Thursday, 20 December 2007

Bah Fucking Humbug.

Here is a list of things that it is a bad idea to try and do in December.

1. Move house while simultaneously studying for a degree full time, working in a Big Gay Department Store part time (but doing extra hours because it’s Christmas), applying for all manner of industrial placements, completing work on assignments, revising for imminent maths exams, visiting family, and doing a spot of Christmas shopping here and there too.

Okay, so I realise that this “list” only consists of one thing; but it is a big thing, and I can put a big tick next to it. It is partly for this reason that it’s been all quiet on the blog front for slightly longer than usual.
The main reason of course is that I am quite lazy; even with all the above shenanigans going on, I still seem to be able to find the time to get splendidly drunk and see bands.


Like on Friday, when I rushed back from work to go and see Pelican and High on Fire co-headlining at The Cooler. Despite driving like my hair was on fire, I entirely missed the opening support act (whoever they were), and a fair chunk of Pelican’s set; though I did still get to hear them play the epic March To The Sea in its entirety (minus the none-fucking-heavier flute solo that appears on the EP version). They were truly excellent.
As were High on Fire. They were like men a thousand feet tall made of magma, crushing cities underfoot as they blasted out face-melting stoner doom. Sadly, no-one else seemed to care particularly; possibly due to the fact that High on Fire had played the very same venue just three months previously, and subsequently most of the people that turned up had done so to see Pelican. They still played hard, and the people at the front were still into it... but in the rest of The Cooler the apathy had reached fever pitch.

About a week before this I went to a house party with Sam and The Boy, thrown by some chick Sam knows from his English Civil War re-enactment group. It was mostly full of arseholes that had quite loud opinions about why Bristol Uni students were just far better people than UWE students, and that had a good handle on what clothing was fashionable but had no idea how to wear it. The three of us sat in the corner drinking rough cider out of the carton and not talking to anyone; Sam and I criticized the girls' dress sense (like we now a goddamn thing about style and fashion) whilst The Boy re-arranged the letters on the fridge to form a great tirade of profanity. The words "cockpipe" and "arse candle" featured quite heavily. We all got very drunk, and hardly got into any fights at all - so I think we had a good time...

And on Tuesday I enjoyed a splendid evening of getting drunk with the RoboJew, who was himself in good spirits having finally completed work on a prototype of his final year project; a robot that will balance on two wheels. It's still in its early stages, and of course there is still work to be done; the robot does not yet have any kind of primary armament such as a flamethrower, spinning axe-blades or an acid-spraying gun of some kind. Also, it does not exactly balance on two wheels... mostly it just does a lot of falling over as the program grossly over-corrects any slight imbalance, and sends the robot smashing to the ground. My patented Mech Eng solution of making the wheels square was not met with any great enthusiasm.

And so there you have it. Work + School + Moving House + Drinking + Christmas = Rubbish (apart from the drinking).

Sunday, 9 December 2007

I was actually intending to follow up the last post with a proper account of what’s been going on in my big gay life; but it turns out that I just couldn’t be bothered.

This is in part due to a sudden bout of illness that all but sapped me of what little energy and enthusiasm I usually possess. I find the worst aspect of being ill is the affect it has on my sleep; I am quite prone to having deranged “maths dreams”, which are now becoming the stuff of legends. I had one of these on Tuesday.

In this particular maths dream, I managed to combine every equation in the world of mechanical engineering (from steady-flow energy equations, to heat transfer rate through composite materials, to equations of motion... and so on) and refined them all into one uber-equation. For some peculiar reason, this took the form of a large, round and slightly spongy blue mass of mathematical symbols and Greek letters, that hovered gently just above ground level. People kept coming up to me to ask how it all worked... it was all very repetitive and confusing, and not even slightly restful.

It was all a quite rubbish way to finish off a weekend of splendid birthday shenanigans. Saturday night I rushed home from work to get changed and head off out again to see Queens of the Stone Age with Charlie Cat, The Boy, Metal Terry and his fiancée Em.

By the time we got there, the support act (The Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster) had already started playing. I saw them a few years ago with Zak at The Louisiana, a pokey little venue that’s about the same size as my kitchen. In those tight confines, their psychobilly death-punk stylings were positively apocalyptic; but in the cavernous Academy they seemed a bit flat, stifled by poor sound and a static (but supportive) audience. They still played their arses off though – good for them.

The mighty Queens of the Stone Age had no such problems. Playing beneath some really quite odd-looking chandeliers, they kicked out tunes new and old with flair and passion, occasionally flying off on great improvised tangents that included a spoken-word rendition of the Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Needless to say, they were spectacularly good, and I stumbled out of the venue with my T-shirt quite literally soaked in GigSweatTM (a heady and intoxicating mix of my sweat, the sweat of a million billion other people, spilt beer, dissolved hair product, and a minimum of 23% rock ‘n’ roll). After the gig, Charlie (whose birthday just happens to be the same day as mine), The Boy and I bimbled through a few more pubs, eat a few dirty burgers, and somehow ended up back home (eventually).

The next day I turned 30 (and Charlie turned 21); and in celebration of this fact I was visited by my parents, my sister, and my oldest and dearest friend Tim (a smutmonger whom I have known for, well, forever – though he hasn’t always been a smutmonger). Along with Sam and The Boy we all went off in search of somewhere nice to have lunch, eventually settling down in The Bristol Flyer, a pleasant little pub which is covered in giant and very colourful butterflies for some reason.

We got quite delightfully drunk whilst we waited for what seemed like an eternity for our food to arrive. When it finally did appear before us, we devoured it ravenously and headed back home for cake ‘n’ presents ‘n’ that. Highlights included:

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy complete radio series, which I’m ashamed to say that I have never actually owned until this point.
  2. Some really quite excellent CDs, that between them cover a lot of genres; from morose and slightly pretentious indie (Interpol), to experimental alt. hip-hop (Dalek), to ambient post-rock electronica (Atlantis), to brutal death metal with a bit of drum ‘n’ bass thrown in for good measure (Ted Maul).
  3. Some “Ben’s 30” insect repellant that my sister found on her travels some three or four years ago, and has been holding onto ever since.
  4. Some rather natty Jesus plasters.
  5. A copy of a monthly adult publication entitled “Fighting Gals”. It promises to be (and indeed is) “a galaxy of female combat”. Here is a rather pleasing photo of Sam and Tim discussing the merits of various chokeholds, whilst enjoying a good pipe.

No sooner had they all left than The Boy and I were off out again to meet up with RoboJew and his better half Ruth at The Thekla, for yet another gig. This time it was Sia , an Aussie chick better known for her role as vocalist with Zero7. Support came from an acoustic guitar toting one-man-band, playing under the moniker of Half Cousin. Inoffensive and utterly forgettable.

Sia and her four-piece band took to the stage dressed as fluorescent stick men. It’s rather hard to explain, and can’t find any pictures on the intraweb… suffice to say that if it sounds a bit weird, it’s because it was. The costumes were shed after the first song, and they carried on to play a really quite excellent set. The songs are a bit poppy, but without being too sweet or cheesy, and they still retain some of the laid-back lounge-core stylings of Zero7. Sia’s got a stunning voice, is quite mad and/or drunk, and spent a lot of time making pleasant chit-chat with various members of the audience. Plus, I wasn’t soaked in GigSweatTM when I left. Good stuff.

Little else of interest has happened this week; and besides, this post is quite long enough already.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Lazy Blog, Lazy Blog, Does Whatever A Lazy Blog...

A little over a week ago, the infamous Jeff “Stupid Sexy Ghetto Blasta” McDeath emailed me wanting to know how my Warhammer GT weekend went. So I told him.
And now, despite the fact that I said I wouldn’t, I am reproducing this email detailing my less-than heroic escapades of two weekends ago below. If this makes me an Arnold J Rimmer wannabe, then slap and H to my face and call me a smeghead. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I’ll like. (plus, I’m too lazy/busy to write anything original at the moment...)

****************************************************************

What I Did At The Weekend

Or, How I Got Mashed Up In Four Games Of Warhammer.

Game 1: High Elves.

He was a cool guy, with a not very bent army. When he rolled for Intrigue at Court, it turned out that his general was the poxy little hero in the poxy little unit of Silver Helms directly opposite my dragon... Solid victory to me.

Game 2: Wood Elves.

My old boss Rich Packer's Wood Elves, to be precise. Treeman Ancient with Nettlings, another Treeman, Wildriders, Wardancers, two wizards and a battle standard bearer, and some other pointless crap... my general got killing blow'd by the Wardancers in turn two or three. The rest of the battle mostly consisted of me choking on giant gnarled Wood Elf tree-cock. Massacred.

Game 3: Dwarfs.

As we all know, the thing to do against Dwarfs is to ignore the big units with the big characters to start with, pick off all the shitty little units of Thunderers and war machines and what have you, and then surround the big units and smash them to bits with your entire army.

What I did was creep forwards tentatively, as though little people inspired some kind of special terror in me, then panicked after his first round of shooting and charged his big unit of Ironbreakers with what was left of my knights. They... (sob)... they put it in me... I felt so used... and dirty... Massacred.

Game 4: High Elves.

This was a game of Dicehammer, played on a table with just one hill in each corner and two very small forests just outside of each player's deployment zone. Here's what he had:
· 3 units of 10 archers
· 4 Bolt throwers
· 5 Shadow Warriors
· 10 Swordmasters
· 2 Lvl2 wizards with some bling
· Teclis
He deployed his army 4" onto the board and won the dice roll for first turn. Game over. I did have one tiny chance to claw some points back, when my three surviving knights charged into his unit of Swordmasters (joined by Teclis) stood right on his table edge. The knights fought like kings and cut down seven of the fairies, pretty much guaranteeing me victory just as long as Teclis didn't drink his Potion of Manliness, and then hit and wound with all three of his attacks.

Guess what happened? To add insult to injury, my dragon - which by this point was riderless, my general having long since been reduced to ash by a multitude of fireballs - was perfectly set up for a charge into what was left of Teclis and the Swordmasters next turn. But instead of winning the game for me, it failed its panic test for the knights being destroyed, and fled off the table. Massacred.

Game 5: Dwarfs.

Having learnt my lesson from game 3, I charged in and fucked up all his rubbish stuff as soon as possible - though not soon enough to prevent his cannon and 2 S7 bolt throwers from killing my chariots and taking half wounds off the dragon. Then my knights spent the entire game in combat against his Anvil of Doom (which shall henceforth be known as The Anvil of Cheating), either failing to hit, failing to wound or failing to get through all the armour and ward saves, whilst simultaneously dying. Very slowly. I didn't have enough stuff left to wallop his big unit, and had already given away too many VPs. Solid defeat.

Game 6: Chaos.

One of those dream games, where everything in your opponent's army is a bit slower and a bit shitter than everything in your army, and it can't really shoot you either. He had:
· A big scary Daemon Prince
· 2 Lvl2 Bray Shamans
· 2 units of Plaguebearers, one of 10 and one of about 20
· 3 bases of Nurglings
· 2 Beastherds, decent size
· 6 Minotaurs with great weapons, standard bearer and champion
I just ran at him and killed everything. Massacre to me.

And so I finished 102nd overall, meaning that I did slightly worse than when I was using my "fluffy" army with Warriors and a Hellcannon. The tournament rules state that either a top 40 finish or a Best Army nomination is required to qualify; and as luck would have it I won Best Army outright, so I'm through anyway (along with Rich, who finished 30-something, and Beautiful Steve, who finished 20-something with his Tomb Kings as well as getting nominated). I was awarded a funny looking trophy, which we have dubbed “The Ticklefist”.


The winning army was two Steam Tanks, two Great Cannons and a Popewagon. Apparently heat two was won by 2 steam tanks and Karl Franz, on a dragon, with the Hammer of Sigmar, and I think heat one was all about the Steam Tanks too.

Oh, and someone got DQ'd on day one for using loaded dice.

****************************************************************

There will be (slightly) less nerdalicious content soon, I promise.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Assignment-death-misery

I spent a considerable portion of last week chained to a computer, slaving over an assignment that I had stupidly left until the last minute. Part of the problem was that the brief was, well, brief (“Err, like, design a hand drill, or something…”); and so it seemed at first like there wouldn’t be too much work involved. The main problem was that I wasted far too much of my time playing with toy soldiers and going to gigs.

We went to see Jesu and Mono at The Cooler on Monday. There was a support act too, but I didn’t catch the name – probably for the best, as I don’t really have anything nice to say about it. It was just one guy with a guitar, drum machine, and about a million billion effect pedals. He was fairly unremarkable looking – like one of the squares with normal hair cuts in a styling gel commercial – and at first the gradual build of layers of weird guitar noise he created were quite interesting. But then, about seven minutes into his set, he decided to start screaming into the mic. It sounded a bit like foxes fighting. You could see people in the crowd looking around with bewildered expressions on their faces, wondering if anyone else was hearing the same thing as them. We all were, but fortunately it didn’t last too much longer; he buggered off and was soon replaced by the mighty Jesu.

Jesu are quite difficult to define as a band. Their sound is unquestionably heavy, a huge downtuned dense wash of effect-laden guitar backed up by an unrelenting, almost mechanical rhythm section; but unlike the hate-filled bile of frontman JK Broadrick’s previous band Godflesh, there is an underlying feeling of hope and optimism to the music that should seem out of place, but doesn’t. Even the grinding trudge of “Friends Are Evil” ends with an uplifting twinkle.

Mono are a band that I knew of, but I had never heard anything by them before this night. I had an idea of what to expect – they’re one of those chin-strokingly good instrumental post-rock bands, so all of their songs will be eight minutes long and follow a quiet-loud-quiet-very loud format. Just for the record, I thought that Mono were excellent. However, they did play for just a tiny bit too long; after an hour of delicately/violently strumming our brains out, their two guitarists spent a full ten minutes wrestling feedback from their instruments whilst the tiny girl playing bass stood motionless in front of her amp, Blair Witch-like, and the drummer slumped over his kit like he’d lost consciousness. It seemed like the logical place to finish the set… but no, they went on to play for another half hour after that.

I awoke the next morning with my ears still ringing; and for the next three days slaved away tirelessly (mostly) to get my pesky assignment done. Pretty much as soon as it was finished and handed in, I whizzed of to Surrey to see my parents. Friday was my mum’s 56th birthday; she wasn’t particularly bothered about becoming a year older, as she’d spent the whole of the previous year thinking she was 56 anyway (this kind of confusion seems to run in the family). We all met up with my sister in London, where we went to see the big crack in the floor of the Tate Modern, and a quite fascinating Terracotta Army exhibition at the British Museum. There was also some Chinese food and Cuban cocktails involved… it was a good day.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Witness the pinkness

I popped down to the pub early last week to check out our new digs. Although there’s only one small bathroom for the four of us to share, the rest of the flat is pretty darn huge, and we should have no problems squeezing all of our crap into it (even Sam, who seems to have a fondness for hording old newspapers and magazines). The only fly in the ointment is the fact that I was the last person to get my arse down there, and so have been lumbered with the fourth and final bedroom. The one which, for some reason, no-one else wanted…

I may well be investing in some big tins of paint over the next month.

Meanwhile, I spent this weekend up in Nottingham playing in heat 3 of the Warhammer Grand Tournament. A full recount of the six games I played would not be entirely unlike Arnold J. Rimmer talking about his greatest ever Risk victories; so suffice to say that I won my first and last games, but lost everything in between – including one very tedious game of what we geeks like to refer to as “Dicehammer” (the kind of game where your opponent does nothing but roll dice until all your stuff is dead). So I only managed to finish in 102nd place, a considerable way off of the top 40 position required to qualify for the finals.

However, the tournament rules this year state that the six players nominated for the Best Army award will also qualify for the finals, regardless of where they finish overall; and not only was I nominated, I won the Best Army award outright. Hurrah! Now I get to go back for the finals in February and lose even more games…

Unfortunately, I let a little too much school work stack up while I was spending all my days off painting dragons, and I now have only two and a half days in which to complete pretty much an entire assignment for my design module, plus all the usual bits of maths, stress analysis and so on. And I still need to apply for a few more industrial placements, move house, buy Christmas presents, paint that evil pink room…

Monday, 12 November 2007

It’s my shitty blog, I’ll post whenever I damn well feel like it

What’s the best cure for a smashed-up knee? Why, a powerful metal gig of course! I skipped out of my last class early on Tuesday to jet off to Cardiff with Terry and The Boy. Destination: Clwb Ifor Bach (not a typo; stupid Welsh language…). Band: The mighty Will Haven. But before they took to the stage, there were support acts to contend with…

First up was Shaped By Fate, who had some good song titles (“The Count of Monte Fisto”), but bad everything else. It was like they’d read the How To Be Totally Metalcore handbook, but chosen to ignore the bits about intricate riffs, melodic vocal parts and technical drum fills. Which leaves nothing but beatdowns. Beatdown after beatdown after beatdown… every one of their songs was the same seven beatdowns in a different order. And just when it seemed like they were getting to the end of a song… hell no, a poorly executed timing change followed by more beatdowns. They smoked cock. Then played more beatdowns.

All of which simply conspired to make The Mirimar Disaster’s set even more splendid. They pretty much just plugged in and started playing; and after an entire song’s worth of tectonic riffing, it was clear that the absence of vocals (they parted ways with their singer-guy just before the start of the tour) was not going to hinder them in the slightest. It seems quite likely that they won’t bother trying find a replacement vocalist, and will simply carry on as an instrumental band… I’m inclined to think that they would do well to have some vocal parts, but to use them more sparingly, in the same sort of way as Taint or Keelhaul. Not that anyone’s going to care what I think; they’re all going to be far more interested in The Boy’s opinions, methinks. Check out her blog to find out why, if you can be bothered to try and find it…

And then it was time for Will Haven to lay waste to all before them. Despite the fact that they are touring to promote their new album, the Sacto behemoths played a set that spanned the whole of their ten year existence; much to the fist-flailing joy of the modestly sized, yet rambunctious, Welsh crowd. Thanks to the healing power of Will Haven’s immense downtuned-nu-post-rock-metal stylings, every other bit of me now hurts as much as my knee did; so in relative terms, it’s all better.

The week should have been even more gig-tastic; on Friday, we should have been going to The Bristol Carling Academy for the most amazing techy-mathcore-metal-wankery co-headliner gig ever; Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Unfortunately, the gig was cancelled when Meshuggah pulled out due to delays in the recording of their new record. Fortunately, the gig was un-cancelled when The Dillinger Escape Plan decided that they would just bring a bunch of other bands over with them instead. Unfortunately, the gig was re-cancelled just two weeks ago when, in a catastrophic guitar-toss-gone-wrong video shoot, their guitar player broke his foot.

So no more gigs for us… for at least a week, anyway.

In other news, I was visited this weekend by my old old old friend Dave. I’ve known him since we were littl’uns… technically my dad met him first, when he caught him running away from home on his tricycle. Dave was never going to get far, since he wasn’t allowed to cross the road; but my dad took him back down the road to his house anyway, where Dave got a damn good hiding from his father. My dad (who happens to share the same birthday as Dave) has felt slightly guilty ever since… Anyway, Dave had a bit of holiday booked, and so chose to spend a couple of days in sunny Bristol getting very, very drunk with the rest of us (hence the lack of a new post yesterday). It was good to see him again; we don’t talk often on account of the fact that he lives 100 miles away, and although it is theoretically possible to call him on the phone, that phone call will almost always devolve into at least an hour of him telling me about all the arguments that he won in the last month, interspersed with the occasional Family Guy quote. But despite all that, he is one of the very, very few people in my life that isn’t completely transient; and all in all, I think I’m pretty lucky to have such an unconditional friend.

In other other news, I shall be moving house soon. In fact we all will be. In an entirely improbable turn of events, Dozer (the hard-drinkin’, hard-fightin’, bike-ridin’, people-stabbin’ Mr Plough) has become manager of The Pub, where he has been doorman for a year and barman for a couple of months. And so he is now the undisputed lord and master of the entire pub, plus the four-bedroom flat above; in which we shall all be living more-or-less rent free.

Sounds too good to be true? Yeah, I reckon so too; but at least we get to move away from Horfield; where it has been bonfire night for two weeks, and the line between trick-or-treating and mugging is blurred at best.

And finally… I know you’ve been dying to see it, so here it is; my shiny Chaos Dragon o’ Doom.


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

My life in (rubbish) pictures


And my elbow still really hurts too.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Ow.

I seem to currently be experiencing a considerable amount of pain in both my left knee and right elbow. This has much to do with my drunken (and, as it happens, entirely abortive) attempt to kick a small stone that lay on the path between my local pub and my house. The stone remained quite stationary while I performed the most acrobatic of pratfalls about it; and then lay there smugly as I hobbled off into the fog, taking big gulps of air and trying hard not to black out.

Not my proudest moment.

Still, it seems a fitting end to a week in which I have mostly been feeling pretty shitty anyway. It turns out that I’m just as mortal as all the other fuckers, and have been going through the various stages of the common cold. Monday was the worst: I sniffled and sneezed my way through a day at school; then came home and attempted to do some of the problems set as part of the Stress Analysis module. I stared at the Big Fun Book Of Materials Mechanics for a while, then fell asleep for half an hour; when I woke up, I stared at it some more, accidentally poked myself in the eye with my pen, and finally decided to give up and go to bed. I then had a restless night where all my dreams took the form of complicated algebra, and I had to complete sets of simultaneous equations in my head before I was able to sleep.

I didn’t get much sleep.

And so the rest of the week has pretty much drifted by in a sleepy, snotty, uneventful haze. I was regrettably still well enough to go into work on Friday and Saturday, and so found myself working in the childrenswear department for ten hours yesterday. This mostly consisted of me singing “I hate, Childrenswear” to myself like a mantra, interspersed with me telling customers that their spawn should be sent to work in tin mines until they’re old enough to buy me a beer. It all went down rather well, actually…

I was also asked by a co-worker if I would be going to any bonfire night parties. I explained to her that since I lived in Horfield, I only had to look out of my living room window to see stuff (sheds, fences, stolen scooters) on fire, and if I wanted to see fireworks I had only to wander up and down my road for ten minutes and some grubby youth in a hoody and baseball cap was bound to throw a lit rocket of some sort at me.

In more positive news, I think that I may have finally finished that bane-of-my-life Chaos Dragon. If you’re really lucky, there’ll be photos of it next week…

Monday, 29 October 2007

I don't get ill. Only children and old people get ill.

Back when I was a manager, I used to get very frustrated whenever one of my minions phoned in sick. Mainly because we were quite a small team, and so the absence of any one person was keenly felt by the remainder; but also because I was naturally quite suspicious as to just how sick they really were. Migraine? Pah. You’ve got a headache, or more likely, a hangover. Take some paracetamol and get your arse in. ‘Flu?! You can’t phone in sick if you’ve got ‘flu, because you can’t even get out of bed if you’ve got ‘flu. You’ve got a cold, or more likely, you’re just a lazy twunt. Have a cough sweet and get your arse in.

Eventually my mild distrust became more of a demented paranoia; my staff were always lying to me about everything, none of them could be trusted, and there was actually no such thing as illness.

Which made things very confusing for me when I got ill (as scarce an occurrence as this was). I decided in the end that all this ‘ill’ business was every bit as fictitious as I suspected, and I was merely experiencing symptoms of illness.

Much as I am now, a situation probably not helped much by my decision to attend a gig by the ever-splendid Taint at The Croft last night.


Terry was supposed to be joining us, but true to form he flaked out at the last moment. This left just The Boy and I. Sam didn’t fancy taking Terry’s place, but was kind enough to give us a lift down there. We arrived at about quarter past eight, only to discover that Taint were the only band playing, and that wouldn’t be happening until quarter past ten; leaving us nothing to do for the next two hours apart from slouch about on the big comfy sofas in the front bar and get very drunk.

Taint were of course excellent; but I’ve written about them before, and feel no need to repeat myself here. After a solid hour of ‘rocking out’, The Boy and I took a short wander up the road to the Cat and Wheel, where Dozer happened to be doing his Big Friendly Doorman bit. More booze happened, and then the now near legendary Sam came to pick us all up and take us home. What a hero. The Boy was utterly broken, but still managed to make it as far as her bed; I, on the other hand, rather predictably passed out on the sofa, and so didn’t officially get to bed until 5:30 am. Hooray for me.

The other possible cause of my “You know how other people feel when they think they’re ill? That’s how I feel” thing is the relentlessness of my weekly schedule at the moment. On Monday I’m in school for six hours, the rest of the day given over to homework and the like; on Tuesday and Thursday I’m in for eleven hours; I work at the big gay department store for ten hours every Friday and Saturday; and on Wednesdays and Sundays, I am a slave to my Chaos Dragon (not a euphemism for masturbation, I swear).

I thought I’d have this sucker finished a week ago, but the sheer size of the thing is making me wonder if I’ll even have it finished in time for the tournament. The fact that it’s taking so long means that I have no chance of painting the other bits and pieces I was planning to take, and so I’ve had to change my army list; the second unit of brilliant but unpredictable Beastmen have given way to an already painted but predictably rubbish unit of Ogres…

I know you don’t really care about any of this, but that really is all my life consists of at the moment.


Monday, 22 October 2007

Meanwhile...

So anyway, random computer rebellion notwithstanding, the last two weeks have been fairly unremarkable.

Big school: I am continuing to be quite alarmed by just how much of my first year I seem to have completely forgotten. When a simple stress analysis problem was presented to us last week, I stared at it blankly with the rest of the class. We could all see that it was a relatively simple problem; but at the same time, none of us could remember how to solve it. It reminded me of the kind of frantic confusion I often experience first thing in the morning, when my alarm goes off… I know that some complex relationship exists between the buttons, the glowing red numbers and the persistent bleeping; but I just can’t figure out what it is…

Work: Everyone is either very friendly, or very gay, or both. Mostly, working at The Big Gay Department Store seems to consist of standing on one’s feet for ten hours, talking to people with a degree of politeness more commonly reserved for foreign dignitaries and grandparents. I am working as part of the SPT – the Services and Payment Team - which means I am a universal, interchangeable till monkey. I don’t work in any given department, instead I turn up in the morning and find out which till bank(s) I have been appointed to. So far, I have worked on kitchenware, china, glass, furnishing fabrics, toys (which is kinda cool – it’s full of toys), menswear and childrenswear. It is forbidden for men to work in womenswear, as many female customers take offence at men touching their pants; but it’s okay for us to touch their kid’s pants, so childrensear is not a problem.

Home: Is all considerably more bearable. We are all working/schooling/both, and are no longer getting under each others’ feet or on each others’ nerves. We’ve started to regularly attend the Inn on the Green pub quiz each Sunday with Matt “I Can’t Help The Superiority Of My Race” Smith, and have decided that our team name each week shall be a different Arnie quote. The first week we were “I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots And Your Motorcycle”; last week we were “Phased Plasma Rifle In The Forty Megawatt Range”; and tonight we wer “What Is Best In Life? To Smash Your Foes, See Them Scatter Before You, And Hear The Lamentation Of Their Women”. Our strong sense of morals and lack of internet phones means that our best finish thusfar is 8th out of 16.

Meanwhile, every spare bit of time I get is spent painting toy soldiers; the current bane of my life being a rather large and unpleasant Chaos Dragon.

I bought my ticket for the Warhammer Grand Tournament Third Heat quite some time ago, when I only had a handful of troops and a fire-breathing killpig to paint. Now, with less than four weeks to go, I have an entire handful of troops and a fire-breathing killpig to paint…

It's a hard life, being a nerd.


Thursday, 18 October 2007

So anyway, that thing about normal service having been resumed…


What an impeccable sense of timing.

I went onto Radiohead’s website a couple of weeks ago – they’re releasing a new album, entitled “In Rainbows”. Since they are no longer under contract to any record label, the Oxfordshire miserablists have decided to release it themselves. The CD will be available in all good record stores later this year, but in the meantime they have made it available to download from their website. People are free to decide for themselves how much they would like to pay for it, and if they want to pay nothing at all then that’s fine.

So naturally, I was there like a shot – and ended up paying forty quid for a pretentious boxed set that comes with vinyl seven-inches and a CD and a fancy booklet and so on. Plus, I still get to download the album from their website, just as soon as it is made available. Hurrah!

Anyway, about that impeccable sense of timing. I switch on my computer one morning to check my emails, and hey presto there’s one from the good people at Radiohead telling me that I can now download their spiffing new album. Great, except I’m kind of in a hurry to get to school, so I’ll do it later. Two hours of Design Embodiment and Material Selection and one hour of Engineering Mathematics later, I get home, switch on my computer, and have the following conversation (sort of).

Computer: Hey, how’s it going? You know that thing? That window thing?
Me: You mean Windows?
Computer: Yeah, that Windows thing. Well anyway, I can’t make it work. You should, like, I dunno, restart me or something?...
Me: Err… okay.

(---click--- whuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur…)

Computer: Yeah, no, that kinda didn’t work. Maybe you could restart me in safe mode, or in safe mode with networking, or some other thing.
Me: Nope. Nothing works.
Computer: Well, I’m all out of ideas. I guess you could use me to weigh down paper, or hold a door open, or something. Kinda sucks that you can’t download that Radiohead album now too, huh? Hey! How cool would I look if I was flying out of your window right now?
Me: …………

Stupid machines. It’s tricky to get to a computer at school at the moment, as it’s still only a few weeks into the new semester and the place is full of eager young first years; so I had to resort to using The Boy’s Mac a couple of times.

Good things about Macs:

  1. They look like boiled sweets. Well, hers does anyway.
  2. Mac users tend to be quite fanatical about Macs, and as such are quite easy to wind up in a classic Amiga vs. Atari sort of way (or SNES vs. Mega Drive, if you don't want to go completely retro).

Bad things about Macs:

  1. When your 'proper' computer breaks down and you have to borrow a Mac, you can be sure that the owner won't let you forget about it in a hurry.
  2. All the buttons are in the wrong place.
  3. The mouse doesn't work very well. Well, hers doesn't anyway.
  4. They live in rooms that smell like girls. Well, hers does anyway.

Thankfully, I live with Mr Dozer; and whilst he may not know what the dishwasher does, and doesn’t fully understand how all our bins keep magically emptying themselves, he does know how to fix computers.

He successfully diagnosed the problem as Windows being “a bunch of gay” – possibly caused by gay electricity, or interference from a gay weather balloon. The only solution was to completely reinstall Windows.

It’s pretty much all fixed now, apart from the fact that my computer seems to think that it is now American; and as such, disagrees with my keyboard on a number of key issues, such as the location of the @ symbol and the existence of a pound sign.

Nothing a hammer won’t fix.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Gin’ll fix it

Normal service has now been resumed. Please, remain calm people.

I started back at big school this week. My first lecture was at 9.30am, and would be a new module for this year – Design Embodiment and Material Selection. So naturally, the best way for me to prepare for this was to stay up late with Matt Who Is Not A Nazi, drinking beer and watching Robocop.

A timeless classic, I’m sure you’ll all agree; it has everything, from drug-addled cop-killing psychopaths to sleazy 80’s businessmen, and of course that most magic of ingredients – big angry robots.

Terminator has them. Transformers has lots of them. Cheaper By The Dozen doesn’t have any; thus proving that for any film to be truly awesome, it must have big angry robots in it (though they may also be substituted for aliens, ninjas, cowboys, barbarians, maverick cops that play by their own rules, explosions, or that guy from Police Academy that does all the sound effects).

Anyway, my first week back at big school has been really good. It’s nice to have some kind of purpose again, and to do something a bit more mentally stimulating and challenging than trying to work out how to most efficiently load the dishwasher.

On Saturday, I got to wear a tie for the first time in about thirteen years when I went to my induction at The Big Gay Department Store. Along with about twenty other smartly dressed boys and girls, I was led into a training room which was polluted by the sounds of M-People singing “What have you done today//To make yourself proud?”…

Urgh.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m just far too cynical by nature, but it all seemed a bit patronising. Make that very patronising. Personal highlights for me were;

  1. The obligatory “this is how you must lift a box” demonstration.
  2. The video explaining to us that fire was bad, m’kay? (complete with an explanation of how when lifting, you should keep your back at a 90 degree angle to your pelvis…)
  3. The other video explaining to us that disabled people were just the same as the rest of us, except that they’re disabled; and that we should treat them just the same as other people, and here are some instructions on how to treat people who are different to other people just the same as other people.
  4. The other other video explaining how great it was to work for The Big Gay Department Store, which was essentially a six-minute musical montage of people working at The Big Gay Department Store and pretending it was great.
  5. The till training given to us by a woman that seemed barely able to read.

The day finished with a brief stint on the shop floor, learning just what my new part time job would entail; tolerating the presence of co-workers, whilst speaking to customers in the polite and well-spoken manner usually reserved for foreign dignitaries and grandparents.

Sunday was far better by comparison; after getting up nice and early to watch the Chinese Grand Prix, I bimbled off to watch the last bangers meeting of this year with Mr Dozer. The first corner of the first lap of the first race saw one of the cars get flipped onto its roof; the day pretty much carried on like that, with the grand figure-of-eight destruction derby finale having to be stopped at least twice when cars burst into flames. Good times. We got back just in time for The Inn On The Green pub quiz, where we came in a fairly dismal 13th out of twenty; but there was still lots of drinking to be had, so it was all good.

Less good was the drunken cook-off that took place when we all finally stumbled back, but it would seem that alcohol has thankfully erased that memory.


The blog you are visiting may be experiencing technical difficulties


Or, to put it another way, I'm far too drunk and tired to write.

In all fairness, you're probably too drunk and/or tired to read, so I reckon this works out quite nicely for all of us.

Tomorrow.

I shall write tomorrow.

(probably...)

Monday, 1 October 2007

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.


Is it really only a week since I last typed out reams of gibberish? It seems like less than that, and yet if I try to recall the contents of the last post… well, basically I can’t. I had to visit my own blog and read my own words in an effort to understand what happened and when, and to try to jumble recent memories into some kind of chronological order.

Perhaps I am drinking too much.

In any case, it would seem that when I last wrote I had secured relatively undesirable employment with the impeccably dressed people at The Big Gay Department Store. My only hope lay with the bookstore Waterstones, with whom I had an interview on Tuesday. If I’m honest, I think it went a bit shit. I’d prepared quite well, and felt reasonably confident going into the interview, and gave some good answers to most of the questions… but there were bits where I just knew I was screwing it up.

However.

Waterstones phoned me back later that day, offering me a weekend contract that paid less per hour than The Big Gay Department Store, and offered fewer benefits too. This was a result.

However.

It turns out that despite what I was told when I originally applied, they were only recruiting for temporary positions… whereas The Big Gay Department Store had already offered me a permanent part-time position…

And so today I bought myself a natty shirt and tie combo, and started to contemplate a life in retail which didn’t involve toy soldiers, and where you couldn’t tell kids they were gay for liking Wood Elves.

Some other stuff happened this week too. On Wednesday I went with Charlie and The Boy to see popular beat combo Reuben at the Academy, where the substantial main stage area was closed off for ‘soapy love time’. This meant that we had to watch the two very mediocre support acts and the very splendid Reuben in the tight and sweaty confines of the upstairs bit, where the sheer combined mass of the audience distorts laws of physics such that;

1. The band appear very small, and difficult to see.

2. The cheap domestic lager becomes surprisingly expensive.

3. You emerge from the gig soaked in sweat, but it’s not all your own…

Despite all this, Reuben really were excellent, and quite charming too, the intelligent wit of their song lyrics flowing over into the between-song banter. Highly recommended.

Naturally, there was further drunkenness and Warhammering with Jeff “My Body Is Nothing More Than A Pedestal For My Wang” McDeath, although this has all but come to an end now. The Beef Iron Sex-Plough has secured himself employment in London as some sort of shark/estate agent hybrid, and so will now be selling houses and preying on women some 140 miles from here.

But, as is the way of such things, no sooner does one nerd depart than two others arise to take his place; Dom has just returned from a thrilling summer of Living With His Parents, and my old part timer (yes, another one) Matt has just moved into a flat over the road. The drunkenness and Warhammering will continue unabated, pausing only briefly for Mechanical Engineering lectures.

Which start tomorrow.


Monday, 24 September 2007

News just in...


Yet another late, late post. This one comes at the end of an action-packed day that consisted of painting toy soldiers until teatime, watching telly until bedtime, and playing Theoryhammer with Jeff “S
tupid Sexy Jeff” McDeath until way past bedtime. Playing Theoryhammer is essentially the same as playing Warhammer, but without such tedious constraints as tables, scenery, toy soldiers and dice rolling. Kind of like a ”who would win in a fight between…” sort of argument, but with more stats and probabilities thrown in.

And whilst this may definitively prove definitively that we are geeks, we are now pretty certain that a unit of 6 Stone Trolls is damn good, just as long as you keep them close to your Warboss.

In other, only slightly less boring news, almost nothing else has happened this week.

I spent two or three days fine tuning my CERN application – which essentially means I spent two or three days procrastinating, playing solitaire, or otherwise staring blankly at the blinking cursor on the monitor, pausing only briefly to type a few words about how much I love particle physics. For a variety of reasons I seem to find it very difficult to convey my passion for particle physics; and so I find myself hoping that the European Centre for Nuclear Research doesn’t bother to read applications too closely, opting instead for a selection process that involves a lot of bits of paper with names written on them, and a very large hat.

In the meantime, I have been half-heartedly hunting around for a part-time job. Having tried and failed on three occasions to secure some kind of office-based employment, I trotted along to the Christmas jobs fair at the local mall and got a job with my friendly local Big Gay Department Store pretty much instantly.

But.

It’s really not what I want to be doing; I’ve worked in retail for eleven years already, and would quite like my CV to show that I am capable of working in a different environment; and if I am going to be working in retail, I’m not sure I want to be working there. I’ve got another interview lined up with Waterstones, a book shop in the same mall; and whilst they may be less big and posh than The Big Gay Department Store, they also seem a whole lot less uptight. For example, they don’t insist on staff wearing suits or smart trousers with long sleeved shirts (which must be either white, ivory, pale blue or pale grey, plain and sensibly opaque), with ties that must be businesslike in style and design and selected to co-ordinate with the rest of the outfit.

Plus, the store is directly beneath Games Workshop; so I can easily pop in at lunchtime for a few games of Theoryhammer with the staff.


Monday, 17 September 2007

Mazal Tov, y’all

Apparently, I have been grumpy all week; and grumpiness is forbidden.

Sigh. This sort of thing really annoys me. Sure, I’ve been a bit sullen and moody – but it’s not like I’ve been growing to immense size, acquiring a greenish complexion and smashing things indiscriminately. I just get a bit quiet and short of patience.

I guess it started on Monday, when we went to the pub for farewell drinks with Charlie (who is now a former pseudo-housemate, having moved into new digs with other scummy students). By “we”, I mean Charlie, The Boy and myself. Sam was apparently too fat and lazy to walk up the road to join us, and Dozer elected to stay behind at the house so that he could continue to fail utterly to get any action whatsoever with Joss (some chick that is part friend of The Boy, part walking soap opera and part sponging slacker).

The three of us still managed to have a nice time, but I was really disappointed that Sam and Dozer didn’t seem willing to acknowledge the fact that while she was staying with us, Charlie actually pulled her weight. She cooked meals, bought food, and (unlike the two fat men) understood that the dishwasher was not a special kind of cupboard for dirty dishes; nor was it home to dark and terrible beasts, whose thirst for human blood can only be appeased through offerings of soiled plates and cutlery left scattered over various work surfaces in the kitchen.

My mood was not improved the next day when a hefty water bill arrived, and a quick check of the house finances showed that a) Dozer hasn’t paid any rent since June, and b) there won’t be enough money to pay all the bills and the rent at the end of this month. Dozer claims that he is sorting himself out, and in fairness he has secured himself a second job, working behind the bar at the Cat and Wheel; but that doesn’t really alter the fact that because he quit his old job (by headbutting the sales manager) and then sat on the sofa for three months watching TV, we might all have to find new homes before Christmas.

And so I have been grumpy.

Except on Wednesday, when I was invited to my friend (and former employee) Paul’s house to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and day of judgement. Apparently the year 5768 commenced at sundown on the 12th of September; but don’t take my word for it, click here to calculate it for yourself. I got to eat tasty Jewish nibbles, dared to try the Jewish Surprise (which turned out to be cake and ice cream), and even found time to spill beer all over Paul’s Jewish carpet.


Monday, 10 September 2007

Spilled drinks and hearing loss

One of my favourite things about going to gigs is the ‘brain flush’ effect. The music enters my cranium via my ears and forces everything else out, and for the time that the band is playing they are the only thing that matters and nothing else is real.

Of course, this only really works if I’m enjoying the music. But it just so happens that the gig I went to on Tuesday was one of those legendarily awesome billings, the kind where even the opening act is a band that I would gladly pay money to go and see.

The opening act in question was Taint. I’ve seen them a couple of times before, and am constantly impressed by the way that the three of them, with just drums, bass, guitar and throat, are able to create such dense layers of sound without resorting to any kind of technical jiggery-pokery. They’re kind of like an instrumental hard rock outfit… except there’s vocals…

Next up was Russian Circles, an actual instrumental rock outfit. Falling somewhere between the huge tectonic riffs of Pelican and the post-rock nihilism of Red Sparowes, they created music that was intricate and engaging enough that any kind of vocals would have been quite superfluous, and therefore were not missed.

And then headliners High On Fire, a thrashy stoner-doom trio who are nothing like instrumental rock, even though most of their songs are 50% guitar solo. They were very metal, and in the confines of The Cooler (which normally serves as some kind of pretentious little indie club) they were so impossibly loud that at times I felt quite dizzy. As excellent as they were, the devastating volume meant that their set was one to be endured more than enjoyed. Or maybe both.

Rather unsurprisingly, this left me quite deaf for a few days afterwards – which in turn meant that I also became quite mute. It’s not like I’m particularly talkative at the best of times, but there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to converse with others, since to me it just sounded as though they were mumbling. It was all a little bit odd.

Fortunately my hearing returned after two or three days, so I was able to get back into my routine of playing Blood Bowl all day with Jeff “I Was Raised By Hyenas” McDeath, and having loud and animated discussions in the pub with him, Charlie and The Boy. In true nerd-core fashion, these discussions mostly fell under the “Who would win in a fight between…” category; only instead of being fights between comic book characters or daytime TV presenters, they were fights between animals – a kind of King of the Jungle Arena of Death. It started out as lion vs crocodile; then brown bear vs crocodile; and then brown bear vs silverback gorilla, before eventually devolving into “What’s the biggest/most dangerous animal you could take on armed with nothing but a hammer?”.

This is of course a ludicrous debate of no merit whatsoever. And so naturally, the TV show has already been made…