Anyone lost a keyring?

This morning, I found a ring of keys on my doorstep.  I didn't recognise any of them, nor the fobs.  Someone must have dropped them; it's likely that they were a passer-by's rather than belonging to a near neighbour who would have missed them soon after they were mislaid.  Following that reasoning, I thought it best to hand them in at the police headquarters, and did.

27 May, 2004


The guy in the bike shop has a tattoo on his forearm, prominently featuring his own name.

Does anyone else find that a bit odd?

27 May, 2004

Bikey's bearings broken

And other 'b' words (maybe not 'beluga'), some of them even publishable.

One minute I was hurtling up the A6 (I do like a good hurtle), overtaking all other cyclists, the next there was a grinding clunk (really) and the cranks were no longer moving properly.  I'm pretty sure it's the bottom bracket bearings, so I'll have to visit the bike shop this evening.

At least everything still rotates, and I didn't hear the distinctive sound of a broken bearing cup etching the frame, so was able to proceed to work, albeit being overtaken by all other cyclists, even the one on the unnervingly wobbly folding bike.

26 May, 2004

Users, eh?

All student rooms on campus have the facility to be connected to the internet.  There's a fee, but the students get 'better-than-broadband' (T3?) connectivity.
Yesterday evening, the residence network failed in four buildings of one college.
The technicians have just announced, with considerable satisfaction, that it wasn't their fault: someone in the college had unplugged networking hardware in order to use an iron.

23 May, 2004

Better now, but puzzled

Yesterday, I was hung over.
Ho, ho, NRT's been a naughty boy.  Must have been a wild night, eh?  Cue rueful grin and considerable teasing.


22 May, 2004

Almost walking

Sprouting potato
Note to self: eat potatoes sooner.

21 May, 2004


Ashton Memorial
Another clear, sunny morning, so I cycled to work via the park, and took a few photographs.  I think I prefer the thumbnail of this one, as the lighting seems even more dramatic.

20 May, 2004

Green day

I cycled home from work the long way this evening, for a change, following the towpath of Lancaster canal rather than the usual roads.  I'm glad I happened to be carrying the digital camera, as strong sunlight through the trees made this a colourful (well, green) trip.

20 May, 2004

Not a hope

I received a letter at work today; itself a rarity as my work-related communications are almost entirely by e-mail, so my pigeonhole rarely sees more than my payslip and dust.

This was impressive: three sheets of heavy, textured cream paper in a matching '100% cotton' envelope, itself lined with tissue.  A semicircle had been cut out of the upper right of each page, an essentially pointless design feature repeated on the envelope's address label.  The top third of the front page featured a primrose-yellow band, again repeated on the address label and, oddly, the staple holding the letter together.

18 May, 2004

Pretty pictures

Good weather, a digital camera, a cycle ride to work.  Do I need a reason to take photographs?  There's no particular theme to these images, they're just photogenic views I happened to pass.

11 May, 2004

A step too far?

I may have passed a critical threshold of reliance on the web.  I've just used Google to find out what I'm having for lunch.

I bought a sandwich from the Spar shop on campus; a long white roll containing something chicken-based, the precise contents masked by lettuce (it annoys me that the staff make sandwiches by filling a roll with a pre-mixed, er, filling then place random greenery on top of the closed roll, rather than inside).  It was labelled 'Chicken Maryland', which, though new to me, sounded innocuous (ignoring politics for a moment).  However, when I opened the roll to insert the lettuce, I found greyish-brown... lumps mixed in amongst sweetcorn, diced bacon and chicken.  As various sites found via Google told me, the mystery ingredient is indeed banana.  Bizarre, but not too bad.

NP: Mike Oldfield 'The Songs Of Distant Earth'.  Don't be tempted to use your player's 'random' function for this one; it's a real mess out of sequence!

9 May, 2004

this wouldn't work

Just in case it has escaped anyone else's attention, Movable Type code tags are case-sensitive.

Nearly broke my installation last night.  It's a good thing I was in a bad mood, and didn't fancy going to the pub anyway....

30 April, 2004

Mixed feelings

According to Deutsche Welle, Poland's planned restriction on economic immigration from the current EU won't apply to nationals of Eire and the UK,  countries which have not imposed barriers on the movement of workers from the new EU member states.

Which makes Helen's status as a Warszawa resident more secure.  Good news.

Isn't it?

29 April, 2004


The HMV website has a marvellous feature on its ordering pages: provide a postcode and house number, and it'll fill in the rest of the address.

It's great to be told that I live at 70 Teston Rd, Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent, ME18 5BG.  I don't, of course; that's 289 miles (465.1 km) from here, according to Multimap.  The puzzling part is how it derived the house number and postcode wrongly when I'd already provided the correct ones.

Worse than useless.  I wonder how many packages have been lost.

27 April, 2004

Pin day

As I was parking my bike at work this morning, I noticed a drawing pin in the front tyre, right through the supposedly kevlar centre strip.  The pin seemed to be maintaining a seal, so I left it in, vainly hoping it'd hold for a further eight hours and the ride home before I could repair the puncture.  On the way into University House, I nearly trod on another drawing pin.  At the weekly College Officers meeting, I found five drawing pins scattered around the floor.  The Residences Officer, Jacqui, had stepped on one, but it had penetrated only the very edge of her shoe's sole; a very lucky miss.
Individually trivial, the coincidence of seven pins could inspire a conspiracy theory.

I checked the tyre again after the meeting; unsurprisingly flat.  Oddly, it hadn't healed by the end of the day, so my usual trip of 3.55 miles in ~15 mins, averaging ~18 mph, became a walk of 3.31 miles in 49 mins, averaging ~4 mph (the missing quarter of a mile?  On foot I can cut across a football pitch).

Oh, and today we had the first sustained rain in over a week.

20 April, 2004

Oh no...

I experienced a moment of fear this evening; the literally nauseating sense of having a serious problem and absolutely no idea of how to resolve it.  As I was leaving for the cinema, my front door key broke off in the lock.

For a moment I just looked at the stub, willing it to simply not have happened.  There had been no force behind my twisting motion, so I couldn't comprehend what had happened; I must have misunderstood, and in a moment I'd realise it was okay after all.

6 April, 2004

Disappointed visitors

Since the Tull Tour History includes some 80 instances of the Jethro Tull song 'Pussy Willow', it's unsurprising that a few Google searches for porn appear in my referral logs, but when have I ever written about 'back-door doggie'?  Ah; it's picked up the Tull songs 'Back-Door Angel' and 'How Much Is That Doggie...?', both part of the 1974 set.  Maybe that's what the enquirer was looking for, or maybe it was a carpentry issue.  Maybe.

28 March, 2004

Personal relativity

Not the most productive of days.  We switched from GMT to BST last night, so when I woke at the time my body thought was 08:00 as usual, the 'clock time' was already 09:00.  The rest of the day felt as if I was constantly trying to catch up.

It's going to be a rough week.  My current cycle of insomnia means I'm unable to sleep until around 02:00 (so that'll be 03:00 by the clock), and wake fairly easily at 08:00, but my body's 08:00 will obviously be the clock's 09:00, by which time I need to be already at work.  Losing an hour at that end of the day always hits me hard.

18 March, 2004

Big screen

I'm just back from the cinema, having seen 'Cold Mountain'.  I haven't written a review of that (yet) [update: it's here], but wanted to comment on the experience itself.

The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, UK.
The Dukes is Lancaster's arts cinema, and the best I've known.  The screen is advertised as the largest north of Manchester.  Realistically, that probably means west of the Pennines and south of the Scottish border - Newcastle, Edinburgh or Glasgow might have something larger.  Maybe not, as the trend is for multiplexes with multiple (no, really?) smaller screens rather than one huge one, as at The Dukes.  The auditorium is that of a theatre, and the screen fills the stage; whenever the main stage is in use for plays (I'd guess that's 6-8 weeks spread throughout the year) the screen has to be removed.
The atmosphere is good; professional but not 'slick', and very much that of a theatre rather than a cinema.  Three minutes before the film begins, an announcement invites people in the foyer to go through to their seats.
Thankfully, typical cinema soft drinks, popcorn, ice cream or sweets are not offered for sale, but drinks from the foyer bar are welcome in the cinema itself, in plastic, er, glasses.  There's never a problem of litter being left afterwards - the audience are trusted to behave reasonably, and that respect is returned.

4 March, 2004

Many congratulations, K!

I'm extremely pleased to tell the world that my sister is now qualified to become a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh (i.e. she's passed her Part 2 surgical exams but has yet to formally receive the title); in terms of the UK medical hierarchy, a Registrar.  Oh, and she's 29 years old.

1 March, 2004

Long day

Not an easy Monday, and I'm as drained as on a Thursday or Friday!

Tomorrow, the University will be running adverts in the national press, promoting the fact that we're offering fully-funded studentships to potential reseach students; 'Doctoral Fellowships', to use the slightly grand title.  This is to celebrate the University's fortieth anniversary this year i.e. it's a one-off that other institutions aren't offering, so I expect we'll receive a good amount of interest.

26 February, 2004

Another sunset

Sunset from Lancaster, UK. ©NRT
A spectacular sunset, seen as I was leaving work.  Click on the image for an an enlargement.

24 February, 2004

Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

I had major problems getting online this weekend.

24 February, 2004

Out of office

I'm working from home today and tomorrow.  The trades union representing lecturers and computer-related technical staff, the Association of University Teachers (AUT), is striking over long-term pay deals, and campus will be picketed.  The AUT is only one of several unions on campus, so all other staff are expected to attend work as normal, and I'd have no qualms about crossing a picket line, but my boss kindly gave me the option of working from home instead (she is doing so too).

23 February, 2004

Nasty shock

Y'know the wonderful waking moment of realisation that it's a Saturday, and hence not a work day?  I had that this morning.  Lovely.

But today is Monday. ARGH! That was a really horrible way to start the week.

20 February, 2004

A bit nippy

I don't mean it was cold this morning, though there was a frost.  I mean that I cycled to work astonishingly quickly: 3.36 miles took 14 mins, which is 2-3 mins faster than usual over a distance 0.14 miles shorter than usual.  The distance is easily explained as taking an abnormally tighter line, but it was the absolute speed that was surprising.  I typically reach 27mph on one particular downhill section; I can't 'go for it' as it's also a curve, with a relatively major junction at the axis, so I need to take care.  However, for once I accelerated after the hill, holding 30mph for a few hundred metres.  Trivial for a car, of course, or even for a racing bike, but about as fast as I've ever done on this one (a hybrid mountain/road bike).  It wasn't an effort, either - I stayed above 25 mph for the next couple of hundred metres, too (usually 20mph, max; 12-15 in a headwind).

I'll have to try that again, when I'm not watching for ice on the road!

Incidentally, I forgot to make a note of it on the anniversary, but I've been riding with a bike computer for over a year, and the current total is 1970 miles (3283 km) since 1 Feb. 2003, the vast majority of which was just commuting to work.

18 February, 2004

Dusk photos

Just a pretty sunset, of no great significance.

Okay, here's something: this was the first evening this year on which I've been able to cycle home without lights at the normal 'home time'.

The photos are here; click on them to enlarge.

10 February, 2004


Today I am 400 days away from being 400 months old.

On 12 March, I will be 17 million minutes old.


5 February, 2004

Balconette on a bike

The fortnightly leaflet advertising bargains at Aldi has just come through the letterbox, stuffed inside the local free paper.

4 February, 2004

Lots of weather

Last week we were threatened by severe winter weather (a threat which didn't materialise in Lancaster, but that's not the point).  This week it's flooding, due to rainfall.

28 January, 2004

Bizarre spell checking

For no apparent reason, my spell checker wanted to change the phrase '... sky cleared...' in that last post to '... skyclad...'.  It's not even as if 'sky' and 'cleared' were misspelled.

Bloody hippy coders....

28 January, 2004

False alarm?

Alex Square, Lancaster University - as snowy as it gets. Copyright NRT, 2004
After the anticipation I mentioned last night, it was probably inevitable that nothing would happen.  An hour or so after I posted that entry, the sky cleared, and remained so until at least midnight.  This morning, the ground was clear and there wasn't much of a wind.  I thought last night's rain had frozen onto cars and the road, but no, it was liquid, so the cycle ride to work was entirely routine.  I wasn't even cold.

Later this morning it was cold out, with a cutting wind, but there was still no snow until 13:00, when the real Arctic stuff started to fall - tiny, dry flakes totally unlike the typical large, damp clumps we usually see.  The clumps tend to melt on contact with the ground, so it requires a sustained fall for surfaces to acquire a noticable covering.  In contrast, the view out of my window was white-over within five minutes of the snow's onset today.

27 January, 2004

Something's on the move...

For the last six days, weather forecasters have been warning the UK to brace for severe winter weather, possibly the worst for years, as winds change to blow direct from the Arctic.  Conditions are expected to switch from the unseasonably warm, wet January we've had to date, with daytime temperatures around 10C, plummeting within a matter of hours to daytime temperatures of -1C.  With steady winds in excess of 35mph, wind chill is going to be severe.  The first real snowfall of the season is anticipated, which has been refined in the last couple of hours to a forecast of snow, brief rain, severe cold, then more snow by the morning rush hour i.e. snow melted by road salt, which will be sufficiently diluted by rain to freeze, in time to accept the second snowfall, itself coinciding with the busiest period on the roads.

26 January, 2004

Psychedelic dawning

Lancaster University playing fields, 26/01/04. Copyright NRT, 2004
The sun had risen only a few minutes earlier, illuminating the sky which in turn illuminated the ground, but direct sunlight had yet to reach the fields.  Presumably combining the colours of the grass and sky, the heavy frost was a startling shade of turquoise for a short period; contrasted against the still-dark hedges and trees, it seemed to glow (click to enlarge the image).

25 January, 2004

Speaking of dieting

I had an interesting conversation with Andy last night, paradoxically over a rich meal at a restaurant.

To freely paraphrase Andy, and probably distort his meaning, he is annoyed by people who make a big deal of being on a diet, who pointedly stare wistfully at food whilst complaining their diet doesn't allow such 'naughty' lapses.  As Andy says, if one misses cream cakes (or whatever) to that extent, one should acknowledge reality, eat the cream cakes, and accept the consequences; if denial is such a hardship, it isn't worthwhile.

21 January, 2004

Rock Buns, Mark III

After the disappointing first attempt and limited improvement of the second, I've just tried Harriet's rock bun recipe yet again.  Exactly as planned, I increased the quantity of butter to 4 ounces (oz) (the recipe says 5 oz but that seemed too much in the first batch).  This gave enough moisture to bind the mixture, so I didn't need to add milk.  The big difference was that I made each ball of mixture, and hence bun, a little smaller than before, dividing the same total quantity into 17 buns rather than the ten I made last time.
After the first five minutes in the oven, I turned the tray, transferring those in apparently the best part of the oven to the worst, and vice versa.  I did this again after 13 mins.

19 January, 2004

Not again...

Something odd happened when I switched on my PC at work this morning.  It booted okay, I logged in, it displayed the usual 'loading personal settings' message, then went blank, displaying the mouse pointer against a plain black background (that could have been my wallpaper, but I doubt it).  I could move the mouse, but there was nothing on which to click.  Ctrl/Alt/Del didn't work, I discovered that this new PC doesn't have a 'reset' button, the 'Off' button didn't respond, and there's no power switch on the base unit, so I had to reboot by unplugging at the wall - not ideal.
It wasn't a one-off bad boot, as the same happened again twice more.  I rang Staff Help Desk, who'd received a report of exactly the same symptoms on a PC in the English department, two floors away but in a contiguous building.  Nothing odd was showing in the network logs, so a tech would have to investigate.
Terrific.  A week after receiving my new PC, and that after three month without a work computer of my own, the new one was out of action.

13 January, 2004

Rock Buns, Mark II

I had another go at Harriet's recipe this evening.  Having learnt from the first attempt, I tried using only 60% of the butter (3 ounces (oz) rather than 5), and modified the cooking settings, giving them 15 mins at Gas 6 (200C) rather than 12 at 7 (225C).  First time, I'd found the mix too sticky after adding the egg, but it was drastically too dry at that point of the repeat attempt, so I added a little extra butter (½ oz?) and a little milk to bind (as the recipe recommended - I certainly hadn't needed that last time).  I might have overdone the milk very slightly, as the result was a little sticky.

13 January, 2004

One lump or two?

I don't have access to a fridge at work, so in order to drink tea, I have to buy milk a pint at a time, simply storing it on my desk.  Ordinarily, I go through a pint every two days, so fresh milk tends to survive long enough at room temperature.  If the shop's milk wasn't entirely fresh, though, it doesn't last so long, and each morning I check whether the milk on my desk is still usable.
This morning, it was fine, so I had a cup of tea at about 10:00.  I had another at 11:30, which tasted odd.  I checked the milk: it had very definitely 'turned'.  It's a surprisingly quick process.

11 January, 2004

Rock Buns, Mark I

rock buns, mk.1.  Note browned crust of left bun, but dark, wet underside of right bunOne of my christmas presents was Harriet's recipe for rock buns, plus a mixing bowl.  I'd finally bought eggs (I don't ordinarily eat them), so gave the recipe a try this afternoon.

All went well until they went in the oven.  I was supposed to cook them for 12 mins at gas mark 7 (225C).  After five minutes they settled and flowed from little spheres into thick pancakes, which didn't seem quite right.  After 12 mins, the tops were nicely browned, but heavily cracked, and, like a lava flow, liquid material was visible in the gaps.

11 January, 2004


Bent fork. Copyright NRT, 2004I crashed my bike last night.  Swerving to avoid a small dog in the road, I skidded on the wet surface.  I stayed upright, but recovery left me heading directly towards a wall, travelling fairly quickly.  I only had time to straighten the handlebars before hitting, head on.  I don't remember the following couple of seconds, but I wasn't hurt; I have a bruise on my right thigh that I didn't notice at the time, and the sides of my left knee were tender this morning from being squeezed between the frame and forks.  There was lime dust on my left foot and knee, and bizarrely the back of my right shoulder, from hitting the wall, but the bike took vitually all of the impact.  I lost my hat, then found it perched on top of the 2m wall.

The bike is absolutely fine - almost.  The chain came off, but everything is aligned correctly and it went straight back on.  The wheels are fine, without even a bent spoke.  The curved bar ends of the handlebars obviously hit the wall (lime dust and scuffs), but their shape seems to have allowed them to flex.

8 January, 2004


A couple of months ago, when water started pouring through my office light fitting from a punctured water main upstairs, the occupants of a nearby office were somewhat amused.  Imagine the level of my sympathy when the same thing happened to them this morning....

Someone in the Estates Office is going to have to face tough questions.  Evidently there are undocumented mains buried in the concrete between the floors, which might be forgivable in an old, heavily-modified building, but not one built only forty years ago.

7 January, 2004

Flood dammed

I did get more comments spam, so as anticipated, I've installed some protection, the highly-respected MT-Blacklist.  Installation and configuration couldn't have been easier, a large user base seems to keep the master blacklist extremely up-to-date, and today's spam was seamlessly eliminated, so I'm really happy with it up to now.  Recommended for all Movable Type users.

6 January, 2004

Here comes the flood...

The blog received its first comments spam this morning.  Three comments on the same entry, pleasant but generic ("Hi.", "Nice site", etc.), all from the same IP address, but from three different anonymous e-mail addresses (yahoo!, msn, etc.) and citing three different commercial URLs.
Presumably I was expected to leave the URLs on the page, for search engines to register on their next trawl, thereby logging and boosting the link popularity of those sites.  That's not going to happen; the comments are gone.

I'll have to monitor things for now; at present I can catch everything within a few hours of it being posted, but if I become a permanent target for comments spam or the volume increases, I'll need to install a filter.

5 January, 2004

Bike okay - luckily

For various reasons, my bike (bicycle) is currently stored in my living room, and until today hadn't been used since 23 December.  I must have passed it a dozen times in the three full days since I returned to Lancaster, ample opportunities to check it over and ensure it was roadworthy for the first trip to work this year, yet I left it until 08:25 this morning, minutes before leaving.  The tyres were a bit soft, and once I was on the road I found that the gears had stiffened (okay, jammed), but it was basically okay.  If there had been something more serious, I'd have been very late for work, avoidably.  Why did I leave it until the last minute?  What does that say about my mind set?

2 January, 2004

And back again (Brrr! Pt.3)

I arrived back in Lancaster last night after a week away.  I'd left the boiler on to heat the house for half an hour twice each day, but the 'office' (back bedroom) had dropped to 10°C.  I put the heating on continuously for four hours last night, and it's been on again for three hours today, yet the temperature is stubbornly remaining below 14°C.  Perhaps the warmth needs to penetrate the furniture, etc. before there's 'spare heat' for the air.  I've become accustomed to temperatures of at least 20°C indoors over the last week, particularly in bed - last night was quite a shock.

28 December, 2003

New hat

Despite some misgivings, I was persuaded to buy a broad-brimmed, Australian bush-style hat in the sales yesterday.  I like it, and I'm told it looks good, but I'm a little uncertain how often I'll wear it.  Certainly for camping and walking, but I'd like to wear it more often, in town.

26 December, 2003

It's changed...

Despite light rain, my mother an I went for a brief Boxing Day walk this afternoon; she took a few photos.

24 December, 2003

To Wales

Warrington Bank Quay. Copyright NRT, 2003To Wales today, to spend a few days with my mother.  The trip was straightforward: 15 mins walk to the railway station, Virgin InterCity to Warrington, on to Shotton by a commuter train, 10 mins walk until my mother met me by car, then 5 mins to my childhood home; 100 miles (~165km) and 2.5 hours in all.

The photo (click to enlarge) is Warrington Bank Quay station.  Left to right are Platforms one to four; the two outer lines are Manchester-Wales, whilst the inner lines are the West Coast main line from Glasgow to London.  The yellow lines are painted a door's width in from the edge of the platform, but the risk isn't of being hit by an open door, as nowadays interlocking mechanisms prevent doors opening unless a train is stationary; rather it's the risk of being sucked off the platform by trains passing at full speed!

Over the past decade, I've spent a lot of time at this station, arriving from Lancaster at Platform 2, waiting up to 90 mins for a connecting train to Wales at Platform 1, then reversing the process a couple of days later, arriving at Platform 4 and onwards to Lancaster from 3.  I've been very bored here, very cold, and, on occasion, profoundly unhappy.  During the worst period of my PhD in the mid-nineties, I'd escape Lancaster for a weekend, then change train at Warrington on the dreaded trip back on a Monday morning.  Often I'd be sitting at Platform 3, watching a train back to Wales pull into, then leave Platform 1.  To my credit, I never boarded it.

22 December, 2003

First snow

Snow on the Lakes, from Lancaster. © NRT, 2003I went to work via the park this morning, as I happened to have a digital camera with me and the weather was pretty good.  Today is the shortest day of the year and technically the first of winter.  It's appropriate, then, to see the first snow of the season, not actually in Lancaster (though it is forecast for tomorrow) but at least in sight, on the horizon.

20 December, 2003

Brrr! (Pt.2)

I don't know how far the temperature dropped in my house after the heating went off last night, but I had to get up at 03:30 to put more clothes on!

I really need to replace the back door.  Though secure enough, it's slightly warped, and is a poor fit in the frame.  I left a thermometer in the 'lobby' a couple of days ago, and noticed that when my heated office (back bedroom) upstairs is a comfortable 15 degrees (Celsius, obviously), the lobby is only 7-8 degrees.  Unfortunately, it's right by the bathroom, making that room cold too - I've been taking very quick showers recently!

19 December, 2003

Who nicked Bowland Tower?

Alexandra Sq., Lancaster Uni. Copyright NRT, 2003
Today was extraordinarily foggy here in Lancaster.  We occasionally see foggy mornings or evenings (or rather, don't, because of the fog...), but it's rare for it to last all day.  Cycling to work, I met light mist as I entered the Uni. grounds, though town itself had been clear.  Unusually, the mist thickened during the morning, despite the sky directly above being cloudless.  By 13:00 it was as dense as I remember seeing on campus, so I pointed a digital camera out of the window (click to enlarge the image).
The density varied all afternoon; campus must have been at the very top of the fog bank.  I really wish I'd thought to go up the Tower, as the view from the top must have been wonderful at times, projecting above the cloud.

18 December, 2003

Okay, this isn't funny any more

I need sleep.  Now, please.

I'm not at all drowsy, or even tired, but there's just a subconscious dullness; I'm not functioning properly.  Since I got in from work this evening, I've washed the dishes and dug out the leftover christmas cards from last year.

And that's it.

Not much to show for four hours, and I simply can't account for the rest of the time.  I haven't wasted time watching TV, nor read anything, but it's gone.  Now I need to cook and eat my meal, and I still won't have written cards for the people I mightn't see after tomorrow (Friday, when some finish until new year).

18 December, 2003

All done

Yay!  I finished my christmas shopping this morning.  I finished most of it over a fortnight ago, but a couple of people proved awkward....

I'm very glad to be in a job where I can pop into town before work, buy from virtually empty (of customers) shops, then arrive on campus ~20 mins later than usual, time easily made up at the other end of the day.  Far better than braving the city centre on a Saturday or this evening's late-night shopping.

Not that I've bought much from high street shops this year; at least 80% of my purchases have been online.

16 December, 2003

Bags o'bags

I'm not going to rant about extraneous packaging of groceries (not right now, anyway...)  but it does irritate me when checkout staff put my purchases into a bag without asking whether I want one.  I tend to visit Sainsburys (supermarket) by bike, carrying everything in a 40-litre rucksack.  Is it really that likely that I'd want a carrier bag too?  If there's doubt, why not ask?
I tend to buy meat 'off-the-shelf' i.e. vacuum packed, not over the meat/fish counter.  The meat is hence sealed in plastic, on a polystyrene tray.  Why, then, do the checkout staff attempt to place it in a second plastic bag, itself to go in the rucksack (or carrier bag)?
Just now, I popped out to the shop on campus, for some late lunch.  I bought a sandwich, in a rigid plastic pack, and a bag of crisps, in a, er, bag.  Yet the checkout person automatically dropped these two small, sealed items into a carrier bag.  Why?

15 December, 2003

Virus found

McAfee's routine periodic check found the 'JS/NoClose' virus/Trojan in my TemporaryInternetFiles.  No big deal; cleaned immediately, but noteworthy as my first infection in a very long time, thankfully.

15 December, 2003

First day of the vacation

By which I mean the first working day after the end of the Michaelmas term - I'm not on holiday until the end of 23 December, but the students have gone, so campus was really quiet.  It may be a coincidence, but traffic into town at ~17:45 was rather light, too.
Campus is quite a pleasant place without students around; pity we can't operate this way all year!

13 December, 2003

Good start to a family's christmas

Yesterday afternoon my friend A (initial changed) attended her young daughter's school nativity play.  Also present were her ex-husband (B), his new partner - and their baby.  Bringing the baby was kind of a ****y thing to do, not only hurting A but also (successfully) giving an impression of B as a great father, a paragon of family life.
The daughter (call her C) was due to go home with her father, but as they were leaving, C ran back to her mother; she didn't want to go with B.  The shared custody situation, and poor relationship between the parents, meant it just wasn't an option for C to stay with A.
This is so tragic.  As A was telling me a couple of hours later, I couldn't think of anything meaningful to say, beyond platitudes.  What can one say?  No, at the age of 4-5, C won't understand the restrictions placed on the parents.  Yes, she will blame A for 'rejecting' her.  Yes, there is a good chance that such instances will be remembered in some way, and affect their future relationship.

11 December, 2003

I've got new boots, I've got new boots!

A late birthday present, these arrived yesterday.  I'd have had them sooner, but H. didn't know the correct size, not least because I didn't either and had to visit a shoe shop to be measured ;)

9 December, 2003

Did you see that?

I've just reached the hallucination stage of insomnia.  It's a good sign, really - it tends to correspond with the onset of better sleeping after a bad patch.
It's difficult to rationalise, but essentially means that though I see perfectly ordinary things, I interpret them wrongly - I don't see things that just aren't there!

8 December, 2003

Blog migrated successfully - at last

I didn't want to announce it until I knew it was working, but I've spent far too much time over the past fortnight setting up a blog here at the Ministry domain itself, replacing the remotely-hosted Blogger/Blog*Spot one.

28 November, 2003

DreamWeaver unraveled

I've decided: I don't like DreamWeaver.  It doesn't have anything like the type and level of functionality that I appreciate in HomeSite.  DW is particularly bad (slow) at accessing files across the campus network, and it's not good enough for editing html directly in code view.  Maybe it's better in WYSIWYG format, but I don't care; I don't work that way.  Hence I'll be dumping DW asap and returning to HomeSite.

26 November, 2003

Follow up: Socialise, or...

In case anyone's been waiting with bated breath, the missing student has been found, at his parents' home. He's been struggling with his course, and plainly isn't getting the vaguest support from his flatmates, so ran away from it all. It doesn't look like he's returning, or if he does it's rather too late to change degree course, so he might need to take a year out and start something new next year.

25 November, 2003

Socialise, or...

I work at a collegiate university; for accommodation, social and welfare purposes, all students are members of a college, independent of whatever academic departments they are registered with. All staff are also members of the colleges, and in addition to my primary job based in central admin, I'm a senior officer of a college.
Whilst I was in the College office this afternoon, a couple of students came in to see the secretary. One of their flatmates hasn't been seen for almost a fortnight, so could one of them have his room? No, they didn't know his name, as he doesn't go out to the bar with them, and just sits in his room, working.

24 November, 2003

It's here! Sort of...

When he visited last week, technician Rob suggested I should book my new PC in with ISS (tech support) for it's initial configuration, even though it was still on order, so that by the time it arrived I'd be some way along the queue.  Well,  I'll still be close to the foot of the waiting list after only six days, but it's arrived!
There's no real point in opening the packaging yet - a beige box is a beige box, to me, so it's not exactly like a second birthday.  At least in sealed packaging it'll be reasonably safe, which is important because I'll have to store it under my desk until needed, and I've no doubt it will receive a few accidental kicks.

23 November, 2003

Yay! I overtook the dishes!

I cook. It creates dirty pans and utensils. I eat. It leaves dirty plates and cutlery. I leave the dishes to soak, so washing up is much easier later.
Next meal. I wash the pans & utensils I need, and start cooking. While I'm waiting, I wash the rest of the dishes.
I finish cooking, eat, and leave everything to soak.

20 November, 2003


At a conservative estimate, I've written somewhere in excess of 15,000 words this week, in various online fora, at the Ministry's website and in e-mails, both work-related and personal. The challenge would be to focus that effort, which I barely notice at the time, in one coherent direction....

19 November, 2003

Nearly there... but not quite

When I came in this morning, my (temporary) PC was off.  I'd no idea whether it was a power-saving automatic shutdown, or a 'helpful' porter, but it means last night's hard drive transfer failed.
Having just looked, it seems the PC was set to power down after an hour of inactivity - I'm surprised the transfer process didn't count as 'activity', but I've changed the setting anyway, to 'never off'.
I've spoken to Vince again, and he's going to sent the files again this evening.

18 November, 2003

Nearly back in business

Just spoken to Vince, and he's going to send all my data and config directories (i.e. all but  OS & program directories) from the copy of my old hard drive to this one, overnight.

Tomorrow will be my first 'normal' working day in almost three weeks.  Three weeks without a computer, for the person most directly responsible for maintaining the University's web presence.  Considered that way, it's appalling.

18 November, 2003

A working PC, on my own desk!

Luckily, my day wasn't as pointless as I'd expected.  At about 10:30, a technician called in to configure 'my' (L's old) PC, so by early afternoon I was making progress, installing Photoshop, DreamWeaver, etc. (and happily crippling M$ Office).  I should be more-or-less fully operational again tomorrow.  I'll need another technician to transfer at least some of the contents of my old hard drive to this temporary one, but I should be able to deal with the backlog of routine web editing, if not the ongoing projects.

17 November, 2003

Sorry, boss...

Bugger.  Just checked my University e-mail (via the web, as I'm at home), and received a stern e-mail from L. for working off-campus without explicit permission.  I thought it was understood that I'd work from home whilst I didn't have access to the computer in the office, but seemingly not.

12 November, 2003


A few years ago, it was usual to go to a pub at least four night per week; not drinking heavily, but it was just the way to spend time, socialising with same group of 8-10. It's difficult to pin down exactly, but perhaps around the time most of these friends turned thirty (when I was about 26), that practice tailed-off; it rapidly dwindled to just Fridays, and occasion Saturdays, and more recently it's not even every week, very rarely with more than 4 other people.

9 November, 2003

Ooh! Ah!

Bonfire Night was last night. Or rather, it was 5 Nov. (Wednesday), but Lancaster City Council always saves its big firework display until the nearest Saturday evening.

6 November, 2003

On to Plan 'C', it seems

When L. received a new office PC, she kept the old one, to work from home (probably true!).  Since I don't have an office PC at all at present, she brought her old one back to campus for a while.  Unfortunately, the network configuration wasn't quite as she'd thought, and I can't log in as myself.  This prevents access to files in my network space and top-level server admin directories that aren't even visible to other users, and understandably L. doesn't want me logging in as her, with access to her e-mail, etc.

5 November, 2003


Nope, it's dead. I've just spoken to Vince about my PC, and it's beyond hope.  The hard drive works okay, just so long as it remains in a bucket of dry ice.  At room temperature, nothing.  This is compounded by a major fault on the motherboard, which renders the whole thing too expensive to justify repairing.
Vince is going to copy the entire contents of my hard drive to some network space, where it can remain until I obtain a new PC, so I haven't lost anything, which is some compensation.

3 November, 2003

Sick PC

I thought the problems with my office PC had been resolved, but according to technician Vince, it's still throwing up (error messages) and he's still working on it.  He says he'll let me know when it's repaired (neatly pre-empting my e-mails for progress reports...), but at least that implies it is repairable.

2 November, 2003

Private world public - and always was

I don't think I'd heard of loganberries until I was in my twenties. In case you still haven't, they're almost identical to raspberries, only longer and less sweet. I first heard of them when my father started to grow them in his garden a few years ago, as his grandfather had done. I presume his mother, a keen gardener, did so too, but I was too young to register them being other than raspberries. My point is that until today I thought loganberries were unusual and little known.
I've just eaten a Sainsbury's low-fat fruit yoghurt, presumably produced in the tens of thousands and supporting a significant proportion of the British fruit growing industry. The flavour of this pot? Loganberry.

31 October, 2003

En-suite shower

Home early from work today. Merrily working away at ~13:30, trying to ignore the sound of drilling upstairs, I was surprised to hear running water. This took a few seconds to locate - one doesn't usually expect a cascade of water from the lights. Coincidentally, the drilling had stopped abruptly.

29 October, 2003


It's only 16:15, but it's been a long day, starting with a puncture, my first for at least three months. Note to the military: kevlar, as used in bullet-proof vests and 'thorn-proof' bike tyres, doesn't stop drawing pins.
The repair made me late for a meeting, leaving just enough time to reach campus, buy milk and make a cup of tea but not drink it before having to leave for another, two-hour meeting, then a further hour-long debriefing/discussion session. Only then did I have an opportunity for my first drink in 12 hours or so, followed by my first food in at least 16 hours. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the day has been a bit of a struggle.

NP:Staind, '14 Shades Of Grey'. S'okay; nothing special.

23 October, 2003

No skipping!

It seems I've just exceeded my allocation of 400 tracks played via LAUNCHcast this month, so I get them at low bandwidth, in mono, without the ability to skip those I dislike, until the end of the month. The playlist seems to have shrunk, too, unless it's just coincidence that 3 of the last 5 tracks have been from the same album (Jethro Tull, 'Roots to Branches'), and the remaining two were from the same album (Pink Floyd, 'PULSE').
The alternative would be sign up to the subscription service - high bandwidth, no repetitive ads (which are all US anyway, so utterly pointless in the UK) and unlimited skipping.
But the 'service' isn't available outside the USA, at any price. Thanks, Yahoo!

22 October, 2003

Caveat Emptor

That's Latin, that is. Means 'buyer beware', and would be advice for those using Amazon UK's 'Marketplace' facility.

In principle, it's a good system, whereby an item's page on the Amazon site offers the new item direct from Amazon at one price, plus an opportunity to buy it from other Amazon users instead, typically second-hand and hence cheaper. The transaction is covered by Amazon's usual terms and secure payment software, and the independent sellers are supposed to offer the same standard of service as Amazon itself; the item should be dispatched within 1-2 days. The main attraction for me is that sometimes a third party seller immediately has an item that Amazon might take 4-6 weeks to find, if ever.

20 October, 2003

I'm cold!

Though bright & sunny, it's a cold day in Lancaster. I think today's was the first (visible) frost of the season, but I hadn't noticed until I'd already left the house, in fairly lightweight clothing. A disadvantage of double-glazing is its selling point; that one is isolated from the outdoor environment. I grew up in a double-glazed house, but everywhere I've lived since I was 18 has been single-glazed, so I'm used to feeling the outside temperature inside, or seeing condensation on the windows. I suppose I'll experience a few inappropriately-dressed days before I get used to different cues.

16 October, 2003

Am I being obscure?

I was asked to add a link to the Uni. homepage, entitled
"University seals deal for accommodation"

To which I responded:

Seals can play cards?  Should we be promoting gambling?

No-one understood.  Seems perfectly clear to me....

14 October, 2003

Caring for Your Introvert

If you want to know me better, try this remarkably accurate article. It's one of those profound pieces that seem obvious afterwards.

9 October, 2003

By the numbers

Copyright National Express - reproduced for reviewI was stuck behind a National Express coach on my way home from work a few minutes ago; slow traffic provided plenty of time to study the company's new (to me, anyway) logo, a prime example of corporate blandness.
A red circle overlapping a larger blue circle on a white background, with a curved 'freehand' white arrow linking the circles. The tail of the arrow makes the red circle 'smile', whilst the upward curve of the arrow is a similar cliche indicating positivity. The arrow links the smaller red circle (you are here) to the larger blue circle (the world), indicating "we'll take you places". The red, white & blue colour scheme reinforces the 'national' element of the UK company.
All very inoffensive, as design-by-committee tends to be, but hardly inspiringly creative.
The typography is quite good on the website (though not 'in the field', on the coach itself), with the word 'National' being as long as the graphic element is wide, and the larger 'Express' off to the side in a welcome break from the obvious.

NP: Sigur Rs, Boston, USA, 15/03/03

7 October, 2003

Limited release for 'Underworld'?

Has anyone in the UK seen this vampires 'n' werewolves film?
Don't get me wrong; I've yet to hear a favourable review of it, and probably wouldn't go to see it (though Kate Beckinsale in latex has an undeniable attraction...). It's just that I haven't seen the slightest hint of it having released in the Lancaster/Morecambe area. It seems 'Calendar Girls' is doing well, and is being given extended runs at local cinemas, but in the age of multiplexes I'm surprised films get totally displaced from the schedules.

NP: Opeth, Washington DC, 21/07/03

6 October, 2003

Back to school

Ten minutes after waking this morning, I opened the curtains. Dull, drizzly. Ugh. By the time I'd had a drink and checked my e-mail, the rain had stopped. Yay! If I'd left the house then, I'd still be dry. Not dressed, but dry.

6 October, 2003

Hello world!

Just occasionally, a weekend does its job, and I wake refreshed and ready for the working week. This was one. Not a bad morning - for the first ten minutes.

5 October, 2003


Cold morning, here; the first cold one of the year, at least so far as I've noticed. Apparently September was the warmest on record i.e. since 17-something, though admittedly that's in London, which doesn't have quite the same climate as N.W. England anyway. Point is, we went from an extremely hot summer to a warm onset of autumn, then normality has just reasserted itself!

The boiler is on, the pipes are creaking, so the chill should recede soon. I suppose I'd better wait it out back in bed ;)

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