Wednesday, 31 October 2007

So this course...

I've spent the last two days on a course through work. It was called Understanding Data. And, if I'm being totally honest with myself, it wasn't much cop.

The trainer was odd. She was assertive, almost agressive, in her first interaction with everybody. I was fourth or fifth into the room. She let me sit down in one of the chair-desk hybrids with which we were blighted.

And then she came over, stood square in front of me, thrust out her hand and said, "Sue." Trapped under the chair-desk, I couldn't stand up to shake her hand on a level standing. Power games from the off, I suppose. She went back and sat in her chair in the middle of the horseshoe. Chair, not chair-desk. As the other five or six people walked in, they got the same treatment. This was one assertive trainer. And then I looked over at her desk, on which lay Statistics for Dummies.

My favourite review of this book that I've seen is "Statistics for Dummies is for dummies." Anyhow...

As the room filled, my heart fell. I'd been on a terrible course on report writing, which was made even worse by my partner not being able to discuss the technique of an example, only its content. For example, when we were asked to criticise an overly wordy report about replacing a boiler, he looked for flaws in the arguments used to justify buying a new boiler rather than flaws in how the report was written. Mr Too-Specific walked in, saw me, and smiled. I smiled back, without wanting to. He came and sat next to me. We'd be working together again. Joy. I sort of enjoyed his unease as Sue pulled out the handshake move. Ain't I a stinker?

The dramatis personae also included Mr On-Message, who wore his name badge halfway down his shirt, between the nipple and the navel, and worked for the department whose job is making sure the other departments are doing their job right. Like checking that the phone is answered in three rings. Given the opportunity he'd bleat out this week's buzz-phrases about "best value" or "service improvement" as if he was in a job interview. Another guest, Ms Bloody-Obvious, could be relied on to fill any silence during plenary sessions with sonic junk.

"Well, we all have our learning needs, don't we?"
"Well, it's not all black and white, is it?"
"Well, what a good learning curve, don't you think?"

Equally as empty as Mr On-Message, but in a different way. Duo-directional drivel dribbling Dave-wards. Delightful.

I don't think Sue wasn't from a training background, but from academia. Her language was loaded with social sciences fieldwork terms that I recognised from my psychology A-Level - "the participant" and "research ethics," - and peppered with references to hypotheses-centred, experiment-based research methodology. The autonomy of the researcher isn't a reality outside of academic circles, in my opinion, but was central to Sue's approach to data. I started to listen out for more tell-tale signs, but noticed something else entirely.

"...quantitative data, mostly is numehhwical..."



She'd learned to control it very well over time, but Sue had a slight rhotacism - she pronounced her R sound as a W sound. Like finding a spot on your tounge, once I'd noticed it, it became very conspicuous. The mild speech impediment (that she'd vitually conquered), coupled with her regularly referring to Statistics for Dummies, led to me not feeling as scared of Sue, and soon I started to like her a lot more.

The sandwiches were wonderful. The tea was terrible. The cups were tiny. Look at my mobile phone in this picture. To the left, my normal cup. To the right, the cup from the course. And you know how much I like tea, right.

I'm just looking for a course called Understanding Dating now. Actually, I think I'm done with courses. For a bit at least.

Challenge Tennis - round 1

Challenge Tennis is very simple. I send (serve) a challenge to my friend Kate in Japan. She completes the challenge and sends me evidence of it, and then she sends a challenge to me (the return). This goes on and on and on (the rally).

My serve:

Take a photo that uses a trick of perspective to make something that is actually far away appear to be interacting with something much closer. For example, somebody “pushing over” the leaning tower of Pisa.

For extra credit, if you can, take a second photo of the situation you’ve engineered that exposes its absurdity.

It can be you taking the picture, or you in the picture, but it must be your idea!

The return:

Good show, huh? I wonder what the return challenge will offer...

Giuseppe writes:

"hi David how are you?
I'm sorry. i haven't written you before, because i was on board for 20 days!!
on 8 oct I failed the test!!!! i cant believe (in my opinion there something of strange!!!!! maybe mafia!!!) i'm very angry, furious and frustrated!!!
the life continue!!
sorry again!!
see yuo soon"

What a lovely mis-tranlation: "The life continue" - how very Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I love because it's such a consistently high quality strip, whether funny, or tender, or both. Forgetting to check the site for a week or two, and then treating myself to oodles of new material is a pleasure.

Self scoring exercise

Reading - 8
Writing - 7
Watching - 7
Questioning - 8
Summarising - 8
Presenting - 6
Reflecting - 7
Analysing - 8
Basic Numeracy - 10
Discipline - 6
Patience - 7
Curiosity - 9
IT skills - 9
Common sense - 9
Political sense - 6

Here are the scores I assigned myself (out of ten) against the list of Useful Traits for Data Analysts that was given out at today's rubbish course about data. I scored 115 out of 150, which is 23 out of 30 as a proper fraction, giving a mean score of 7.66 out of 10, which I worked out in my head.

More thrills and spills from the course to follow anon.

Somebody has put a new dorrmat outside the flat.

Those are the kind of surprises that I can live with. Fun ones.

What a week last week was. I went up the tower in the Town Hall. What a view!

The Open Studio at Mai Bai was brilliant, as was the lecture on Blake and the Last Night of The Proms. Gimme some bolero!

Him from Onions isn't the MOTD pianist after all. No news from the panto people. I still haven't started the boat.

Last week, I ate sushi unexpectedly two days in a row. The fun surprises are the best.

I'm on a two-day course about data. Today was the first day. The trainer's reading matter didn't exactly fill me with confidence.

Anticipation has a habit to set you up...

Things I look forward to: (or have looked forward to, if they've already happened)

The release of The Blair Years
The release of Pro Evo 2008
New Artctic Monkeys material
Having a knee that works properly
Dim Sum
The Fiver
The first pint settling

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


I've just seen him from Onions walk past. He only lives round the corner. Is he the Match Of The Day pianist?

Going postal... the last thing on my mind, because my passport and my Smiths T-shirt arrived today. And I'm not in the Fiver either. More importantly, I'm not in the Fiver getting dissed.

Dear Santa, I want this staple remover, yours, Dave

From the brilliant Dark Roasted Blend.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

I'm buying...

...this t-shirt. Well exciting!

"No soap on the gentleman's collar."

I've just had a bath, and it was wonderful. I've not had a bath for ages - I didn't have one at Parsonage in the two and a bit years that I lived there, and this was the first at the new flat. Mmmmmmmmm! My fingers are still wrinkly now. I love how my hair moved under the water, especially after it was washed and conditioned. There are few pleasures I enjoy more than lying on my back in the bath and pulling out the plug, and feeling the water slowly fall around me. As it trickled down, and more of my body was exposed to the air, I could see my stomach moving with my heartbeat - freaky. I closed my eyes as the water fell, it felt like leviating. When the water was low enough, I lay with the back of my head on the bottom of the bath. What a peaceful sound. Then, as the water fell below the level of my ears, poured out from them, the sounds of the world came back. And soothing, sleepy, floaty bathtime ended.

No news from the panto people. After really enjoying La Jetee and Primer last night, I'm going to go to the Trauma screening next week, and see one of my favourite films, Performance, by Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell.

I can't wait!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Not to mention the hypotenuse

Mr Rhyming Slang himself, singing about a furry triangle.

It's a muff, surely.


I'm itching to get involved with something new. Years of schooling, I think, have conditioned me into thinking, "Hey, autumn is a great time to start something new!" I've got some ideas for schemes, shorter and longer term.

1 - Driving
2 - Am Dram
3 - Making stuff - like the boat below

I've sent my details to a local Am Dram society. They're putting on a panto in January. I could do that, right?

(Thanks to for the photo.)

As I was browsing earlier, I heard a strange tapping at the wall. Perhaps from next door, or below, perhaps from outside. For one moment, I felt like I was in a 21st century version of The Raven.

Old Lansdowne Road

Testing out the old knee, I took a stroll around West Didsbury this afternoon and ended up on Old Lansdowne Road. Max, Helen, Zoe and Katy have just moved there. It's a lovely leafy lane that I hadn't really explored before, but I'm glad I did.

The Albert Club is a tucked-away tennis and bowling club. On this map you can see the courts to the north and the green to the south. I have a fun image of the whole Barlow Moor Road group joining up and playing lawn bowls, but I don't think it'll happen. I bumped into Katy carrying a twelve-pack of loo roll. She said she'd had a rough night. Evidently.

There's a synagogue on the corner of Queenston Road and Old Lansdowne Road that I'd never seen before.

A massive building - about half of the length of Queenston Road, as the map above shows. There was an open door behind the railings, through which I could see people and a table, but I have no idea what was going on. When I got home, I googled "Withington Jew" to find out a little more about the building. I googled that particular phrase thinking that the word "Jew" would retrieve results for "Jewish" and "Jew." Oh boy!

I overheard a group behind me talking about how ASBOs work really well. I slowed down to get more of what they were saying, but traffic sound blocked all but a few snipets.

Rob Speranza has a baby room

I think Rob is gonna be a great dad.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

DTR means...

Work/Life Imbalance - bad signs - part 1

Posting information about recent public policy developments on the Facebook wall of a friend who also works in the public sector.

At ten past midnight.

On a Friday night.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Better boat-o-type photo

In Saturday's Guardian, there's a cut-out-and-make model of the Empire
State Building. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Beaver? You mean vagina? I mean, you know the guy...

Is it weird to buy underwear from the supermarket? No, I don't think so. It isn't weird in other countries, so why should it be here in England? Then again, we don't eat dogs. Is it weird to spend £50 at the supermarket? Not if you've spent £10 on underwear and £11 on beer. Nothing spent on dog. I doubled up on tasty cereal because the last lot went so quickly. If I have one complaint about that cereal, it is that perhaps it's just a little bit too tasty. Full cupboards are so satisfying, and a full fridge even more so. It isn't just the £11 worth of beer though, but all of the colourful vegetables - peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mangetout - and the jars of guacamole and soured cream. I bought herbs too, and now we have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

I felt rather Emperor's New Clothes about the Cafe RSA event with Prof. John Hyatt last night. Science Loves Art he said. But his approach was far from rigourous. "Forget what you know about science." "Be sceptical about knowledge. All knowledge." Given the fragility of his arguments, it wasn't that hard to be sceptical. He was making some very shaky connections between quite different things, and then dangling heavy conceptual weights on these delicate strings. Any system reductio ad absurdam can be divided into beginning / middle / end. His argument was that because x and y that he was 'comparing' shared that structure, they must be similar on axis z too. Junk science bunkum bullshit. Terrible.

He then started to carp on about spirals, but in a dopey and clumsy way. "DNA is what makes us what we are, and so is there any surprise that there are spirals everywhere in nature?" I don't know how he got to be a professor. Max from Pi was more convincing, and he's a fictional character. At least he knows his maths. Prof Hyatt did set my critical juices flowing, for which I'm grateful. I'm just naturally argumentative.

Robbie, Rachael and Louise round tomorrow for chilli con carne di Paulos.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

I guess I'm in love... if not...

The prototype, 'boat-o-type,' if you will. The dowel is an
approximation of the 'chimney', the dice sweets that Kate sent from
Japan are the 'cabin,' and the yellow twisty torsoed beast is the
'captain.' It looks pretty cool already. The finished thing will look
miles cooler!

Fwd: The best laid plans...

The plan.

I'm going to build a boat

I want to build a boat, so I'm going to. Not a big boat that I can ride, but a small, hand-sized boat. There are a few rules:

1 - It must really float
2 - It must have a 'chimney'
3 - It must have a 'cabin'
4 - It must have a 'captain'
5 - It must have an 'anchor'

I want the boat to be about as big as a mobile phone. The items in inverted commas on the wish list need to look like a chimney, cabin, captain and anchor respectively, rather than serve the actual functions their names might suggest. I'll probably end up making the captain and the anchor seperately to the main boat itself, but the chimney and the cabin should be part of the main hull.

I've got some photos but gremlins mean I can't upload them right now. I'll try to trick them by email. Mwa ha ha ha!

Monday, 15 October 2007

"Squidge off!"

I'm looking forward to watching England's version of Jamaica's bobsleigh team on Saturday, over cheese and wine at Fordbank. How civilised.

I saw a badge on the bus that said MOZILLA ROCKS! Until I looked a little more closely. VANILLA ROCKS, actually. It does, but Mozilla rocks more. To a geek like me, at least.

I've got two tickets to The Last Night of the Proms, Manchester style. Excellent!

On the same bus, I overheard somebody describing how they'd used Squidge Off! as an insult.

(picture with grateful thanks to and

Sunday, 14 October 2007

My favourite American sports team logos are...

This is because of the movie Major League.

I love how the helmet on the dolphin's head is different to the real helmet. I like to imagine that the helmet logo used to be same as the one that the dolphin is wearing, but that the team then changed its logo, helmet and name to commemorate one special dolphin's championship winning performance one season.

I hope Simon's wedding isn't shit.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Autumn, out of the window


Clare So...

My old friend annd former housemate Clare was back in Manchester today. We tootled round John Rylands and Spinningfields in the afternoon, then met friends in Sol's that evening and ended up at the Fab Cafe at night.

When they played 'All These Things That I Have Done' by the Killers, my eyes welled up. What a big tune of the Parsonage days! Oh, what fun we had!

I mostly despise dancers who hold their arms aloft during 'I am the Resurrection,' but tonight I did that myself with Clare. Despite what I would say to myself about hypocrisy, about disingenuity, about moral laxness: I've really missed that girl.

Friday, 12 October 2007

"You dumb blonde Daily Mail c***!"

Andrew Motion mumbles. Not enough to be unintelligible, but just enough to make seeing his lips useful when guessing what a misheard word might be. I can’t lip-read, but looking focuses my mind, as does an extended tongue for some. I’d sat behind an enormous man – bulky like a bouncer, Andrew Sheridan’s haircut, a neck to match – and try as I might, I couldn’t get a direct line-of-sight to the Poet Laureate. The world’s best loose head prop-a-like bobbed left and then right only seconds after me. I moved my chair into the aisle.

Prop-a-like’s companion dropped her purse during one of the poems. Rather than add to the disturbance, she left it open on the floor, spewing contents, until the poem ended. She had her toothbrush in her purse. I wonder if Prop-a-like saw it as he helped her pick up her things. I wonder if he thought what I thought – that she wasn’t planning to go home that night. Did he already know? Or was that the moment that he realised his luck was in? His neck wasn’t giving much away.

What a brilliant night with Pippa last night! Sankey’s has changed a lot. One of the parents of one of the bands grinned out at me from underneath a killer Ann Widdecombe bowl cut. Emelyn was thrown out for participating in a good-humoured stage invasion of his own girlfriend’s band.

There was drama on the night bus. A slender and mouthy brunette - reminding me of Rachel, though I don't know why - was on the right side of an argument about immigration, but was conducting herself despicably during it. She got into a fight with some girl who she'd called a 'dumb blonde Daily Mail cunt' having just met her. Part of me thought I'd rather like Mouthy if I knew her, and part of me thought she was an idiot.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Self-serving advice

In Rainbows came today

I've just downloaded this album, and David has asked me to email him the .zip file. To answer the question that's been in my head for a couple of weeks, he's too tight to even pay the 45p handling charge that the minimum payment of one penny incurred.

I have a moral issue with emailing the .zip file to David. It's not because I don't agree with filesharing - I'm ambivalent, as it happens - but because I really support what Radiohead have done in releasing the album in the fashion that they have, and because I think David should show his support too and download it from their site. They deserve to know how many people have taken them up on their offer.

Besides, he's got all sorts of rarities and t-shirts and the like, far more than I do. Cheapskate indeed. Four tracks in, I like what I'm hearing.

I walked past Dave Haslam on the way home. Isn't West Didsbury glamourous?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Here comes the big digger... open wide...

I like this cutlery so much that I'd eat more or less anything with it. I suppose that's the point isn't it.

Mr (or Ms) MOTD Theme was going for it again tonight. They're getting pretty good.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Compelling argument

Simon sent this from Alabama. I think he took it himself.

J'adore les Cosmocats!

Cosmocats is what they call Thundercats in France. This may or may not be because of the metric system.

Some of Les Cosmocats are named slightly differently to The Thundercats. Lion-O is called Starlion, and Cheetara is called Fellibelle. I think Fellibelle sounds much sexier.

Cosmo... Cosmo... Cosmo... Cosmo... Cosmocats


Thursday, 4 October 2007

22.37 - Fish pie all gone

Instead of pudding, Sally, Jen and Kich brought three bottles of wine, and went home leaving one and a half of them untouched. Given that I'd spent about £12 on the meal myself, and that the wine was probably a fiver a bottle, I think I've come out with a profit.

19.55 - Fish pie nearly ready...

My neighbour who plays the Match of the Day theme tune on the piano is at it again.

Brown tape

Pippa is moving house. I moved house recently, so I still have lots of broken-down boxes in a cupboard in my flat. I offered them to Pippa earlier in the week, and she said she'd nip round this evening and collect a few.

Whilst shopping for ingredients for the fish pie I'm making on Thursday night, I thought I could also buy some brown tape so that Pippa could re-build the boxes I was giving to her. She's a painter, so I supposed that she'd have art supplies coming out of her ears. But you can't ever have enough tape, as my friend Gandhi would say. I picked some up.


"Dave, do you have any brown tape?"

"I think I've got some around here somewhere..."

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

J'ai mal au poignet

Worry no more Pierre, here's a wrist rest that looks like a baguette.

Good old BoingBoing .

Destiny and fish pie

I'm cooking fish pie for Jenny, Sally and Kich tomorrow night, so I went to the fishmonger at lunchtime and picked up some ingredients. On my recce yesterday, I noticed that the smell of wet fish was intense, and it has worried me ever since.

How was I going to transport such a pungent cargo home?

The fishmonger took each of the - already sealed - fish pie platters I'd bought and wrapped them in individual polythene bags, which in turn were doublebagged in light carrier bags. This pass-the-parcel of poisson was then sealed inside my home-brought tupperware and pyrex dish, then inside another carrier bag, and then inside my canvas shoulder bag. Three layers of polythene, one of glass, one of plastic and one of canvas. Surely I'd be safe...

The bus was really hot - a converted coach with no windows that opened, the kind that once used to rely on air-conditioning to keep it cool, but these days without that just lets the students and the budget fare riders sweat. Simple chemistry, Brownian Motion, states that heat makes molecules - especially smell molecules - move around more. Not good.

But nothing happened. A student to the left of me bragged on about how they'd trashed their first year house.

"So Ste would just come into my room with a cup of coffee, and I'd be in bed, and he'd just pour it out on the floor. And then Malc would be, like, stamping in biscuits to it. Well funny!"

It sounded to me like his so-called friends were shits. A pregnant woman sat down opposite me with a box of veg and started examining the label of her coat. She got her phone out.

"Hey, yeah - I've got most of what we need, but I still need to pick up some milk... no, I'm okay, I am taking it easy... oh, and can you pick up some haddock too... we'll need it for the fish pie... I love you too."

She must have been puzzled by me, smiling at her all the way home. If my fish hadn't been wrapped so well, she might have been less confused.

Learning to love you more

I found this site after linking through the Radiohead page. It's full of assignments, which are simple crafty challenges that seem to warm the heart. My heart, at least. I hope to carry some of them out, and to drop the results off here. Good old Radiohead. I've voluntarily paid £8 for their new album, which is a fiver more than the copy of Speakerboxxx*/The Love Below I saw in Fopp last week. I wonder if David has found himself in a quandry - how much would a skinflint who loved Radiohead volunteer to pay for their album?

*Why use 'x' three times Big Boi? It's hardly explicit, you just say 'nigger' a lot.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


The Big Lebowski soundtrack isn't on iTunes. I checked the tracklist on Amazon, and there isn't any CCR either. That's not much good.

Tracy hasn't mentioned the new Ian Brown CD that I sent to Australia for her. And Kate hasn't said anything about the the local paper that I sent to Japan for her. Nor the other CD. Hmmmm. Am I being haunted by postal demons?

D-Box lost 7-5 tonight.