Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts from April 2006

Vote early, vote often … so long as it’s worthwhile

In which there’s nothing to vote for

As I said yesterday, I’ve been pondering the rather rubbish choice we have in the forthcoming local elections. Checking the candidate list in the local paper, I discovered that in our ward there is a grand total of two candidates for the available seat: one Labour and one Tory. Oh, what a choice I have.

At least, if I don’t vote, I don’t have to worry about letting in any of the Nasty Parties in this ward. The reason we only have a choice of two candidates is that we currently have a hung council governed by a Tory-Liberal coalition. To try to ensure at least some slice of the pie, the local Tories and Lib Dems have agreed that neither can beat Labour on their own.* They’ve also agreed not to compete against each other; each seat has a Labour candidate, and a Tory-Liberal Coalition candidate, although of course they’re careful not to say that out loud.

Now, I know that local politics is important, and should be all about local issues, nothing to do with national politics. The current Tory-Liberal council was elected on local issues – largely, the enormous deficit run up by the previous Labour administration. Nevertheless, on Friday morning, all of the party leaders will be trumpeting their results as being a vote of suppose for their national policies. I can’t bring myself to vote for a party that wants to bring in an expensive and repressive identity-tracking database; and neither can I bring myself to vote for a party run by Norman Lamont’s old sidekick. Right. That’s my vote out of the window, then.

People always complain about voter apathy, but I’m not being apathetic here. I’m making a deliberate choice to abstain, because my choices range from bad to worse. The problem is: I want the parties to realise that I’m not apathetic. So, the plan** is: write to the candidates and tell them why I’m not voting for them. Write to the local Lib Dem leadership and ask them if they really think that their effective merger with the Tories is really a good thing for local democracy. Write a sarcastic letter to Lib Dem head office applauding their “let’s not stand against the Tories” attitude, and asking if they plan to continue it at the next general election. Above all, make sure they all realise that just because I’m not voting, it doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I’m not interested in local politics. Let’s see if I get any replies.

* The local council follows the standard county-wide voting pattern: red on the council estates and in the Victorian terraces; blue as soon as you get anywhere near fields or big gardens; odd patches of yellow in suburban villages.

** Assuming I am not too lazy


Or, still getting hot and sticky

It’s that Friday post again…

It’s also getting into the hayfever season. I’m already getting complaints about the volume of my sneezes. This morning, though, whilst getting dressed I sneezed. And fell over. With one sneeze, my back became a little world of pain. I could barely move, and had to lie on the floor whimpering for ten minutes in the hope it would go away. It still hurts quite a lot as I’m sat writing this.

Things I’ve been thinking about a lot this week: the rubbish choice we have in the local elections, Flann O’Brien, and the Plain People Of The Internet. Expect them to pop up here again soon.

Following up Tuesday’s post: our ventilation fight with the Office Manager goes on. His latest claim is that it would be illegal for us to prop the door open, under the fire regulations. In retaliation, I now have a digital thermometer on my desk. At least The Boss is starting to weigh in on our side, having realised just how warm our office gets. Currently we’re at 22.3 Celsius and rising.

There was a bit of a spike in blog traffic the other day; it turns out I was spidered by a mysterious site which consists solely of an “under construction” page. How 1990s of them. I suppose it’s my own fault for not setting up robots.txt properly.

Current temperature: 23.8 Celsius and rising. Sorry, 23.9.* I’m off to get a glass of water.

*** or 75.2 if you’re American. Although it went up to 76.3 in the time it took me to write this footnote.


In which things get hot and sticky at the office

It’s still only spring, and it’s becoming rather clear that our new office was rather badly planned. It’s a two-person office, with lots of computers in it,* no windows, no air conditioning, and a door which, we’re told, must remain closed. The only concession to ventilation is a small extractor fan – the only incoming air is from the corridor. The fan itself was an after-thought, installed after the office secretary started campaigning for us.

It was only a mildly warm day outside today, but the office was already unbearable. I sat in a sleepy stupor all afternoon. In a couple of months, it’s going to be a danger to our health. I really must bring in a thermometer to see just how hot it gets in there.

* five at present, including the company mailserver, which lives under my desk and occasionally gets an accidental kick.


In which we don’t talk to strangers

I am my own worst enemy.

I’ve never been good at socialising, and I’ve never been good at meeting new people. This means that when I’m in a crowded place, with few people I know, lots that I don’t, I panic. I shut down. I sit in a corner on my own, feeling awful, assuming that everybody else there knows everybody else, that I’m the only lonely person there, that I may as well just go home because noone else would want to talk to me anyway. No doubt this is all nonsense, but it’s what I convince myself.

I should learn that none of it is true, that I could go up to strangers and talk to them, if I wanted. Because once I do start having conversations, interacting, doing stuff, I end up having a wonderful time. The only problem is that I’m rarely able to make that first step for myself. That’s what I need to learn to be able to do.


In which we go dragon-killing

Well, I sat down at my computer to write a long serious post about how I need to lose my shyness. But then, I thought: hang on a minute! It’s Saint George’s Day! So, I dressed up in a suit of armour and went out to sing “Jerusalem” and stab a few dragons instead.

Actually, that last bit wasn’t quite true. I love the fact that other countries have deadly serious national days; England has a national day to celebrate a mythical Lebanese man who isn’t even a Catholic saint any more. Bulgaria, in fact, has much better St George’s Day celebrations than we do, although no longer on the same date.* England has, well, nothing at all, and most of the people who campaign for more of a celebration are rather nasty nationalists. We could do with a decent liberal and welcoming national celebration, if only as an excuse for a party.

* because they still date their saints’ days with the Julian calendar, which is a couple of weeks out by comparison.


In which we get lost

I took a snap decision in the middle of last week, to take a couple of days off and visit some friends Down South, in a little suburb just inside the M25.* I’m lucky, really: I might whinge about my job constantly, but there are some good things to it, and one of them is that there aren’t any anal restrictions on giving notice when you want a holiday. My boss is completely fine with either me or Big Dave walking into his office on, say, a Tuesday, to say: “can I have a couple of days off at the end of the week?” and as long as the other one of us isn’t already planning to be away, he’ll just nod and grunt in assent.

So, anyway, the following day I left work, and set off down to Surrey, thinking it would be a nice easy drive. And, indeed, it was, because by the time I got onto the motorway system the rush hour was already over. I didn’t even have any problems zooming around the M25 – even that was quiet, after all the Dover traffic had turned off at Dartford. The place was easy to find: just turn off the motorway, up the main road towards Croydon, past the big Ann Summers factory** and you’re nearly there. No need to look at the map, or anything.

So, I was rather floored when I turned off the motorway to find a big ROAD CLOSED sign.


I don’t think I have come across a blocked road before – so what are the chances of it happening when you’re in a strange area you’ve never been to, have no idea what the alternative routes are, how to get to them, what to do now? When I found the map book, it got worse – there weren’t any sensible alternative routes, that didn’t involve long detours into Croydon and back out. Statistically, the chances of finding your route blocked are rather slim – so why does it have to happen at the worst place you could come across one?

* A place called Whyteleaf, which was indeed rather leafy. I’ve never really visited the North Downs much, and didn’t realise they extended almost all the way north to Croydon, so I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty, and hilly, the area was.

** I’m not being a perv – it really is a big local landmark


Or, fun with compressed air

Life has many simple pleasures.

One of my favourites at the moment: cleaning keyboards. Take one can of compressed air, hold can and keyboard at arms’ length, push the nozzle, and be amazed as a huge cloud of dust* is blown before you. FSSSST. FSSSST. It’s great fun, it really is.

* and biscuit crumbs, if it’s mine.


In which things are expanding

As it was a nice weekend, I went off for a random amble around the neighbouring county, half just for fun, and half with an eye to shopping, to get a nice outfit for the next time I go out. And so, I found myself in a little independent clothing store near Cleckheaton,* the sort which still has a large part of the shop taken up by a big dressmakers’ workbench for alterations, repairs, customisation, and that sort of thing. That’s one of the good things about indie shops: they will often be happy to do that sort of thing for you, if they have skilled staff.

Anyway, I’ve been a bit suspicious of my waistline lately, so I asked the resident dressmaker if I could borrow her tape measure. Quickly, I slipped it around myself.

That can’t be right.

I am starting from the zero-mark, aren’t I?

I can’t have put a whole FOUR INCHES on since the last time I measured myself???

Breathing in, I shuffled the tape around a bit, trying to convince myself that I must be measuring in the wrong place. Even at the narrowest point, though, I was two inches above what I thought my measurements were. I didn’t realise I was getting that flabby.

* Well, it wasn’t quite near there, but Cleckheaton’s a nice name so I’m saying it was.

All in the timing

In which we wonder if things should be more regular

The other day, I wrote a post that essentially said: “today was a Thursday, but it felt like a Friday“. The next day – when it was still the top post on the page – Gordon replied: “hang on, it is Friday!”

I know it’s hardly a serious thing, but it set me thinking: should I try to stick to a more rigid posting schedule? After all, it’s convenient for the readers if I’m nice and predictable: posts coming up at the same time every day, not just maybe one a day, at some point. The Plain People Of The Internet,* the theory goes, are used to, say, predictable telly scheduling,** and would like predictable blog scheduling too.***

As it is, the blog is updated when I can think of something. Usually, this means late at night, which (in turn) means that, say, a Thursday entry doesn’t get read until Friday. Sometimes, though, it means lunchtime. Occasionally, I post something early in the morning: this means I have been Organised, and drafted something properly. Most of the time – like now – I write whatever’s on top of my head, and press post straight away. Should I be a bit more organised about it?

* apologies to the late Myles na gCopaleen, whose column in the Irish Times was often visited by the argumentative Plain People Of Ireland.

** Presumably apart from the ones who watch BBC 2.

*** I think I originally read this in something by Nielsen, but I can’t find the quote right now.

The Doctor

In which we watch the Tenth one

I hate to say it, but I’m still not convinced.

I’ve been a David Tennant fan ever since Takin’ Over The Asylum, one of his very first telly jobs. I was, therefore, expecting to love Doctor Who with him in it. But, I have to say, I’m still not convinced.

His moods are all very good; but they flip very very quickly. In one second he’s his usual playful self; in the next he’s invoking divine retribution, or rather, Docterly retribution. The quick-change makes him feel rather too capricious, although there is the occasional reminder that when the Doctor is being playful he’s still alert, and paying attention.

I’m going to keep watching, of course. For one thing, I want to know if he’ll ever start using his natural Scottish accent.