Saturday, February 28, 2009

Less bollocksy

I was sitting at my desk quietly working away the other day when I heard my boss come out with the following pearl of wisdom while discussing something with a colleague: "I want it just like that - but less bollocksy!"

Now, this is just the latest in a long line of hilarious statements that the man has said since I started many years ago, but when you think about it he's quite right. At some point people have started using 4000 words to say things that could be said in about five. I was reading a review of a book about writing yesterday that said how a lot of authors tend to write things like 'John looked at Kate and said "oh, I like that" ironically' when in fact if it's irony done properly you don't need to point it out, because if you have to point it out it probably wasn't ironic in the first place and you just end up sounding like you're a) stupid, and b) patronising your reader (something I'd never do. Oh no).

Anyhoo, since that day I've found myself looking at various things and thinking about how they could be simplified and made, well, less bollocksy. And so, in the first of a new occasional series (which I'll undoubtedly forget about and never return to) we turn our attention to…

The new razor I bought this week!

If like me you're a boy who needs to shave once a month or so like, every day or something, you'll be keenly aware of the fact that a good razor is a very important thing. I've been using a Gillette Fusion for the last couple of years because the advertising suggested it would make me appear more masculine and attractive to women there was a promotion on in Sainsburys a few years back, but because it was getting a bit old and manky and you almost need to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of replacement blades I decided I'd buy a new one as a bit of a treat.

But zut alore! What a choice! After standing in the man-stuff aisle in Sainsburys for what seemed like an eternity, I found myself with two choices: the Gillette Fusion Stealth Power Razor or the King of Shaves Razor Warp. Although the Gillette one was half price for just under four quid, I eventually plumped for the slightly more expensive (just over four quid) King of Shaves one, mainly because the Gillette one needed a battery and just looked excessively complex; really, all I want a razor to do is not slice my pretty pretty face up - I don't need it to be playing show tunes at me. And I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be able to follow through on its promise of making me stealthy.

But while my newly-purchased King of Shaves razor doesn't appear to be burdened with more unnecessary features than a Swiss-Army penknife, the packaging does appear to be guilty of being a bit too bollocksy.

Let's review:

You'll notice here that I've helpfully annotated the photograph. Good times.

 To begin, I'd like to say that the packaging itself is quite clean and distinctive; unlike the competition from Gillette, King of Shaves has not cluttered their design with has-been sports personalities or fonts that wouldn't be out of place on advertising materials for a 1970s science-fiction film.

That said, they're not entirely innocent. So, let's explore the charges against King of Shaves.

1. The King of Shaves Razor Warp comes with three extra blades. But rather than say 'comes with three extra blades,' someone in the marketing department decided to jazz it up a little, the result being that I am now the proud owner of a razor and three Endurium cartridges.

I have no idea what Endurium is.

Seriously, WTF!? It sounds like something from an X-Men movie. Isn't Wolverine's skeleton made of Endurium? If the use of the word Endurium is supposed to impress me, well, mission failed. I'm totally perplexed. My little face is screwed up in confusion. 

I want my mummy.

2. Someone get a proofreader. It's 'RAZOR,' not 'AZOR.'

3. 'Hybrid Synergy System Razor'!? What!? Um, I thought I was buying something to shave with, not a Toyota Prius.

4. Warp? Well of course I'm drawn to this because I'm a Star Trek fan, but so far all King of Shaves has promised to do is cut my C02 emissions and get me to Ceti Alpha V in the blink of an eye.

Verdict? Guilty - make it less bollocksy!

I've actually not used the hybrid warp-drive/razor yet, but I'm hoping it shaves better than its confusing packaging suggests.


Elsewhere, I sampled one of the new limited edition flavours of Walkers crisps yesterday: Cajun Squirrel.

Yes, you read that right. I ate some Cajun Squirrel flavoured crisps.

To be honest, I've never eaten anything squirrelly before, so I couldn't possibly tell you how close these were to the real thing. What I can tell you is that they tasted a bit like a combination of slightly-off roast beef crisps and that taste you get when a dodgy curry repeats on you. Which means they were kind of OK at first. About an hour later, though, my mouth genuinely felt like something - a squirrel, perhaps - had crawled up inside it and died. I swear I could feel fur in there too. And to make matters worse, I COULD NOT GET RID OF THE TASTE. I tried mints, drinks, dinner - nothing worked. I went round a mates place in the evening and when he asked me what I wanted to drink I almost asked for a glass of bleach.

I could still taste them this morning. According to the packet, Cajun Squirrel flavoured crisps were suggested by a guy called Martyn from Hednesford, and if that's true I'm going to hunt him down and dry-slap him. 

Unfortunately, I still have the Fish and Chip flavour to go. Lord help me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The movies just got waaaaay more exciting

If, like me, you're a whore to upcoming movies you love reading up on what exciting movies are on the horizon, you can't help but be excited about two new productions that were recently announced, both variations of a classic novel: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Pride and Predator. This is great because ohmygod-have-you-ever-read-that-book? Crushingly dull. The addition of  "all-new scenes of bone crunching zombie action" as the synopsis for the book version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies puts it can only make it 100 percent more readable.

Anyway, because my life is so utterly, soul-crushingly empty that I have nothing better to do at the behest of someone I know who knows someone involved in Pride and Predator, I've pressed my finely-honed photoshop skills into action and come up with a bit of photo-chopped proof of concept for the film. Now, ideally I would've actually used a Predator for this, but the hilarious Filmdrunk beat me to the punch on that one, so I'm making do with my other favourite mischievous alien: the Alien.

The bonus here is that every visible part of Keira Knightley (or "Keira-f**king-Knightley" as a good friend of mine calls her) is eradicated. Veering off topic for a second, I'd just like to say that I once had a bit of a thing for Keira-F**king-Knightley, until I realised that she's got a) far too many teeth for her own good, and b) the chest of a pre-pubescent boy; I could never go out with a girl who has smaller tits than I do. Where was I? Ah yes! I think the Alien works quite well here because she's totally thrown herself into the role and is leaning in for some full-on Mr Darcy action. Admittedly he's looking a bit less keen, but you know he's going to cave eventually and move in for the kill like a real gentleman would - at which point she'll punch him in the back of the throat with her little mouth, impregnate his sorry ass, then - BAM! - before you know it job's-a-goodun' and you've got more little baby Aliens flitting around Netherfield Park Manor than you can shake a stick at.

Good times.

Any-hoo, all this talk of classic literature/blockbuster movie mash-ups has got me thinking, and we all know how that usually ends when I haven't taken the appropriate meds. The end result this time is … well, you may recall that the only favourable thing I found in the utterly pointless remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still was that the giant robot Gort was cool, and I thought he should get his own spin-off. I still believe that to be true, but I do feel that Gort needs to push himself as an actor because he really doesn't want to get himself typecast now, does he? No. So, anyway, I think Gort should hit the stage.

Notice how I'm pushing for classic Gort here, because nothing's funnier than a giant robot that walks like he's crapped his pants. Anyway, I think this would seriously work. Can't you just feel the sizzling passion sparking off Gort and wotserface - I'm guessing she's Irene Jacob (though she could be Kenneth Branagh in a wig; he is a versatile performer after all). She's all, like, "GORT! Ravish me!" And he's all "Wait-up, bitch; I'm just going to laser someone's face off - then you'll get some robo-loving."

He's one smooth operator. A well-oiled machine, I think you could say.

Hollywood - if you're interested, get your people to call my people. Although I don't actually have any people, so just, y'know, email me. Maybe hit me up on iChat or Windows Messenger or something. I'll be here. I have nothing better to do.


So there we have it: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Pride and Predator, and Gorthello. Three sterling ideas, I think you'll agree. And all of which are infinitely better than the recently-announced Gnomeo and Juliet (I shit you not), which is, quite frankly a horrific idea; small people are scary enough at the best of times, let alone when they're making out with each other.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Best things EVAH?

It's been a busy few days since I last ranted posted anything, so let's zip through a few things, eh?

Why the hell not!?


I'm addicted to Marks and Spencer's Triple Chocolate Crunch cereal. Seriously (cerealously?), it's awesome; I'm convinced they lace it with crack or something because I'm totally addicted to it and have been eating it for lunch each day at work since I came back from the Christmas break.

Still, I think M&S are missing a bit of a trick in the currant economic climate, so I'd like to pitch this to them.

Mmmm… tasty and topical - now that's what I call a good start to the day! (Although I suspect it might leave a slightly bitter aftertaste…)


I had my hair cut the other day because in the space of just a couple of days it'd gone from 'reasonably awesome' to 'ARRRRRGH!' and when it goes 'ARRRRRGH' I just give up, throw my hands in the air like I just don't care, and book an appointment. This time around I booked an appointment for Sunday morning, which was a bit of a double-edged sword because my regular lady doesn't work Sundays meaning that I had to go with an untested newbie, but on the flip-reverse (yes, that's a little reference for all you Blazin' Squad fans out there) you do get 10 percent off (of the cost, not just your hair) on Sundays. And with the current economic climate being what it is, I decided to run the risk and save 10 percent. 

I needn't have worried. Untested newbie was awesome - she was chatty, gave me a great cut, and didn't get anywhere near Van Goghing one of my ears (unlike the last untested newbie I had). Best of all, though, she gave me a proper full-on head massage; it was so good I actually thought she was going to stove my skull in at one point and I was totally down with that. I would totally pay for that. Wait a second - I did. OK, I'd totally pay more. I wonder if I could just stroll in and pay her to threaten to crush my head? That's definitely a service they don't list, but they really should. I was *this* close to groaning with pleasure, and the last time I did that in public was when I got the last pair of purple Joker shoes at half price.


I found the best piece of movie tie-in merchandise EVAH today - check this out: Watchmen condoms in Dr. Manhatten blue. Is there nothing studios won't do to whore their films to us? Wait, I don't care - whoever thought these up is a genius. If you're one of my (beloved) Facebook friends you might've seen a brief conversation that ensued between me and a pal after I brought these to his attention. If you're not, it went a little something like this:

Me (status update): Tim thinks this is the best movie tie-in EVAH: /137991/.

Pal: Nice. The irony being that comic book fans are the least likely people to need them.

Me: Don't be silly, of course they're not supposed to be used - if you take it out of the original packaging it'll be WORTHLESS.

They really haven't thought it through, have they? But faceless Warner Bros. marketing genius - I salute you, sir! And can I have some please - in their original packaging, of course*.


Just started a new game of Scrabble on Facebook (another massive addiction of mine at the moment), and in my ongoing quest to litter the board with as many rude words as possible, I kicked off my turn with:

Heh, dirty.

I could've got a much higher-scoring word than that, but for sheer comedy value it was utterly priceless.

(On the other hand, how come I can use that, but not 'June'? Bizarre!)


OK, I first saw this over at graphic novelist Paul Hornschemeier's blog, News and/or Headlice, and it's done the rounds of the tinternet over the course of the last week or so, so chances are you've already seen it, but it's nevertheless made me laugh consistently every time I've watched, so I'm posting it regardless.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is exactly the sort of thing that YouTube was created for. Hell, this is exactly the sort of thing that the freakin' internet was created for. 

Good times!


Right, on to more important business that I'm nevertheless going to squirrel away at the bottom of this post in case it all goes to pot and I want to pretend it never happened. I think I inadvertently and rather unwittingly cemented plans to start my own little business today. Yup, crazy, huh? I was chatting to a colleague about my idea of starting a small independent press and rather than shoot it down like I thought he might, he totally told me to go for it. And d'ya know what? I think I might. I've got a name (and no I'm not going to reveal it just yet), and I've already thrown out a request for a URL and logo and … well, I think it could just, maybe, with a little bit of luck, work…

Hell, better to have tried and failed, crashing 'n burning in a glorious ball of fire than to dream about it but do nothing, right?

That being the case, I'm off to write a mission statement!

*Good lord, I've literally just realised that the opposite to 'in their original packaging' is quite simply too horrific to consider. Ugh. I feel sick.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Girls are weird

A controversial title up there, methinks, but on this, the sexiest, lovely-dovey day of the year, I'm standing by it:


And no, before you ask I don't mean in the fun-bags and front bottom departments. I mean in the mental sense - with mental being the operative word. I've taken some lashings in the romantic sense over the years, y'see, so before you offer up those Tesco value roses (12 for a fiver - nothing says "I love you" more than an afterthought you can slap on the Clubcard) and stump up for a starter AND desert in Pizza Hut, I thought I'd offer up just a few cautionary tales, gut-wrenchingly drawn from my own experiences.

Cautionary tale the first: The cabbage - vegetable of love
Teenage love is supposedly a wonderful thing, but with hindsight warning bells should've started ringing the moment she handed me the oversized Valentines Day card. Handmade cards and gifts are apparently a sign that someone's put a lot of thought and effort into it, but I generally think it just says your other half is a bit tight and couldn't be arsed to pop down to Clintons. On this occasion I had no reason to reconsider my point of view, because I could quite clearly see that the card I had just been given had been made using a Frosties box sloppily covered in paper; the front was dominated by a large hand-drawn picture of a cabbage, and inside was a poem, an excessive amount of 'X's (even for a teenage girl), and Tony the Tiger, peering out at me rather eerily through the semi-transparent paper covering the former cereal packet and promising that this Valentines Day would be "GRRRRREEEAT!" 

As if a handmade card that looked like it had been made by a retarded cereal serial killer not allowed access to sharp instruments wasn't bad enough, the poem within really should have been the tipping point that made me scream like Ned Flanders and run a mile: I don't remember the entire thing, but I do recall that one of the couplets rhymed the words 'emotional baggage' with 'cabbage.' Being polite, though, I'm pretty sure I smiled, offered her some of my roast chicken crisps at breaktime, and walked her halfway home at the end of the day.

As you might've guessed, this relationship didn't last too long; we split up about two months later, with her citing the fact that I was spending too much time revising for my A-Levels when I could be watching a new episode of Casualty on BBC1 with her, and that I'd spoken to another girl in my class who she didn't like terribly much. She subsequently accused me of having an affair, and refused to speak to me; despite the fact that she dumped me, she went on to make numerous crank phone calls to my home, and later had her subsequent boyfriend follow me down Feltham high street like a really bad, awfully chavvy private detective.

Epilogue: Many years later she got back in touch with me, apologised for being a mentalist immature, and asked if we could meet up again. I hesitantly said yes, made her drive, and subsequently got *very* drunk. Things nevertheless went marvelously though, and we begun hanging out again. Fast forward several months, however, and her nutter tendencies began to reassert themselves again, so I called it a day.

Epilogue the second: Several years later she got in touch again, apologised again, and we started hanging out again. Long story short, blah blah blah *NUTTER* yadda yadda yadda, au revoir. The last contact I had from her was when she asked to be my friend on Facebook. I politely, but firmly, clicked 'ignore.'

Cautionary tale the second: It's not you, it's me. No wait, it's definitely you.
Around the same time that the events of the first epilogue above were playing out, I was good mates with a woman who was a bit older than me; we're not talking Mrs Robinson older, more like 30-ish to my (at the time) early 20s. We were good mates, nothing more; I genuinely wasn't attracted to her in any way, mainly because she wasn't Seven of Nine, or anything approaching Seven of Nine. Even so, we'd occasionally meet up for a drink or to go catch a film, and happily discuss the shabby state of our respective love-lives.

One night, though, she got a bit tipsy, and as I dropped her home she rather coyly asked if I wanted to "pop-in" (both literally and figuratively, it turns out). After a few moments where I thought she was having me on, I very politely declined her gracious invitation, saying that I "didn't see her in that way," which I thought was both honest and polite, and certainly preferable to going "Ugh - are you having a laugh?" Unfortunately, she clearly thought that I just needed a little convincing, and we subsequently spent the next 40 minutes in my car outside her house, me refusing to turn the engine off (because I figured it might make her think I was giving in), and her refusing to get out; I seriously thought about seeing if I could fling her out of the car by doing a handbrake turn or something.

Eventually, though, she gave up/realised I wasn't budging and f**ked off got out, and I went home in a bit of a huff because I'd missed a repeat of Space: Above and Beyond on BBC2 (I really liked that show).

The story does not end there, though, because hell seriously does hath no fury like a woman scorned. Rather than let the matter rest, she chose to scuttle the good ship dignity and parade her embarrassment in front of all and sundry, including a very good friend of mine. And she'd even come up with a reason for me declining her gracious offer of some awkward nookie on a Saturday evening: yes, I was gay.

Of course!

The surprising fact that I was gay got back to me rather quickly, as I'm sure you can imagine, and no one was more surprised to discover that I was gay than me. 

Now, I'm normally a reasonably chilled out chap, but on this occasion I decided that I needed to have words. A few days later we met up to go to the gym. I was obviously a bit, well, pissed off with her at this point, and noticing this she asked me what was wrong. Figuring that I didn't want to have a major meltdown and make a scene in front of all the other gym-goers and the older ladies attending their aqua-aerobics class, I replied that I'd talk to her about it when we were leaving. She said OK, and went back to checking out tight-assed young men (whether they were for me or her I'm not quite sure).

Anyway, as we were leaving I decided to clear the air. A massive argument ensued in the car park because she didn't think she'd done anything wrong, then she started crying, and I, deciding that I'd had enough, got in my car and drove off. BAM! 

An hour later she called me up, and without actually seeing her I could tell she was still crying and something of a sniveling, snotty mess; I'm amazed she actually made it home without crashing. She apologised profusely, and while I do usually like to bear a grudge I accepted her apology because Space: Above and Beyond was on again and it was the only way I could think to get rid of her.

Cautionary tale the third: Bitch-slut
When it comes to looks I like to think I'm OK; I wouldn't say I'm spectacular (go on, argue with me), but I'm reasonably sure I fall into the category of passable. I totally think there's a woman out there who, when the chips are down, will definitely make do with me. That being the case, when a lady who I consider is 'out of my league' pays attention to me, I certainly perk up.


A few years back, a lady who I considered to be out of my league paid attention to me, and I perked up. I thought she was funny, intelligent, a little bit kooky, and very attractive. Turns out, though, that she was a complete bitch. The story begins with her being nice to me, and eventually inviting me over to her place just before Christmas - as a mate, I thought, because she couldn't seriously like me, could she? Anyway, I turned up - late, I should say, because I got lost - but I figured the fact that I was bearing a bottle of champagne (a reasonably decent one at that) as a Christmas present kind of made up for it. And apparently it did because she was clearly happy to see me, and we seemed to have a good evening hanging out at her place putting the Christmas decorations up. Well, she did that - I just sat, watched, and offered the occasional insightful and witty comment about the state of her baubles.

Eventually I decide to push off, and she offers to walk me to my car, which I decide is awfully nice and very modern. Anyway, when we get to my car she goes all nervous, then blurts out that she really likes me and she's embarrassed and she hopes I feel the same way, which quite frankly was a stupid thing to say because there was a freakin' ticker-tape parade going on in my head with bounding kittens, singing unicorns, and a troupe of burlesque dancers doing full-on major jazz-hands. Thinking that she was one million percent totally awesome, and by this point evidently rather cold, I put my arms around her, and told her I completely felt the same way. Without being too gratuitous, we kissed in the street, and then I headed home, blissfully ignorant to the fact that it was quite possible I'd passed through every red light on the way.

When I got home I found she'd sent me a text essentially saying that she'd had a really great time and couldn't wait to see me again. I was on Christmas holiday at this point, and I replied that I'd also had a great time, and yes, I'd love to see her whenever she was free again. Unfortunately, whenever I texted her over the next couple of weeks to see if she wanted to meet up it turned out that she was really busy and … well, yeah. I later learnt from a friend of a friend that she accused me of being "clingy" and that I "kept texting her." I wouldn't quite say I "kept" texting her, because quite frankly I think I guessed what was happening after the first few rounds of excuses, but I kept a little glimmer of hope alive by checking in a couple more times. She had, after all, told me I was lovely.

OK, that does kind of make me sound like a crazy man, but I wasn't and here's why: turns out that she was pretty much like the deli counter at Morrisons (I refuse to use a more high-class supermarket for this analogy) where you just took a ticket and got in-line, whereas I was a bit more gentlemanly (high-five for taking the moral high-ground!) and unwittingly thwarted/bypassed her slutty advances.

Still, I was a little bit crushed because I thought she really liked me…

Epilogue: A few months after that fateful night I had the misfortune of unwittingly finding myself at the same party as Bitch-slut. Upon entering the party and spotting her, I decided that I'd just turn around and leave rather than cause both of us any embarrassment or trouble, but the birthday girl spotted me and made a big do about me arriving. Without actually saying anything to me, Bitch-slut pretended to be happy to see me for the sake of the birthday girl. The extent of our contact that night was, I think, one slightly awkward, very brief exchange that lasted all of about two seconds and pretty much consisted of "hey, how are you?" "hi, yeah good thanks."

I kind of regret that I didn't get the chance to take her to one side and just say that while I was a bit confused and upset by what she'd done and how she'd portrayed me to other people I knew, I was just going to put it behind me and move on, and I hoped she'd be happy. Figuring that she'd just cite any attempt to talk to her as being clingy or weird, though, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.


Cautionary tale the fourth: WTF?!
At its core, romance is an intricate game played between two people (or more if you're particularly kinky). On some occasions, though, I've find myself looking desperately for the instructions, or merely wanting to up-end the board and send all the pieces flying (a remnant, no doubt, of my childhood solution to many a frustrating game of Monopoly). Say, for instance, you met a girl who you thought was funny, intelligent, attractive, and with whom you shared similar interests. And what if said girl made it, if not blatantly obvious, than at least hinted at the fact that she might like you.

Oh, who am I kidding? She made it pretty blatant. 

So you do the whole 'getting to know you' thing where you text each other like teenagers, and you're thinking "oh, HELLO!" 

But then she stops. Not, takes a while to get back to you. Just stops. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. But then she starts again - hurrah! But then she stops again. But th- oh, you get the idea.

Well, that is when you take a deep breath, shake your head in utter confusion, write a vitriolic blog post, and resolve to spend Valentines night on your own watching the telly and eating copious amounts of junk food until it comes out of your ears and nose.

So yes, just for today, I'm calling you out, ladies. Christian Bale-stylee, you know you can be f**kin' weird sometimes, right?

Monday, February 09, 2009

The mythical Redeye

A lot of things have taken a rather lewd-sounding turn recently. On Friday I was offered an iced ring, and today I was given a free Redeye; before you ask, Friday's iced doughnut was lovely, and the Redeye was … intriguing.

Before you all shake your heads in utter confusion and rub your eyes in a manner that makes you look a bit like a bemused cartoon character, let me explain. The Redeye is one of the mythical Starbucks beverage that does not appear on the menu boards in store; a babycino is another one, but that's way less potent because it's just frothed milk in a tiny cup that basically suggests you want your children to look sophisticated, but can't be bothered to actually buy them anything more than what appears to be used shampoo foam. Curiously, I've noticed recently that my Starbucks beverage of choice, the Grande Misto, is also well on its way to legendary off-menu status, having been squeezed off the boards by such poncy new drinks as vanilla chai lattes and chocolate-banana Vivanos (which admittedly are delicious).

Where was I?

Ah yes! The Redeye. Now, the Redeye was first mentioned to me in a somewhat conspiratorial fashion by one of the baristas in Secret Starbucks a few weeks ago. And when I say 'conspiratorial' I'm not kidding - he looked both ways before leaning across the counter to whisper how it was made to me. The Redeye, you see, sounds like it could drop a horse, for it is comprised of one shot of freshly-ground coffee, topped-up with brewed coffee, and then finished with a sophisticated splash of double cream. 

To my coffee-addled mind, ever-ready for a new hit, it sounded nothing short of awesome.

Since then, I've been working up the courage to try one, but each time I've mentioned it in passing to the manager (who is herself quite the coffee addict) she's looked at me in terror, clutched her hands to her chest, and whispered three Hail Marys before turning to the panini grill and making the sign of the cross over a tuna melt. On one occasion I'm pretty sure I saw her splash holy water on my Misto. 

Anyway, today the topic of the mythical Redeye came up again when I was chatting to the barista who first mentioned it to me, while the manager was standing next to him looking aghast. The conversation soon veered off into safer territory, and a few minutes later I was sitting down enjoying my Misto.

An aside:

Has anyone seen the advert for the new Ford Ka? Best Mate Jo has - and she's highly disturbed by it. Keep your eyes peeled 10 seconds in.

If you didn't catch it, here's what troubled her so.

Immediately after she saw the ad for the first time I received a text that just said:

"OMG! Ford Ka ad - why is that man giving that kid a penis lolly!?"

Ten minutes later and the barista hurried over to where I was sitting and covertly placed a small takeaway Espresso cup in front of me. 

"It's a Redeye - a small taste," he whispered, once again looking around as if he was going to be taken out by a sniper. "If you don't like it, don't drink it all!"

And then he was gone.

I regarded the small cup with suspicion. I guess the Redeye had taken on such mythical status in my mind that I thought it might be something like a coffee grenade - like if I hoofed it at the far wall it might explode or something. Fortunately I wasn't in an overtly destructive mood (except for the when it came to the office snowman - after days of threatening to, I finally kicked his head off and stamped on it as I left this evening), and was instead in the mood for some free coffee.

I carefully eased the top off (oi oi!) and looked at the beverage within. It was a light, creamy mocha colour, and in no way looked any more potent than the half a cup of Misto I had left. Without any concern for my well being I picked it up and began sipping. It was different than the Misto - a good different, earthy, smooth, strong, all characteristics I can empathise with. After a few more sips I knocked back the rest of the drink, and returned to what was left of my Misto.

It was as I returned my mug to the counter that I glanced over at the manager. Her gaze was fixed, her eyes wide open.

"I had one too," she said quickly. I smiled, said goodbye, and headed back to the office.

The coffee sweats kicked in half way back, at about the same time that I got an overwhelming desire to run the remaining distance because, y'know, walking is really slow when you think about it. By the time I reached the office I was vibrating at a rather high frequency, and wondering why everyone was moving and talking so slowly. It reminded me of the Star Trek episode 'Wink of an Eye' where the crew encounter a race called the Scalosians who live at a hyperaccelerated rate.

I was hoping I wouldn't meet Deela, the woman in the trailer, though; she always freaked me out a little. I think it's because her eyes are so far apart.  I wonder if she needed an eye-wrangler?

Either way, it took the best part of an hour - and a rather large lunch - before I eventually slowed back down to normal human speed. But like a vampire's first taste of human blood, I have a taste for the Redeye now, and I'm looking forward to my next one.

And once I've acclimatised to that, maybe I could try the Blackeye and the Deadeye?


Gotta go - just got some emails.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Out of INQ

Yes, like an overused biro, I am officially without INQ anymore - last week I sent back the INQ1 phone I'd been playing around with for just over a month.

So, has my life been empty and devoid of INQy pleasures since I sent it back, or has everything carried on as it had before? Well, to be honest, I'm going to err towards the latter, which isn't so much a dismissal of the INQ1's abilities, as much as it is a suggestion that it did what it did in a quiet, no nonsense manner. I won't rant and rave that it was an amazing advance in the same way that I think the iPhone was (and still is, I suppose), because it wasn't; it was just a decent phone that did some decent stuff, and at a decent price. In fact, when I flashed the INQ1 around to friends and colleagues, the thing I usually said to them was "it's a decent alternative for teenage kids who want an iPhone but can't afford it."

And it is. I liked the fact that it was always on Facebook. I liked the fact that it was always on Messenger. I think the built-in Skype was a good addition, though it's not something I've used. On the other hand, I didn't like the fact that the battery would drain as quickly as a drunken bridesmaid could knock back a bottle of Lambrini, but to be fair that's an accusation I'd make against all smartphones. And it did get awfully hot during continued use (the phone, not the bridesmaid), although given the wintery conditions of the past week it wouldn't take too much to convince me that that's a unique selling point.

While I was flashing it around at some mates (the phone, not, er, anything else) a couple of other things came up, too. Scanner in particular thought the instruction cards were an interesting feature; in fact, he used the term "really good" when he was looking through them. The INQ1's instruction cards, I should note, replace the traditional boring manual that you usually get with a new phone; in this way, the INQ1 slots neatly between a normal mobile and it's usually incomprehensible instruction booklet, and the iPhone, which basically comes with bugger all because Apple figure, quite rightly, that it's intuitive to use and you'll be up and running in minutes. 

Now, I don't actually read instruction manuals that much - just enough to get by - so I actually didn't look at the INQ1's instruction cards for … well, a couple of weeks, actually. But Scanner's right: they are pretty cool, imparting enough information to tell you how to work the phone's functions without being ridiculously dry or coma-inducing.

Whether you like them or not, they're certainly more interesting than the usual set of instructions you get with new tech.

The back of the cards shows the funky, specially-commissioned INQ1 artwork that I've mentioned before. I still like the red one with the couple on the motorbike - it'd look nice in my living room.

But at the end of the day, I won't be trading my iPhone in, not least because I'm on contract until the middle of the year because while it was a novelty having the INQ1 for the time it was with me, it lacks that certain specialness that the iPhone has. I've had my iPhone for about a year now, and it still feels special - it still feels like something that fell out of an episode of Star Trek. And whether they'll admit it or not, all the other phone manufacturers clearly agree - just look at the amount of touchscreen smartphones that have hit the market in the wake of Apple's Jeebus phone. And with an ever-evolving OS, the iPhone is constantly able to stay ahead of the competition; I mentioned liking the fact that the INQ1 had in-built Facebook - but then I downloaded the Facebook app for my iPhone and - BAM! - the INQ1 lost its advantage. The same with Messenger; I was telling Willowc about how it had an in-built messenger, and the iPhone didn't seem to have an equivalent, then she pulled out her iPhone 3G and showed me about three different IM applications; heck, even the Facebook app has a chat facility, now that I think about it.

This all sounds a bit like I didn't like the INQ1, but that's not true. The 'little phone that could' is a solid little device; honestly, it does everything you'd really want it to reasonably well, without being spectacular in any particular field - except for the price, which clocks in at about half that of a 16gb iPhone 3G. As I mentioned above, it's a genuinely sensible option for those on a budget - although I'm guessing that the kids of today will still be twisting the arms of mummy or daddy for that iPhone…


So, I'm guessing that there's going to be an INQ2 at some point so I'm going to take this opportunity to throw out some ideas for what it should maybe include.

• Really push the funkiness of it; the instruction cards and packaging are a good start, but you don't get to see these in the shop - and on a wall in the 3 Store the INQ just gets lost among a sea of other black and grey handsets.
• An obvious one, really, and one that I'm guessing would probably be shot-down on cost grounds: make it a touchscreen device. If you're aiming it at the teenage market you have to bear in mind that kids are fickle followers of fashion, and an old-school slider phone just ain't gonna cut it when someone in the playground/common room/hanging around outside the corner shop while waiting for a happy-slapping opportunity is gonna be flashing an iPhone.
• And while we're at it, even if you're not going to go touchscreen, can we ditch the slider thing? I've know too many people who've had problems with sliding fascias over the last few years that I've really come to doubt their reliability.
• Whack in a slightly better camera; I found the colours were a bit washed out on the pics I took with the INQ1. Oh, and a flash, too, please. 
• I loved the buttons on the side that allowed you to access the widget menu and camera without having to open the phone, but I found the camera one in particular was a bit awkwardly placed, so that could do with a bit of a rethink.

I think that's all… Either way, I've enjoyed my little play around with the INQ1, and while I won't be changing my iPhone, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on what comes next.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The end of my isolation

After two days hidden away in Sparky Towers from the snowy wasteland that I like to call outdoors, I finally went back to work today. To be honest, I was actually working during my isolation (no, really I was), but there's something inherently wrong with the term 'working at home' that makes you feel a bit guilty - like you know the minute you step back into the office someone is going to say "working at home, eh?" and make the annoying quotation sign with their fingers and the only thing you can do is punch them square in the face laugh it off because if you protest too much it just makes it sound like you spent the entire time sitting on the sofa in your pants watching This Morning with Phillip and Fern.

Outdoors wasn't actually too bad, really. Admittedly the snow that's left has turned to ice and my road is thus incredibly icy, but once I got out onto the main roads everything was relatively groovy. Oh, except for some dumb woman who pulled out of a side road without looking, causing me to have to swerve rather violently to avoid smashing into her car. I should've beeped her, but I was so incensed that I forgot. To be honest, the location of the hooter buttons on first generation new Minis like mine aren't ideally placed for immediate, rapid-fire incensed beeping; instead of being in the centre of the steering wheel they're off on either side which isn't exactly the first place you think of hitting when rage boils to the surface; while I could punch the centre of the wheel furiously all that would happen is that she wouldn't notice and I'd probably set the airbag off. And quite frankly the last thing I need first thing in the morning is an airbag detonating in my pretty pretty face.

I just found some headphones in my pocket…

Anyway, so the journey in was reasonably decent, and fortunately I got to work very early so no one saw me tottering down the icy side road that leads to the office like a newly-born Bambi.

In a related matter, I'd like to talk about snowmen; quite frankly the standard of snowmen this year has been dreadful. The kid across the street from me made one that looked more like the elephant man, and the ones near the office were no better. Even the one made by some colleagues outside the office looked like it was having an aneurysm, which didn't really help its case when I got the urge to roundhouse its head into one of the neighbour's gardens. About the only decent snowman I've seen was made by the lady on reception at the office I park outside - and she faced some problems because a well-known fruit juice company located opposite stole her snowman's bottom half while she popped out to get some lunch, so she had to start all over again when she got back. Cheeky bastards.


Lunchtime was very exciting. Not only did I have my first Starbucks in five days (unprecedented!), but Secret Starbucks has undergone a refurbishment. After weeks of seeing it stripped of paint and with bare floorboards underfoot, my Starbucks of choice was reborn today, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, or an Alien from John Hurt's stomach. And to make it even more exciting, the little place where I usually sit (which previously was just a worn cushion plonked on a wooden ledge) has been outfitted with a faux leather seat - especially for me! I felt privileged to christen this leatherette perch with my arse cheeks, and the indentation I left behind gave me an inkling as to how movie stars feel when they sink their hands into the cement on Hollywood Boulevard.

On the plus side, I didn't spill any coffee on it either, though I expect it's wipe-clean.


I was supposed to meet Marcosy after work and christen him in the ways of Westfield, but it turns out he couldn't make it so I went anyway. Ha! In hindsight, this could've been a very dangerous thing because I felt like buying some new clothes, and for some inexplicable reason I could feel myself turning back towards my old ways of just wanting to buy something for the sake of buying something - which meant that if I did buy something I'd probably end up regretting it, or never actually wear it so it would just be a waste of money. I checked out those jeans I looked at on Sunday again, and thankfully managed to resist the urge to try them on because I just know they'd look awesome and I'd have to buy them. In another shop I saw a jumper that I liked that was actually a bit of a bargain, but got so pissed off with various members of staff asking me if I wanted any help that I just gave up thinking about it and walked out; seriously, people, headphones in ears - I CAN'T HEAR YOU!

I did actually buy something, though. In Foyles bookstore I found a newly-released movie tie-in edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and seeing as I love the sound of the film I thought I'd give the book a whirl first (apparently they differ quite substantially). OK, £5.99 for a 52 page book is a little bit ridiculous, but I wanted to read it - and read it I did. In Westfield's newly-opened Starbucks (yeah, today's totally made up for the recent lack of coffee hasn't it?), where I read it from cover to cover. In fact, I was very tempted to take it back to Foyles and get my money back, as I'd only had it half an hour and the receipt promised that I could as long as I did it within 14 days and it was in a saleable condition. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely want to read it again at some point, so I thought I'd hang on to it; it really doesn't make much sense to keep buying copies and taking them back whenever I want to read it. It'll be interesting to compare it to the film, which I do believe I'm seeing on Friday…


On my walk back to my car I was surprised to notice that the building that used to be home to the Goldhawk Road's most reputable and blatant knocking shop is now housing some sort of Bible club-thing; from one extreme to another, eh? It was kind of like the end of an era when the, um, 'massage parlor' closed - another victim of the credit crunch, I expect. Either that or the Police. Either way, it was one of those places that made the Goldhawk Road so … disturbingly unique. The closest anyone I knew ever got to going in there was when a load of us convinced a colleague to pop in to see if they did gift vouchers (we didn't know what to get another colleague for his birthday); turned out that while there were plenty of things they DID offer, gift vouchers weren't one of them.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Beautiful/dangerous Part II - and a tragic story

OK, so I ventured out a short while ago with my camera to record the momentous snow fall in all its glory. Turns out, though, that if you don't use your camera for a while (and by 'a while' I mean 'about four years') the batteries don't hold their charge too well, so I only got 10 snaps.

But 10 snaps is better than none.

This is a path that runs near Sparky Towers. It was covered in snow.

This is a main road. The pretty white snow had turned to a vile brown mush.

A church near the Thames.

The church yard. Note how I used a snowy ridge in the foreground. That's ARTY.

The River Thames, with Sunbury Lock in the distance. Actually is it Sunbury Lock? I don't know. Could be Walton-Upon-Thames. I could look it up, but what do you think I am - freakin' Google?

Another view of the River Thames. LOOK AT THE PRETTY TREE!

More of the same. Whatever.

A park in Sunbury-Upon-Thames (that's the posh bit of Sunbury - anything with 'Upon-Thames' tacked on its name is by its very definition posh).

Another view of the park. Those lovely houses in the background back onto the Thames, so when global warming causes sea levels to rise they're screwed, quite frankly.

A road called The Avenue. So actually it's an 'avenue,' not a 'road.'

Oh, and I did manage to get a short video clip of some action that took place as I walked back to Sparky Towers.

I wonder what happened to those guys?

Anyway, I promised you a tragic story, didn't I? While walking the streets earlier I kept seeing snowmen in people's front gardens – various kinds of snowmen, I hasten to add; some were very good, although most were hideously deformed - kind of like the Elephant Snowman, if you will. And really, that one I saw near the Thames … well, let me put it this way - the carrot really shouldn't go *there* if you know what I mean. Anyway, seeing all these snowmen brought back a flood of memories and one word in particular. That word was … Snowy … SNOWY … SNOOOOOOWY!


When I was a kid, y'see, I was as guilty of making deformed snowmen as the kids of today. I cried a lot about my inability to make a decent snowman, but once my tears had thawed and I could open my eyes again I began to plot a new kind of snowman.

That snowman was Snowy.

Snowy was just like any other snowman, but with one major difference: he was only about 30 centimetres tall. He was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I carried him around with me. So awesome that Big Bro could not help himself from drop-kicking snowy  down the end of the garden.

Poor Snowy…

Fortunately Sparky Ma was on hand to help me rebuild Snowy, like the Bionic Woman: better stronger, and, when we hid him in the shade of a bush, more resistant to melting. It was sad when Snowy did eventually melt though … the last remnant of winter, covered in dirt, shrinking away … it was the longest goodbye, dear reader.

Actually, screw Snowy. I really wish I'd round-housed one of those deformed snowmen I saw earlier; y'know, go totally Matrix on its frosty ass. That would've been so awesome.


Here's something I never thought I'd write: I'm snowed in.

Yes, you read that correctly. I. Am. Snowed. In.

That's snowed in as in 'I stepped out the front door this morning and my foot disappeared into something cold and white that came up to my shin.'

Let's back up and take a slightly round-about way, shall we?

So, yesterday I was at a bit of a loose end. After um-ing and ah-ing for a while I decided to head out to Uxbridge for a squiz around the shops, mainly because I was given a Debenhams voucher for Christmas and I can't ever really remember buying anything in Debenhams except in the one in Uxbridge because it has a Top Man franchise in it, and I quite like Top Man stuff.

I left for Uxbridge just after one in the afternoon. It was chilly, but the sky was blue and the sun was beating down. It was actually quite nice.

Anyway, long story short, I didn't spend the voucher; I couldn't find anything I liked in Top Man apart from a pair of jeans (and I have plenty of those already). I did, however, find some clothes I liked in a few other shops so I quickly left before succumbing to my weak-will and splurging cash on things I didn't really need that I couldn't spend the voucher on.

It was still sunny and brisk as I left. 

A few hours later, after reading some of my book (Two-Up, it's a good-un), having some dinner, and watching 40 Days and 40 Nights ( I taped it off the telly, it was OK - one of Squinty McHartnett's better efforts), I decided to go for a run. Recently I've been making more of an effort to do longer runs, and on Sundays in particular I jump in my car and drive over to Richmond purely for the challenge of running up Richmond Hill (more fool me). Just before leaving, however, I glanced out the window and noticed that it was snowing.

Not much, mind, but a little bit nonetheless.

That being the case I put on three tops.

The drive to Richmond was quite exciting because at one point it was really snowing quite heavily and driving through it reminded me a bit of the streaking star field effect at the beginning of a Star Trek movie, heightened by the fact that I was listening to the soundtrack to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country at the time.

Anyway, I eventually got to Richmond and parked up. The snow wasn't too bad; it was probably about one centimetre deep, and it was nowhere near as cold as I thought it would be (I've run in worse), so I headed off. And it all went rather well.

Until I start looping back towards the car. Because it really started coming down then. To be honest, apart from the fact most of it was going in my eyes, it was actually quite nice. It was great looking back and seeing my footprints in the fresh snow, although some Police officers did drive past me and look at me like I was a weirdo. As I got near to my car I noticed that some of my original footprints were still visible in the snow, and it looked like I'd been swerving a bit at the beginning. That being the case I decided to swerve the other way on my way back; the pattern I left looked remarkably like a strand of DNA. I expect scientists will be discussing the strange patterns in the snow for years to come.

I took this at the end of my run.

Anyway, by the time I got home the snow was probably a few centimetres deep, but nothing extreme. By the time I went to bed it was snowing a bit, but nothing worth worrying about.

But then I woke up at 03:51 this morning, glanced out the window, and the stuff was literally falling out of the sky. It was already about 10 centimetres deep on the cars parked down the road.

I was so excited I could barely get back to sleep.

I woke up properly bang on six o'clock, resolving to get out the door as quickly as possible so that I'd avoid the full-on rush hour. And of course, I factored in plenty of time to clear the car off. Because this is what I was confronted with at 06:30 this morning.

There's a Mini under there, somewhere. Honestly.

One of my neighbours came out while I was clearing the car off and basically suggested that I was insane by trying to drive. Twenty minutes later, with my traction control light flashing away like a light show at an illegal rave I was forced to agree with him and just two miles into my journey I made the decision to turn around and head home. I ended up doing a massive loop just to stay on the main roads, and finally got home about an hour after leaving. After dropping my stuff off in Sparky Towers I hiked (yes, I'm using the word 'hike') up to the main road because I'd seen a few cars having a bit of difficulty as I'd turned into my road and I thought I'd go lend a hand. They'd all been cleared by the time I got there, though, so I just walked around in the snow. 

I think I might go out with my camera later and get some better pictures.

So, here I am now. Snowed in. I've had some porridge, and I'm just about to make a cup of tea. How terribly British of me.