Sunday, 30 November 2008

Everything more droning than everything else

And so last weekend I went with The Boy to see bands that we had mostly never heard of.

I could see what Satori were getting at. Sort of. The trouble with this kind of drone-doom is that there is a very fine line between euphoric mantra-like awesomeness, and tedious repetition. Satori fell the wrong side of this line. The problem was compounded by the fact that they are completely electronics-based, and thus have zero stage presence; and even though they employed a big screen and projector and wibbly films ("This looks like something I made in media studies when I was seventeen..." - The Boy), there was no getting away from the fact that we were watching two IT guys checking their emails whilst white noise was being played at 120dB.

For some reason that is not apparent - or indeed important - to me at this time, only two fifths of Atavist were in evidence; their support slot therefore become Atavist vs Nadja. It was all very improvised, with the first of their two "songs" never quite getting going. It was a bit more like a weird game of power-chord chicken, except that nobody won. The second half of the set rocked, though, falling entirely on the right side of the mantra/tedium line. More of that, please.

Leaving just Nadja. Initially it all sounded a bit sparse, but after a few minutes of carefully building layers of droning noise and dicking about with effects pedals it all started to make perfect doomy sense. We stumbled out with ears ringing, no memory of what had happened, but the vague recollection of it all being very awesome.

Beer may have been a factor in this.

Meanwhile, in actual news, my sister's boyfriend Neil made his bid to become Mister Doctor Sister on Thursday night, when he proposed to her; she of course said yes, and now has some shiny bling and a giant smile.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tiny Cakes

Another week, another extended farce in preparation for some important guy's big visit. Only this time, instead of trying to find inventive places to hide stuff, we're trying to think of cunning places we can hide ourselves. If he can't find us, he can't demote us.

Though to be honest, as a placement student I don't think I can be demoted anyway. I'm so low down the pecking order that I have to salute the vending machines in the canteen.

And yet I still seem to have been somehow instrumental in the complete reorganisation of an entire department. At the start of the week, there was still quite a bit left to do, and some folk were getting a bit twitchy. On Monday morning, I found myself in a meeting with ML (Engineering Manager, always smiling like a politician, ghastly American accent that seems to come out through his nose) and JH (Process Owner, tall and ginger with a crippling stammer, answers to ML).

ML: What do you need to get this area finished?
ME: Errr...
ML: Don't tell me now. Go around with JH, make a list of what you need - not what you think I'll get you, but what you need - to get this area finished. Get that list to me and I'll make it happen.
ME: Ummm....

And so I went around with JH, and together we made a pretty complete list of everything that we needed. JH took the list and gave it to ML; ML gave the list to my boss; and and my boss gave it to me, thus completing the cycle of incompetence.

Sometimes I start to think that I quite it like it here; but I think that might just be Stockholm Syndrome.

Meanwhile, I seem to have lost another housemate this week; a girl called Ruth, who rented the other room in the Exeter house up until yesterday. Marco didn't tell me much about her before I moved in, other than to say that we would probably get along, because she is thirty also.

I don't quite follow his logic; perhaps he thought we would hang out together and talk about cool thirty year-old stuff. In actual fact, we mostly talk about what a jerk Marco is (Ruth doesn't have any living room privileges either); if we talk at all. Her boyfriend Sam is over most nights, so they are usually hidden away in her room discussing domestic policy making processes, or whatever it is that young couples do nowadays.

But one night a while back, Sam wasn't about; and in the absence of anything better to do, we sat around in the kitchen exchanging mouse stories...

A few years ago, Ruth was living in a student house with a bit of a mouse infestation. This would usually only manifest itself in the sudden and mysterious appearance of little nibbled holes in the bottom of cereal packets, coupled with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the cereal itself; but as time went on, the little critters got more inventive, and started knocking boxes over in order to spill their delicious contents. It all went wrong for them when they tipped over a bottle of ice-cream topping syrup. Sure enough, a pool of sticky sweet deliciousness formed in the base of the cupboard, and sure enough, the mice did gorge themselves upon it. Unfortunately, being small and feeble little creatures, they couldn't then free themselves from the Yummy Pink Tarpit of Death; and so they all drowned in it. When Ruth opened the cupboard the next day the syrup had all set; and so the tarpit (along with it's cargo of little furry corpses) had to be chiseled off of the bottom of the cupboard with a ruler...

Silly mouses.

And finally... my family bimbled down this weekend for eats and drinks and birthday merriment. My sister made cakes happen. Behold!

Many cakes were decorated with the shattered corpses of jelly babies; some crushed beneath jelly bean rockslides, some cleft in twain with deadly chocolate buttons.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

The farce is strong with this one

Grown up work has been a veritable hive of frenzied activity over the past week, as we all prepared for a visit from one of the company head honchos. We shall call him Mr M. This activity has mostly been the industrial equivalent of hiding all your crap under the bed when you're told to tidy your room.

One of the things Mr M. would be very keen to see was that we had control over all of our inventory, that work was being processed in an ordered and organised manner. As such, fire corridors crammed full of a random assortment of turbine blades on trolleys would most likely not go down well.

Not well at all.

The sensible thing to have done would have been to organise the flow of work better; but it was too late for that. So what we did was take all of the random trolleys full of random work, hid them in a room with no windows and locked the doors.

Another thing that Mr M. would be very keen to see was that we had control of all our fixed assets; machines 'n' that. So the "Blaster Graveyard" at the end of the finishing department, filled as it was with decaying and disused bits of equipment, would most likely not go down well.

Not well at all.

For the most part, we pulled the same stunt again but on a slightly different scale; instead of a separate room, we hid all the crap in a separate building. All apart from a pair of non-functioning rework booths. These things are basically 4' x 4' workbenches, with a dust extractor on top that sucks air through the bottom of the bench, filters out all the crap, and spits out air that almost certainly won't increase your risk of contracting lung cancer. What they lack in footprint, they make up for in height; these things are 16' tall.

Which was a problem.

Because the tallest doorway out of the finishing department is only 14' high.

The sensible thing to have done would have been to take them apart and move them out bit by bit; but it was too late for that. So what we did was just move the rubbish broken rework booths within the finishing department, putting them next to some working rework booths in the hope that it would look like they were supposed to be there, and we just happened to not be using them that day...

Of course it all worked a treat, and no-one had to get nailed to anything.

But the farce doesn't stop there, oh no. It continues in the new year, when we will be subjected to an internal audit. The company wants to ensure that all policies and procedures are being complied with; including good ol' health 'n' safety. Apparently, everytime any contractor comes on site to do anything ever, they must provide us with a Method Statement (detailing what they will be doing and how), and a Risk Assessment (detailing what hazards they have identified with the work that they will be doing, and what measures they have in place to reduce the associated risks). At least twice each month, we must check that contractors are sticking to their method statements and risk assessments, that the correct PPE is in use, and that probably no-one is likely to die; and we must document it all.

In the last six months, this has happened precisely once.

And so in a few weeks, my most important task will be to invent method statements and risk assessments; and to then falsify our records so that it looks like we checked up on it all like we should have.

I had always suspected that life in industry would be something like this; but I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that life in industry would be
exactly like this.

In other news: as alluded to last week, we have a new housemate. Sam, the Jolly Buffoon/Human Trombone, is gone. In his place we have some guy called Mike, a twenty-something floor fitter with good hair. Mike is incurably northern, and had just about got his life back on the rails - until he moved in with us. His girlfriend - who won't be living with us just yet - has thankfully intervened, saving him (and us) from himself, and hopefully ensuring that the rent will get payed at the end of the month.

And finally... I couldn't find a relevant picture to go with this post. So this one's for the nerds.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


It is thought that you can learn a lot about about a person by observing the way they eat jelly babies; although I suspect that it is only me that thinks this. People will generally subscribe to one of three methods. They will either bite the heads off first, ensuring a swift and painless death for the jelly baby; or they will start with the feet, so as to inflict a slow and painful demise as it is slowly eaten alive; or they will just the damn things, because they aren't dumb enough to worry about how they eat sweets. But that's just the basics. Make what you will of the following.
  • Former flat/housemate, now happily married and expecting first child, quite hairy and generally all-round nice guy Gorgeous George likes to eat their faces first.
  • When she was revising for the final exams of her biology degree, my sister started eating the heads of jelly babies so as to become more intelligent. She kept the decapitated bodies standing in neat rows along the back of her desk.
  • My mum and gran will both single out the black ones.
  • When a bowl of jelly babies appears on the table in the pub, Matt will wave his arms in the air, let out an exultant hoot, and then attempt to wipe them all out in some kind of horrifying jelly baby holocaust.
  • An old work colleague known as The Hattonator had a great love of blitzing jelly babies and putting them in milkshakes; partly because he liked the flavour, but mainly because he liked the macabre aspect of drinking a milkshake with severed bits of jelly baby in it.
  • I like to organise my jelly babies according to colour. I will then eat enough jelly babies that I have equal numbers of each colour; and then eat one of each colour in turn, until they are all gone.
So yeah, in case you hadn't already realised, it's been a slow week. Apart from a funeral, a fairly decent Taint gig, and the arrival of a new housemate... Maybe I'll get onto that later.

Monday, 3 November 2008

and finally

Eric Brooks died on the morning of Monday October 27th 2008.

Depending on your belief system of choice, he will either be going on to enjoy a socially awkward afterlife with his his two former wives; or he will be reduced to carbon-based molecules that will be scattered by the winds in a random manner. This will occur on the 5th of November; bonfire night. There's a black kind of humour there that I think he would appreciate.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and thoughts. In truth, I feel sorry for you; because you never had the privilege of knowing such a stupendous man.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The Joy of Socks

So it's come to this... a post about my new socks.

This could be considered as a measure of how bereft of excitement, adventure and really wild things my life currently is.

However, I am extremely pleased that I have found another medium through which to indulge the more autistic aspects of my personality. Not only are they really easy to pair up, but by only wearing each pair of socks on their designated day of the week I can ensure even wear across the set.

Meanwhile, in other wardrobe-related shenanigans... check out my lovely tie.

I wore this beauty to work on Friday as part of the whole breast cancer awareness thing. I don't normally join in with this sort of crap; but I'm a big fan of breasts, and was keen to show my support. I don't enjoy wearing ties, and was rather hoping that I could find a pink shirt to wear, but there wasn't much to choose from in the 24hr Tesco. My only other options were some fluffy slippers (which didn't have the required metatarsal protection for my workplace), or some High School Musical pyjamas for girls aged 4-8 (which I was never going to fit into, as much as I may have wanted to). So a pink tie it was.

I was not especially concerned that it might make me look a bit gay; since it would seem that my rampant homosexuality is already apparent to everyone, except myself. Here's a vague transcript of a conversation I had with Dan (manager of GW Exeter) last week.

DAN: I feel like I'm at this point in my life where it's all going to happen, and I just have to wait. Next year I'll be married, and then soon after that there'll be kids on the way... I'm getting quite broody, to be honest.
BEN: Urgh. I've always regarded kids as little more than small and rubbish grown-ups. No broodiness here.
DAN: Well, it's all biological, isn't it? The desire to spread your DNA and keep your lineage going.
BEN: Maybe. Maybe that's why women in super!markets wield their pushchairs like snowploughs, trying to kill me. They can tell I'm a non-breeder, and they despise me for trying to hold back their species.
DAN: Non-breeder? What do you mean by that? Is that through choice, or...?
BEN: Well, I'm an engineer that plays with toy soldiers. I find it quite hard to meet women, let alone score with them...
DAN: Oh, right. Okay.
BEN: What are you getting at?
DAN: How long have we known each other?
BEN: Er...
DAN: Eons, right?
BEN: Give or take.
DAN: Well for all that time, I've assumed that you were, if not gay, at least quite considerably bi-sexual. When you described yourself as a "non-breeder", it kind of confirmed it.
BEN: What?!
DAN: Plus, everyone always said you were gay.
BEN: What?!
DAN: At managers meetings and that, people would say to me, "You know he's gay, don't you?", and I'd say, "Okay, what's wrong with that?", and they'd be like, "Oh, er, nothing..." because they thought I was gay too.
BEN: What?!
DAN: Er...

...and so on.

Tonight I made a brave phonecall to my mother, in which I came out as being straight.