Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Friday, 23 May 2008

Those Damned British Badgers

Stop the presses. British soldiers can "categorically state that [they] have not released man-eating badgers" into Basra.

SAS Staff Sergeant or Man Eating Badger? You decide.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Those Naughty, Naughty Athletes

Blimey, the athletics world is really going down the pisser, isn't it? This last 12 months, not only have we had Marion Jones being convicted for lying about her use of performance enhancing drugs; we have also seen Tim Montgomery get a 46-month prison sentence for check fraud and Dwain Chambers launch a High Court appeal to have his lifelong ban for doping overturned in the name of Unfair Restriction of Trade.

The last one is easily the most interesting. The name Dwain Chambers probably won't mean much to people outside the UK, but his story is an interesting and instructive one. Once mooted as a possible candidate for the fastest man in the world and Britain's best sprinter by a long shot, a few years ago he was found to have been taking practically every drug in the book, from THG to HGH to insulin, and banned for two years by the World Anti Doping Agency - but for life by the British Olympic Association. He's now fighting to have the latter ruling overturned by mounting a legal challenge and claiming that the British Olympic Association is unlawfully restricting his ability to make money as a professional athlete.

Dwain Chambers. Cheating.

The nerve of the man is incredible, but what's even worse is that he seems to think that, by dishing the dirt on the methods used by drugs cheats, he should be allowed off the hook. It's almost like he's been watching Goodfellas and thinks he can pull a Ray Liotta - then maybe get on a cushy deal with a witness protection scheme. (Although it's fair to say he wouldn't be able to get into the Olympics then...) In any case, I'm always dubious about people asking for "second chances" in situations like this; I think when someone is genuinely contrite they tend to slink off into shameful oblivion, not clamour for another bite at the cherry. If anything, to do what Chambers is doing is to rub his crime in the face of other, honest athletes all over again.

I wonder if athletics will ever be able to resurrect its image after the hammer blows it has been getting in recent years. Worse than the cheating of people like Chambers and Marion Jones is the cynical lying which they practiced for so long. Jones especially used to be strident in her condemnation of drugs cheats, while she was committing the same crimes all along. The hypocrisy almost feels worse than the act itself.

Anyway, it's difficult to imagine a kid waiting for the Olympics this time around and the chance to watch a true great like Carl Lewis or Michael Johnson in action. Instead the overwhelming feeling will be, I think, "When's it going to come out that the gold medalist has been rubbing himself all over with testosterone cream?"

Friday, 16 May 2008

A Strange and Portentous Article

There was a very weird article on the BBC website today, discussing Hillary Clinton's "exit strategy" from the Democratic candidate race. Go ahead, take a look. See if, when you get about halfway down, to the Bad Tidings sub-section, you find it as strange as I do.

I mean, what? Are we really living in a world where journalists are analysing Hillary Clinton's withdrawal from the race and seriously suggesting that she won't listen to senior democratic figures who are white males (Al Gore, Harry Reid) nor black males (James Clyburn) telling her to quit, but she might listen to white women about it? That really seems to be the inference we're supposed to draw: society in America (or, at least, society within the Democratic party) is now so stratified that women won't even listen to men for advice any more and white people won't listen to black people.

This is a white woman

It's... I'm not sure what the word is, but it's definitely something. My suspicion is that political journalists have become so used to analysing Clinton's support in terms of white women and Obama's in terms of African-Americans that they've managed to enter a sort of collective alternate reality where such things really are important. I can't seriously imagine that it really is the case that Hillary Clinton would only accept being told to quit if it came from a white woman. I refuse to believe that anybody would take such things even subconsciously into consideration, and I find it worrying that journalists are entertaining the notion that they might.

These are not white women

Journalists are silly people, you know. They really are. The more news I read, the more often I come to this conclusion.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Pieces Of Software I'm Installing On My New Laptop

1). OpenOffice - because Microsoft Office doesn't cut it anymore.
2). Adobe Acrobat Reader - the version it came with was quite out of date.
3). DivX - a codec, but an important one!
4). Adobe Premiere Elements 2 - how can I be an auteur without video editing software?
5). Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 - because the camera never lies...
6). Darwinia - because everyone needs a fun game to play.
7). Civilization IV - well, a game or two...
8). Firefox - once you've tried Firefox, you never want to go back to Internet Explorer.
9). Inform 7 - I'm planning my first interactive novella!
10). SNES Emulator - OK, so maybe I need more than one or two games...
11). AVG Internet Security 8.0 - better safe than sorry.
12). A TeX editor - looking around for one at the moment; important for me to be able to keep writing maths professionally.
13). AudibleManager - so I can finally take the original Ricky Gervais podcasts home with me!

More soon.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things I Look Forward To Doing In My 101/1001 Challenge

1). Edit/rewrite my 2006 NaNoWriMo novel.
2). Attend a live opera.
3). Visit the US.
4). Write 101 pieces of flash fiction.
5). Buy a laptop (working on it...).
6). Make a short animated film.
7). Learn ten card and coin tricks.
8). Re-read all of Calvin & Hobbes.
9). Write another three NaNoWriMo novels.
10). Replay and complete Resident Evil 4.
11). Watch 25 classic films I should have seen but haven't.
12). Buy a Wii.
13). Learn to cook ten meals well.

The full list is on Racing Entropy here!

More soon.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


After a lot of thought over the weekend, and especially some sleepless nights, I decided not to put myself forward for graduating this summer.

Why? Well, I reckon I've put too much work in to the last three and a half years to go and worry and stress and rush my way through my corrections and risk messing everything up at the final hurdle. In the next month or so I have to prepare for my viva, collect together some files and work for a couple of papers, possibly prepare for and have a job interview (and if not, then keep on searching for gainful employment), maybe even go off for UK GRAD training to get tutor training...

It's a busy and stressful enough time, without burdening myself with the added stress of worrying as to whether or not I could complete my corrections in under a week.

Feel so much better since I decided that. First round of exam invigilation this morning went well, a mixture of reading through my thesis and reading Iain M. Bank's "Matter".

And I started the day wonderfully by watching the new trailer for The Dark Knight... Glee!!!

More soon.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Bank Holiday Blues

When I was a kid I always looked forward to Bank Holidays; for those not in the know, Bank Holidays in the UK are Mondays in the year when traditionally banks and shops were closed, and people were entitled to the day off work. These days it's just the banks and schools, and some offices perhaps, that get the day off. When I was a kid all of the shops would be closed too.

When I was a kid we kind of looked forward to Bank Holidays, because there was always something to do. Either I'd go and help with my mum and dad on a bank holiday market, or me and my sisters would sleep over at my grandmother's house. Sometimes we'd go on trips with my mum, there was always something happening.

At 27, Bank Holiday Mondays don't seem to have much going for them. I've been at a total loose end all day (nevermind the rest of the weekend), bouncing from reading 'Matter' by Iain M. Banks, to shopping for a laptop , to watching 'Walk The Line'...

Hmm, doesn't sound so bad when I put it like that...

More soon.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


It's a three day weekend in the UK (the May Bank Holiday), but I've had trouble relaxing and enjoying myself in any way really... The main obstacle is due to a meeting I had on Friday afternoon; I can't say exactly what it was all about, but one thing that came out of the meeting was a suggestion that I could still graduate in the summer graduations (June 30th).

Great, huh? Why would that be stressful? Well... The final deadline for when all corrections, paperwork and my three hard bound copies would need to be finished is ten days after my viva. But while that is the ultimate deadline, there is a closer deadline that one department has which could mean I would have to be finished just two days after my viva... Given that the binding process required by the university is usually a next-day service, if there is no lee-way in the two day deadline then I have no chance of graduating this summer.

So I have to email that department, in order to find out exactly what has to be done by when, but I also have to email the graduation ceremonies division as the deadline for submitting your intentions regarding graduation was Thursday (of course!). My mum pointed out on Friday evening that I also have to look into hiring academic dress for the ceremony - except unlike my undergraduate degree graduation I'm not 100% certain at this point that I will graduate, so don't know if I can even book a gown and mortarboard. I'm trying to ask all these people what needs to be done and by when, totally unsure of whether I can even get my corrections turned around in that time frame - until the viva I won't even know if I have minor corrections!

Sending these emails on Friday whilst it was all fresh in my mind was necessary, but has subsequently meant that it's been on my mind all weekend... It was so much simpler when I was just going to graduate at Christmas and I only had my viva to think about.

Exam invigilation for the next two weeks, so plenty of time to prepare for the viva... And with about a month to go before the viva there's bags of time to get totally freaked out about the whole prospect...

More soon.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Only in Japan

There's one of those stories on the BBC website today that tends to make people in Western countries scratch their heads and say, "Only in Japan": it's about a local council worker who accessed 780,000 pornographic websites over a 9 month period while supposedly at work. (During the "peak" of this period - if that's not an unfortunate phrase to use in the circumstances - he was hitting 177,000 a month, which works out at around 20 for each minute he was at his desk. That's each minute, I say again. Each minute.)

What's more unusual about the story is that the man in question wasn't sacked; he was just demoted and lost some pay. This is for presumably doing nothing for nine months except look at porn. I'd heard that Japan has some very proactive labour laws, but blimey. I wonder what he would have had to do to get the sack.

Actually, scratch that. I don't wonder about that at all. Let's pretend I never brought the matter up...

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Prudes and Lebanese Eyes

I'm back now, after a few weeks of being a busy bee. Well, more of a lazy bee, I suppose. One of the ones who drinks pure alchohol and guzzles all the honey.

Anyway, I'm going to come over all postmodern and 'laddish' here with my first entry back, and say, straight away, I'm in lust with Haifa Wehbe, the former Miss Lebanon, who I have just discovered thanks to this article. Damn that evil BBC and its articles about beautiful women.

It's an interesting read, actually, I must confess. And of course, like most men regarding Playboy, I only read it for the, er, article. The head honchos of Bahrain's parliament, you see, have decided that Wehbe is just too damn good looking to give a concert in the country, lest it cause riots and mayhem and other wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the male populace of the country.

It's a strange world. I can understand social conservatism on most issues - in fact I suppose I am a social conservative in general terms. And I can see the argument whereby religious people might not want to be tempted into sinful thoughts by an attractive member of the opposite sex. But I'm much more of the persuasion that the human body is a wonderful, natural thing, whose beauty should be cherished. Also, I like girls.

I apologise if this entry is somewhat incoherent. Blame Ms. Wehbe's eyes. Praise God for those eyes.

Thursday Thirteen

13 Things That You (Probably) Don't Know About Me
1). I'm the eldest of three siblings.

2). Despite the intriguing facets to the arc story of the first season of Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex, I prefer the second season.

3). I don't have a driver's licence, have never had a lesson, and have no intention of learning any time in the near future.

4). For a brief period in my teenage years I considered a career as a pyrotechnician.

5). I have several scars on and around my left knee, and I can't account for them all.

6). It is local elections day in the UK, and I voted this morning.

7). My current best play at Scrabble is the single word "ENGINEER" which scored me 80 points. (you may already know this if you've been following Racing Entropy)

8). As a high school student I had a poem published in a local schools anthology. (actually, there is a much longer story to this, that I will try to remember to tell you soon)

9). The reading I gave at my father's funeral was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

10). I'm quite ticked off about an email that I got from someone this morning, but have no idea how to tell them how it made me feel because I'm certain that it would cause a rift between us.

11). One time in primary school I technically stole noisms lunchbox: I thought I was doing him a favour in taking it home as I thought he had left it behind, but then couldn't remember which house he lived at. I then remembered that as it was Friday he would be at his class's swimming lesson. Upon returning to the school about a quarter of an hour later I couldn't get back up to the room where lunchboxes were kept, and so I just left it on a windowsill in the main stairwell and hoped for the best. I have no idea if he got it back.

12). I have known the date of my viva since last Tuesday.

13). I applied for a job yesterday, and will know quite soon whether I am being considered for interview.