Arrg kxrrt!

Blog : Posts from September 2005 : Page 2

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The Grauniad

In which we discuss The Guardian’s Berliner redesign


As I’ve been an avid Guardian reader for ten years or so – long enough to get very used to it, but not long enough to remember the old 1980s design – then of course I’m full of opinions on their new redesign. Or, at least, I was a week ago. I decided to hold off writing anything until I’d seen a full week of third sections; but now I’ve seen them all the novelty has gone, and I’ve settled back down to just reading the thing again.

The Guardian – sorry, I mean theguardian – hasn’t changed that much. It still has most of the same writers, even if they’ve shuffled round a bit. The additional sections haven’t changed much. It does feel, though, more like a magazine than a newspaper. It’s the combination of colours and fonts that does it; a full-colour newspaper on its own would still look like a newspaper, but there’s something about the fonts that makes me think of weekly trade magazines. The print and the paper is better than it used to be; but you don’t read a newspaper because you like its print quality.

I was slightly disappointed that, for all the talk about radicalism, theguardian backtracked so quickly on dropping Doonesbury. Yes, I like it,* but I can still read it online. Maybe Doonesbury is their one sop to the style-conservatives: “no, we’re not going back to X, but we do listen – look, we brought back Doonesbury!” Personally, I was more disappointed about the death of Pass Notes: it was an old joke, but I still liked it.

I’m not going to stop reading theguardian, and I’m still going to read it on paper, not online. Newspapers change, and I’d think I’d rather have dramatic, sudden change than the slow drip of change you don’t realise. Besides, as I said at the start, now it’s been going for over a week I’m already used to it. The broadsheet Guardian is already history to me.

* even though the jokes were drowned by the soap opera years ago

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Arr, me hearties!

In which I talk like a pirate


Yarrrr! Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day! Avast there, me hearties, there’s plunder and booty to be found! Splice the mainbrace and any landlubbers we capture will walk the plank! Arrrr!

(My excuse for this is that I am, allegedly, if you believe family legend, descended from Spanish and Cornish pirates. No, really.)

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Books I Haven’t Read (part one)

In which we discuss Karen Armstrong’s “A History Of God”


Following on from Thursday’s post, here’s the first Book I Haven’t Managed To Finish Reading Yet.

I’ve always been interested – in an academic kind of way – in trying to understand what other people believe;* partly because I can rarely understand why they believe it. That’s why I wanted to read A History of God by Karen Armstrong. I’ve started it three times now, but it’s still a book I haven’t managed to finish reading yet.

It’s a very good book, but the problem I have is that it’s very information-dense. As I was brought up as a good little Anglican, I still know a lot about basic Christian theology and a fair amount about the Bible itself. Because of that, I already had a fairly good grounding in the Christian side of the history of God, and the early Jewish part too. The problem comes with the development of Islam, which I know relatively little about, and the later developments in Deist philosophy. It just goes right over my head, and I get stuck in a thicket of theologians’ names and hair-splitting beliefs. Every time I try to read the book, I slow down but plod on when I get to Islam, then get stuck somewhere in the medieval philosophers. I’m hoping that if I make it past that section we’ll eventually get to the growth of fundamentalism. I know a bit about that, mostly from an apocalyptic viewpoint,** and it should hopefully start to be an easier read again after that point.

* although I have to admit to a certain amount of point-and-laugh too.

** but then, the apocalypse is the most important aspect of most Christian Fundamentalist theology, not to mention all the other 19th-century and later Christian sects, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on. The next time a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door, remind them that for many years they taught that Armageddon would occur during the lifetime of members who were alive in 1914.

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Efficiency

In which I waste an afternoon


Spending most of a Saturday asleep always makes me feel slightly guilty. Weekends aren’t long, and I keep feeling I should make the most of them. When I end up going back to bed after lunch and sleeping through the afternoon, the thought of how much time I’ve wasted just leaves me feeling bad. So, I force myself out of bed again, which leaves me feeling half-asleep, and still with the thought that I’m not being as productive as I could be.

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Violence

In which we pull things apart


We’re getting the builders in at work, so this morning was spent in overalls, ripping out old network wiring that we know is dead and we don’t want to keep. I’ve not done any sort of energetic manual work for a long long time, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be to just tear things apart. I ran round the office ripping cabling out of the wall, sending cable clips pinging across the room. I took out all my frustration on stubborn junction boxes and brittle, elderly trunking. Pulling things to pieces is a damn good feeling.

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Reading matter

In which I wonder why I’m having trouble finishing books


I love reading. Read things all the time. I’m not in the middle of any books at the moment though, which is unusual. On the other hand, there are lots of books that I started reading and haven’t finished; it’s just that I put them down too long ago to count as “still reading”. If I picked them up again, I’d have to start from scratch.

I’m not sure why this is, but it’s a bad thing. I read so many blogs and newspapers that I don’t have enough stamina to get all the way through a book any more. That can’t be good. Tips on how to solve this would be gratefully appreciated. Alternatively, I could just start a series of blog posts: “Books I haven’t managed to read yet, and why.”

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Going when ready

In which I make a (wrong) prediction about Tony Blair


I’ve been getting behind on reading the papers. I’m still reading Sunday’s at the moment.

My eye was caught by an article on the Prime Minister’s resignation. I know he hasn’t, yet, but he is supposed to be, some time in the next few years. Apparently, lots of MPs are predicting he will leave in spring 2008. The general secretary of the Transport & General Workers’ Union, on the other hand, thinks he should go as soon as possible.

Now, this isn’t going to happen. He’s not going to resign next year, or the year after, unless he absolutely has to. At the earliest, he’s going to resign in the first quarter of 2009, giving his successor just over a year before the latest possible election date.

There isn’t a good rational reason for doing this, not at all. There’s a very good irrational one, though. Tony Blair has spent his Premiership haunted by the ghost of one rather undead woman: Mrs T. She held office for eleven years and seven months, near enough, and TB will do everything he can to try to beat that record. It’s not a sensible, rational reason for staying in office, but people often do things for stupid, irrational, hubristic reasons. He’s already equalled her election-winning record, and the closer he gets to beating her period in office, the more desperate he will be to hang on until he passes her. Every day closer to December 2008, staying in office will be more and more important in his mind; and to hell with how that leaves his successor. In three years’ time, I’m predicting, beating Mrs T will be the only thing he thinks about.

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Squimtronic!

In which I think of a word


Standing in the shower tonight, I noticed – for the first time, probably – that it’s branded with the word “Aquatronic”. Or, rather, “AQUATRONIC”.

Now, this is a shower that was made in the 1990s, so I’m not really sure why. I mean, adding “…tronic” onto the end of a name to signify New! Scientific! Modern! really is such a 1960s thing to do. Plus, the “aqua” part is fairly self-explanatory, but the word you end up with is completely meaningless if not negative. Aquatronic? Electricity and water? Doesn’t that get you electrocuted?

It set me off wondering what meaningless-but-great-sounding words I can put together along the same lines. Filktronic? Definitely a plausible music genre even if Google hasn’t heard of it.* Plockfultronic? Squimtronic? This site is definitely very squimtronic, even if squimtronic doesn’t quite have a meaning yet.

* Not quite true – it returns one hit, a German-language page about a Momus album.

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Panic Buy

In which I have trouble finding petrol


The car went in to the garage this morning, following the crash a couple of weeks back. The car I was loaned, of course, didn’t have any petrol in. Hardly any at all. The warning light was very definitely on, and the needle was barely lifting off its stop.

“No problem,” thought I, “there are plenty of petrol stations on the way in to the office.”

Not many with petrol, though.

Whether there is going to be a petrol blockade this week or not, clearly that’s what a lot of people have been expecting. Driving from the garage to the office, I passed three petrol stations closed from lack of supplies: “open later today”, one said. Eventually, reaching an open one, I sat in a ten-minute queue which had doubled in length by the time I left. We don’t need a blockade – the panic-buying has already started.

Update, September 13th: I found out later that the closed garages hadn’t actually run out of petrol at that point; they were closed for other reasons. However, as everyone (including me) assumed they had run out, it didn’t help things at all. People were already queueing heavily at 7.30 this morning.

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Atishoo

In which I am ill


I had planned to write a long serious music-review post, but as my head is all fuzzed up and I can’t stop sneezing, that’s off the menu. No constructive thought from me today.

If you haven’t read it already, I recommend this post from Gordon McLean. It’s about the USA, and it expresses a lot of what I’ve also been thinking about that place recently.

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