Monday, September 10, 2007

Myopia - I should have seen it coming

Despite having spent over £200 on glasses merely six months ago, it seems my eyes have made yet another change for the worse.

I was surprised on my visit to Specsavers in February that my right eye was significantly lamer than my left eye - by a dioptre. That sinking feeling that something isn't quite right sent me back to the opticians a few days ago for a recheck (which I convinced them they didn't need to charge me for), and a new prescription for my right eye that's now 1.5 dioptres worse than the left.

I have a funny feeling that needing a lens of -5.75 means one of my eyes is shaped more like a rugby ball than an eye. How can my eyes have got so bad? How can one of them have changed so much in six months?

Alas, I was unable to afford a new pair of glasses, so just got one of the lenses changed. Not owning a spare pair, this meant sitting around for half an hour in Specsavers waiting to be able to see again.

Myopia sucks.

Only 107 days 'til Christmas!

Tesco managed to amaze me with something other than their low, low prices yesterday.

You've guessed it - Christmas goods have arrived in my local store already, despite there being over 100 days left on the countdown clock. Mince pies, yule logs and advent calendars are now waiting to be snapped up in all their festive glory.

Perhaps more disturbing is that the best before date on the yule logs was 10 October - that's right, long before Hallowe'en, Bonfire Night or the changing of the clocks.

Who buys an advent calendar in September? You'd need at least three to keep you going throughout the countdown.

It's just not right seeing people buy disposable barbecues and mince pies in the same basket. Well, notin this hemisphere anyway.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Time Travel

As I'm sure many UK blogs will be recording today, 29 October 2006 saw everyone undertake a little time travel with the switch from 'Daylight Saving Time' at 2am this morning.

Given that this happens every year, you might have thought I'd be used to it by now. It always seems to be a pleasant surprise to find that a lazy Sunday can last a little bit longer, especially given the beautiful weather today.

I'm also a little confused. Having been out to a club for most of last night and part of this morning, it struck me that there's plenty of things that must be messed around by all this hour shifting we do. For instance, a friend sent me a text this morning, at what my phone says was 5am. However, I really can't make up my mind what time it must have arrived: is the time stamp affected by whatever time my phone reckons it is? Does this mean that (since I didn't change the time until I woke up this morning) it was actually sent at 4am? Does this mean that I could set the date and time on my phone to 1984 and receive a text message on my date of birth? (and before mobile phones were popular)

Presumably not, but I haven't tried it. If I could do that it could be used in some clever way to give someone an alibi for a murder, by suggesting that the victim was still alive long after they were dead. Call in Columbo, he'd sort it out though.

I guess what's more likely is that the text message is given a time stamp by the service centre when it's passed on, but still, it's confusing having two times that don't match on your phone. Surely if the text had the correct time attached to it it could have updated my phone time settings when it arrived? Why doesn't this mean that all mobiles are constantly updated to show the accurate time, wherever you are in the world?

Other things that struck me - do shift workers working across the gap get paid extra? They're still finishing at the same time, but have clearly worked longer. Maybe not, so that it balances at the other end of the year when we 'spring forward'.

Do clubs with licenses until 2am get to stay open for another hour in total? (I think so.)

People talk about the summer solstice being the longest day (although that's to do with daylight)- surely today is actually the longest though at 25 hrs. There's a pub quiz question there.

This also reminds me that Windows 95 used to proudly announce that it had updated the date and time - it's used to be nice to know that it had got something right.

Friday, June 09, 2006

How Martin and Jenny came to meet Duncan

It being another delightfully warm summer's evening, Jenny and I decided to relax in the beer garden of the Red Lion in Barnes. This is a really pleasant way to spend a lazy evening actually - with plenty of tables, decking, a few nice ales and even some heat lamps and a marquee-type covering for the more British nights, the Red Lion has a lot going for it.

This traditional English pub is the haunt of your typical Barnsians and a few impostors such as myself and Jenny. As it turns out, the odd endangered species also pops in for quick pint after work now and again.

It was just as well that we had a spare chair around our table tonight as we were graced by the company of an unexpected visitor.

I should add at this point that Jenny has lived most of her life in Guildford, where many of Duncan's friends tend to hang out. Jenny was the first to notice Duncan's presence at the table and immediately identified him as none other than a prime example of a male Lucanus cervus.

This Lucanus cervus is a Stag Beetle to you and me - or Duncan to his friends and relatives.

According to Wikipedia, Stag Beetles "have been in decline over the last 50 years and are now becoming rare and are listed as a Globally threatened / declining species. They have become a protected species under Schedule 5 of the UK's Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the EU Habitats Directive of the Berne Convention. Two of the most important London areas for stag beetles are Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common."

Even better, the article goes on to say "The natural reaction of the beetle to an approaching large object is to remain motionless making them a good photographic subject."

I can personally verify that this is true. Fortunately Jenny had her new Red Motorola SLVR with her, and Duncan posed for these publicity shots very patiently.

I was amazed by it - Duncan was huge - about 7-8cm I reckon. However, he wasn't exactly the smartest of creatures, and had real difficulty when he reached the end of the back of the chair he was walking on: after pausing the think for a while he pretty much just walked straight off it. In his defense, his legs weren't really designed for the smooth wood of the Red Lion's furniture. He hit the decking with a fair thud, but happily crawled up the leg of the table afterwards, and then across the top, perhaps after sip of my Fullers Discovery

I became quite attached to him over the 20 minutes or so he spent with us, and I was worried he'd get trodden on when we left. I carefully coaxed him into an empty glass and took him over to the piles of leaf mould under the bushes nearby where I hope he's still rummaging around now.

Something I learnt from this experience is that Stag Beetles can actually move their horns about, although Duncan only moved his fairly slowly - I don't know how quickly the can potentially. In the first pictures we took you can see Duncan's horns fairly close together, and in later ones at full stretch. It turns out they are in fact enlarged mandibles rather than horns per se. Below is probably the pick of the pics.

I'll be sure to report this sighting on the Stag Beetle Helpline

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Spring in his step

Yesterday morning, whilst travelling to work, I met the happiest commuter I've ever seen.

Rather than trudging his way to the office as so many of us do, when he left the tube station he broke into a skip.

I've just realised that 'broke into a skip' is an odd turn of phrase - there was no breaking-and-entering a refuse building material container. This happy chappy was actually skipping down the road to work, knapsack on his back, tie fluttering in the early morning breeze.

It was a really happy moment. Several of my fellow commuters couldn't help but smile as he pranced into the distance, and for a moment spring had truely sprung.

Comparatively, the Evening Standard reported chaos caused by snow in the South. I'm pleased to report that the sun shone in London and everything in the garden was beautiful. Even the birds managed a cheerful chirp between sneezes.

I think everyone should consider skipping to work. It's hard to be grim when the sun is shining and you're bouncing along care-free. I imagine that maybe the guy was particularly happy because he'd just proposed marriage or had won a competition, but I prefer to think that he was just skipping for the hell of it. That's one hell of a V-sign to terrorism, and I salute him.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Plague Strikes

The observant amongst you will have noticed there's been a bit of a lull in posting here. This'll make up for it though.

I nearly died last week. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I felt absolutely awful.

I've been struck down with a norovirus, according to my doctor.

It all started on Monday 13 February with a little light nausea mid-morning. This wasn't helped by a nosebleed on the tube on the way in to work, but that's incidental.

By lunchtime it was time for some paracetamol. A general sense of unwellbeing had set in, and I took the rest of the afternoon off as I was just sitting around groaning.

However, things took a turn for the worse here. By the time I reached home I threw my guts up into the toilet, despite not eating anything at all that day. Reminders of previous meals passed my senses. As the vomiting became more violent, it started to come through my nose.

This is unpleasant at the best of times, but the fact that I was sober was only beaten by its result in simultaneous nosebleeding and vomtting. Which do you try and stop first? Doing both at the same time is nigh-on impossible - breathing becomes far too difficult. It can be hard anyway during extreme vomiting, I'm sure most people can recall a time where they've been gasping for breath while essential nourishment abandons ship.

This was extremely unpleasant, but fortunately I managed to stem both the tides before death set in.

At this point I retired to bed, but not before documenting the day's activities on the whiteboard for my flatmates to share in.

Then came the sweating. Lots of it. As if I hadn't leaked enough fluid already, every last drop decided to evacuate.

This was closely followed by shaking, with every muscle in my body aching. I drifted in and out of sleep for hours.

In the middle of the night, I awoke suddenly with an urge to pee. I lay still for a while as the sweating, shaking and aching were still going strong. Finally I stumbled out of the bedroom and into the light.

The discomfort and disorientation were immense. I literally crawled towards the bathroom. When I finally reached it, I lay on the cool floor. I could not summon any part of me to stand and releive myself, such was the dizziness and faitness. I lay there imagining the ppol of vomit, blood and urine that someone would find me in the next morning. Minutes passed. I may have lost conciousness for a minute or two.

Fortunately I managed to drag myself to the seat in the end. When the last contents of my bladder had waved me goodbye, it was was colon's turn. Nasty diarrhoea oozed out of my shaking body.

I crawled back to bed, and stayed there for all of Tuesday, sweating and shaking.

Stupidly, I went to work on Wednesday, despite still being unable to keep any food down. Dry retching periodically, I completed a day at work somehow.

Throughout Thursday and Friday I drank water, sweated water and shitted water. My body was a solid free zone. You know there's nothing left when your shit looks clear enough to drink. Anything that went in my mouth came out soon afterwards - dry crackers, bread, anything.

The thought of food was beyond me until Friday night, when I managed to eat a quarter of a tin of Heinz tomoato soup.

Praise be, this was my turning point. It took the whole weekend to get my body used to consuming food again. I ate nothing from Sunday to Saturday.

So there we are. Nasty stuff. I wouldn't recommend it. If you think you've got it - hang on in there, it's a bumpy ride. The most dangerous part is dehydration, so drink lots of fluids, despite the fact they crawl to get out of you.

In yet another Monty Python reference - 'It got better'. I'm fine now.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell bloody brilliant. The best book I've read this year - I can't believe it didn't win the Man Booker prize.

The book is laid out like a 'russian doll' of short stories, each one subtly linked to the last and nestled in a pyramid of time; the book reaches its most futuristic in the middle, and then goes back and completes each preceeding story in turn.

It's amazingly well written - you could well imagine that each section is by a different author - such are the writing talents of David Mitchell.

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Read an excellent review from Felix last year here.

His previous book, Ghostwritten is now on my shelf waiting to be read.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"I am not a cadaver"

To quote someone famous - recent reports of my death have been grossly exagerrated.

Andrew Smith (no relation) has uncovered a picture that suggests I might have snuffed it. Check out the link above.

To continue with poorly paraphrasing other people's work, I'd like to add that I was simply pining for the fjords, and not pushing up the daisies at all.

It's time for some soul-searching now though - I could have been dead. I should use this time sensibly and realise what I want to do with this blog. A force for good, or a pixelated axis of evil? Heaven knows what could happen if this blog fell into the wrong hands.

Here's some monotonous shit for you: I've ordered a new t-shirt from DJtees - the one of David Gilmour. I'll let my loyal readers know how it goes down when it's delivered and I get a chance to showcase it at a social event.

Who's David Gilmour? Google it. That brings me on to something to rant about, thus completing the holy trinity of a post - rants, jokes, monotonous shit.

I'm getting pissed off with everyone telling me to 'Google it' when I ask them a question. Hey Dave, do you know you to spell phantasmagorical? "Google it". Hey Mike, do you think it'll snow again tomorrow? "Google it". Hey Harry, how's it going? Yeah, you guessed it. Google it.

So a lot of people have heard of this fantastic tool called Google and are delighting in taking advantage our constantly evolving language melting-pot by practicing using Google as a verb. Well done guys.

I know perfectly well that I could use Google to find me a dictionary for Dave, a meteorlogical map for Mike and a horroscope for Harry. I just think it's nice to talk sometimes. You should be proud that I consider you knowledgable enough to be worth asking.

So there.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Comic Strip

Damn it's funny. But it's not as funny as