Wednesday, 29 December 2010

twinkle twinkle

blah blah blah christmas lights blah blah.

Fifth place:

Bonus points:
+1pt Remembered to turn lights on

-100pts They're shit

Total: -99pts

Fourth place:

Bonus points:
+10pts Trying to be tasteful

-50pts Trying and failing to be tasteful, because you still have lights on the front of your house. Pricks.

Total: -40pts

Third place:

Bonus points:
+25pts Almost painfully garish

-25pts Continuity error (more than one Santa)
-25pts Santa on see-saw with snowman (too much frolicking, implies poor work ethic)

Total: -25pts

Second place:

Bonus points:
+30pts Petty next door neighbour one-upmanship
+25pts Bazillion gigawatt planet-killer bonus

-60pts House on left looks a bit like a Ukrainian gay bar

Total: -5pts

First place:

Bonus points:
+1,000,000pts Visible from space

-1pt Insufficient epilepsy warning stickers

Total: +999,999pts

Merry Christmas, happy new year, etc.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

because crime never takes a holiday, kids

My bicycle has been giving me some trouble of late. The chain would occasionally skip off the back gears and get wedged between the frame and cassette; this problem was solved with the careful application of a chunk of metal and some cable ties. I fixed a wobbly pedal crank with chopped up bits of beercan, replaced a pedal with knackered bearings by scavenging a replacement from another abandoned bike, and hadn't quite got around to looking at the front gears which were so worn that the chain would slip every 10 revolutions or so.

It has been suggested that what I really need is a new bicycle; but I've always maintained that it makes more sense to wait until this one gets stolen, and then get a new one.

Well guess what I found when I went to cycle in to school this morning?

That's right; a bike. But - crucially - not my bike. My bike is silver and red. The bike it seems to have been replaced with is (forgive me if this gets a bit technical) a Rusty Blue Piece of Shit with Non Functioning Brakes.

On the plus side, I do now appear to have become the owner of a bike so shitty that even a bike thief doesn't want it. Although I can't shake the feeling that I might catch some kind of virulent disease from it...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Monday, 15 November 2010

theme music

You can't have the theme music from Paddington Bear, because that's already Paddington Bear's theme music. He has dibs on it.

Paddington's special power is that he is 3D in a world that is otherwise entirely 2D. Being 3D might not sound that cool to you, but it seems to make people think shit films are great; and if you met someone who existed in four dimensions and was perpetually rotating onto their own mirror image, as well as producing marmalade sandwiches from their hat, you'd be pretty damn impressed.

So you can pick anything that isn't already someone else's theme music; like God Hates Us All by Slayer, for example. Of course you don't want that, it's just an example. Pick your theme music and the rest will follow.

I'm going to go for Rock 'n' Roll Pumpkin by Green Jell├┐.

I figure my special power is going to be something along the lines of driving around real fast, leaning out of the window with my head on fire.


...and then I went to a party at Casa del RoboJew where we did maths for two hours and everyone else got drunk and mocked us. It's good to have him back.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

futility room

  • Went to gay man's house dressed as Captain Scarlet. Everything that has happened previous to this is little more than a footnote.
  • Fire, and lots of it.
  • Saw Dillinger Escape Plan (awesome) supported by Rolo Tomassi (also awesome) and The Ocean (derivative German metalcore wankery).
  • Churchill and Chu proposed the following correlation for laminar free convection (where Ra is less than 10 to the power of 9);
  • Mouses are alright.

Monday, 18 October 2010

coursework coursework coursework


Sunday, 10 October 2010

burn baby burn

A week or so ago, I received this text message from my good friend and private brain care specialist Tim.

To anyone that has met Tim, this will not seem an unusual request in the slightest.

I did attempt to extract more information, but all I could get from him was that it would be in west Wales, and there would be someone dressed as a policeman in the cock. It is still unclear whether this is some kind of art thing (when not busy falling of motorbikes and breaking his legs, Tim studies photography), or merely a leisure pursuit.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Monday, 4 October 2010

life-work-school-procrastination balance

So what's happening is this.

I finished my fuel-saving aerodynamics research/playing minesweeper job a couple of weeks ago. The boss was very happy with the work that I did, primarily because he doesn't know how much time I spent playing minesweeper. He's going to go over the stuff I did and present it to the university, with a view to conjuring up some kind of engineering get-rich-quick scheme. If he's successful, and if the funding is available, I'm straight back in there with some kind of part-time job; which would be cool, because his various motorsport contacts make him a very useful guy to know... but for now at least, it's done, and I no longer have fevered dreams about gleaming white DAF XFs.

Mmmm... articulated...

Pretty much as soon as that ended, school started. Now, I always knew that the final year of an MEng would be hard work; but there's knowing, and there's KNOWING. And now I fucking KNOW how much work I have to do this year, and it's more than a little overwhelming and, frankly, terrifying. Almost ninety percent of the mark this year comes from coursework, and to get it all done to a decent standard I will need more time.

So I've decided to try to drop one of the two days a week that I spend slaving away at The Big Gay Department Store; and if they don't go for that, I guess I'll be dropping both days. I don't really want to quit outright, as I need money for shiny things (and food, I suppose); but at the same time, I need to be able to find some sort of balance between attempting to master engineering, being a slightly camp sales assistant, and indulging in other social activities. Like checking out painfully contemporary jazz and drinking fancy beer on a boat, for example.

Which, by an astonishing coincidence, is exactly what happened on Friday when Sam invited us to The Grain Barge to check out his workmate's band. The band in question was Eyebrow, a thoroughly decent modern jazz two-piece consisting of drums, trumpet and a lot of reverb. They were cool.

The second band were called Busnoys, and they sounded like this.

Possibly the band that the phrase "Spiralling vibraphone wankery" was made for. But the important thing is, Eyebrow were cool and the beer was fancy.

Monday, 27 September 2010

lobster shanty

This has turned out to be a summer of big dumb action movies.

It started out with Predators; which in the grand tradition of sequels, was nowhere near as good as the first one. It ticked most of the alien laser death romp boxes, but was a tad too predictable; and crucially, it didn't feature a chaingun-toting Jesse "The Body" Ventura. To be fair, this is a flaw shared by many films.

Next up was The A-Team. My only real expectation of this film was that it should be so ludicrously over the top, it would make Die Hard look like a documentary about modern policing and hostage negotiation. On this front at least, it did not disappoint. A great way to get hammered is to play a drinking game whereby you watch The A-Team, and every time something stupid and/or impossible happens, you take a drink. By the time they're flying the tank, you'll be paralytic. In fact, the only major failings (apart from the aforementioned lack of Jesse Ventura) was the absence of the white and red Corvette, and the fact that when Face managed to rustle up a speedboat halfway through the film, he didn't impregnate anyone in the process.

The Pixie and I rounded off our summer of big dumb action movies last week, when we went to see The Expendables. Slightly reminiscent of eighties classic Commando, this film was set in some kind of fantasy universe where men were real men, women were real women, and absolutely everything else was exploding. Like, all the time. It was so ludicrously over the top that it made The A-Team look like a documentary about military corruption and international crime networks.


The Renault World Series rolled into Silverstone a couple of weeks ago, and since it was free we (Matt, Laura, Dom, The Pixie and I) decided to bimble along. The day featured the same selection of races, static car displays and bacon sandwiches as last year...

...but sadly lacked the glorious sunshine of the previous year. It also lacked a chaingun-toting Jesse "The Body" Ventura; but he wasn't there last year either, so this was less of a disappointment. Ultimately, it was a fun - if just a little chilly - day out that got us thinking about our vile track slag again.

It's probably fair to say that the track slag has been somewhat neglected of late. The last time we took it out (a quick spin around some local roads to make sure that the wheels still go round), we noticed that the handbrake warning light was staying on... Matt and I decided to get to the bottom of the problem.

We started by eliminating all of the most complicated, unlikely and time-consuming possibilities first; a process that involved removing wheels, sucking air through teeth and shouting at wheel hubs. Then we noticed that the switch for the handbrake light was slightly bent out.

Bastard switch.

Still, we got to finish stripping out some of the superfluous bits of electrical system and gaffer-taped up the rest.

With next to no interior, the slag is now noisy, raw and unsophisticated, and feels like a proper deathtrap.

This pleases me.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

linky linky

Ahh, links and lists and lists of links. The last refuge of those to busy/lazy/boring to write about anything else.

The following is an assorted bunch of crap that has most recently been rocking my world. Rocking it. Behold!
  • Girl fronted indie/alternative bands from the 90s.

  • 27b/6.
  • Boxes of cheap red wine.
  • [adult swim] games.
  • Rat style cars.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

just because i'm paranoid, doesn't mean my hair gel isn't out to get me

I've started to read the label on my hair junk as a motivational message for some guy called Matt Clay; a man I have never met, and who isn't me.

So now the stuff that lives in my bathroom cabinet is actively conspiring against me, lending its full support to a faceless and unknown adversary.

Fuck you, hair care products.

Monday, 30 August 2010

workin' nine to five... ish

So, I turned up on Tuesday last week to talk to this guy at university about work 'n' stuff. We spent about an hour trying to thrash out just what I ought to be doing, and then another hour talking about motorsport. Turns out that we've been in the same place at the same time before; the pit lane at Brands Hatch for the 1984 British grand prix. He was working for the Williams team as an engineer of some description; I was a little further down the pit lane in the Brabham garage, wearing a bad sweater and hanging out with my new pal Riccardo Patrese.

Anyway, it turns out that the nature of my work is such that I can pretty much do it all from home; and so I spend half my day researching fuel saving aerodynamics, and the other half playing minesweeper.

However, I do take my minesweeping commitments quite seriously; and so there has been no time for toy soldiers, my busy work schedule allowing for only the most essential booze-soaked engagements such as The Boy's birthday (many happy returns 'n' that), and banger racing in the picturesque Mendip hills followed by a delicious roast lamb dinner (thank you Charlie Cat).

Monday, 23 August 2010


I recently served a mad woman in the Big Gay Department Store. The conversation went something like this.

"Hello darling. Does this come in a box?" She's brandishing a frying pan.
"I'm afraid not madam, it comes as is. I could wrap it in some bubble wrap for you...?"
"That would be wonderful darling, thank you." I set to expertly smothering her shiny new cookware in bubble wrap.
"You're doing a marvellous job..." she looks at my name badge "...Ben."
"Thank you. You're very kind." And possibly quite mad.
"You don't have spiky hair like him." She gestures to my colleague Tim, a quite exceptionally gay man with whom I hardly flirt at all.
"No madam, he's a wild anarchist. I'm more of a mild-mannered hippy."
"I see. How old are you Ben?"
"I'm thirty-two."
"You must call me mummy."
Cue shrieks of laughter from Tim.

In an entirely unrelated story, the Pixie and I bimbled over to see my parents last week. We spent a pleasant few days battling giant spiders, smashing furniture with axes and devouring delicious Thai food. The day after our return I inadvertently found a cure to my near crippling Forza/toy soldier painting addiction, by getting some sort of job or something. It's a temporary full-time position, working at the university for some guy that's researching fuel saving aerodynamics. Essentially, it's Pimp My Heavy Goods Vehicle. I start tomorrow, when we'll have a bit of a brainstorm in which we'll try to work out exactly what my job will be.

All of which means that today was pretty much my last chance to get any painting done; and here it is.

Yup, I finally managed to get some actual boyz painted for my super retro old skool rogue trader ork army. The photo is a bit blurry, because a) it's late, and I've had a few glasses of delightfully cheap red wine; and b) this conveniently covers up what a rushed job I've done on them.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

no stories, just toys

It's not that I haven't been doing stuff; although I must confess that now that I am solidly entrenched in my summer break, my days are mostly filled with toy soldiers, endless repeats of Top Gear, and bold voyages of 90's indie rediscovery.

But there's also been weddings, and barbecues, and day trips to medieval cities. Problem is, it's all been great; and no-one wants to hear about that.

I should probably start getting back into some project work in preparation for my fourth and final year. That'll give me plenty to complain about. Meanwhile, here's more toy soldiers.

This hideous creature is the warcaster for my Cryx force, which means it's her job to make sure that all my exploding steam-powered zombies shuffle in the right direction and explode at the right time. Apparently her name is Master Necrotech Mortenebra; but I like to call her Clicky Woman, as that's the noise I imagine she makes as she scuttles along on her ghastly robot spider legs. She is accompanied by a goon called Deryliss, who helps to cast spells and makes the tea.

These chaps are Defilers, although "the community" tends to refer to them as Death Chickens. As far as I can tell, their job is to rampage about and blast things with sticky corrosive goo before being smashed by bigger stuff.

And finally, Mechanithralls. Their special moves include punching stuff with their big fists, catching fire and dying (thanks Matt).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

it is indeed the loveliest of days

I let The Boy trick me into going to a bar gig at The Croft this week. A good thing too, as I actually got to see a couple of very cool local bands for less than the cost of a pint, and drink pints of imported lager for slightly more than the cost of a pint.

First of the two were the splendid Mustard Allegro
. As it turns out, it was guitarist Alex's birthday; which meant that all of the handful of people in attendance had to sign a card for him. It also meant that he had down a shot at the very start of their set, and then another after every three songs played. Unfortunately for him, Mustard Allegro songs tend to be frantic blasts of surf guitar seldom lasting more than a minute, and they played a lot of them. On the plus side, the music all has a somewhat room-spinning quality to it anyway, so nothing seemed particularly out of place.

Merch was available from the Asda bag that the drummer kept with him. My only complaint about the otherwise very excellent mini album Dwarf Shortage that I purchased is the title; if they had only called it Shortage of Dwarves, there might be a possibility of 'shortage' becoming the collective noun for dwarves.

The other band were Narco Lounge Combo, a groovy/sleazy drum 'n' guitar two piece. They mostly did lounge covers of songs by dead people, along with a few original numbers. "This one's about a far off and exotic place; it's called Aztec West." Mostly it all had a very cool Tiki space-lounge vibe to it, helped in no small part by the pair of electronic gizmos that made haunted jungle noise and flashing lights happen. "These are powered by very small nuclear devices, no bigger than a cigarette packet. They're perfectly safe, of course; but please don't look directly at them during the xylophone solo."


Meanwhile, in toy soldier land...

This thuggish brute is Borukk Mukmasha. So right now, my army resembles that of a twelve year old kid; consisting as it does of one warboss, four dreadnoughts and no troops.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

slow news day

I spotted this on the way to the Nerd Tower the other week.

That's right, the bonnet of this unassuming 1997 Rover 414 is held shut with a cunning latch and padlock arrangement. I'm pretty sure that I know what lurks under the bonnet of a 1997 Rover 414, and I am of the opinion that it does not warrant such security measures.

Meanwhile, in the land of toy soldiers; Bile Thralls!

Zombified meatsacks dispensing gastric horror from cannons plugged directly into their digestive tract. Every so often, one of them will explode. What more could you want?

Monday, 19 July 2010

false metal = destroyed

And so on Sunday, our Luncheon Club destroyed False Metal; helped in no small part by my knowing the title of Enrique Inglesias' new single.

I'm not proud.

In other minor achievements, I also seem to have passed all of my exams. Nice.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

gigs and zoos and mice and deadly deadly robots

All of these things.

Went to the second worst live music venue in Bristol to see The Black Keys with the Pixie last week. Only one support band, The Features; who sounded like The Kings of Leon might if they had pursued a different kind of MOR mediocrity. Nothing against the Kings, it's just that I prefer the older stuff.

Which is also true of The Black Keys, though because I'm not exactly a lifelong fan I feel like even more of a prick for saying it. Fortunately they didn't rely too much on newer material, and topped and tailed their set with hefty chunks of thick freaky scuzzy foot-stomping drum 'n' blues rock goodness. Splendid.

The next day we went to Bristol Zoo, since I've lived here for eight years without ever seeing it and it kind of seemed like the right time to finally do it. The first animal we saw was a wild rat attempting to drag an empty Ben & Jerry's tub into the undergrowth by the lion cage. After that we saw locusts fornicating, a bunch of lizards, and monkeys doing wicked monkey stuff.

We also purchased two shiny new mice. They are small, and scared of everything. The shortlist of potential names included Scorponok, Behemoth, Miss Alissa and Jenny Truant; but I eventually settled on Tetsuo...

...and Kaneda.

Because they are fun names to shriek at tiny mice.

Meanwhile, in the world of toy soldiers...

Things have ground to a halt somewhat on the orky front, whilst I agonise over which shade of green to use for their flesh. I have not been idle, however; I have been painting toys for a different game entirely...

This is a Slayer Helljack for Warmachine. Warmachine is a game set in a universe where technology and magic and heroes and blah blah blah.

The important thing is, my army will be filled with deadly robots and exploding steam powered zombies.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

ham ham ham

A few days after the last feverish bout of slag-poking, I tried to start the thing up again only to discover that the ignition system didn't want to play. A brief discussion with the rest of the gang drew us to the conclusion that the after-market alarm and immobiliser was probably to blame. Reasoning that the track slag was (for a variety of reasons) a far less appealing prospect for potential car thieves since we had taken over ownership, we agreed that the alarm was infinitely more trouble than it was worth and it had to go.

Trouble is, of all the things on the car that we know nothing about, the electrical system is the thing that we know the most nothing about. Or the least. In any case, removing the glove box to find this...

...didn't exactly fill us with enthusiasm.

Still, we'd made our minds up by this point. To take on this Herculean task we had me (not a great start), two different sets of wiring diagrams (which seldom agreed with each other, and frequently didn't seem to have anything to do with the car at all) and a RoboJew, who turned up with a toolkit full of all sorts of exciting electrical jiggery-pokery. For a while we attempted to make sense of what was what and formulate some kind of plan; but eventually we got bored and just started to make educated guesses as to which wires should be cut and reconnected.

Distinguished careers in the field of bomb disposal await neither of us.

Matt turned up just as we were tidying up the last bit of wiring, the hideous tangle of alarm-death-misery having been removed and unceremoniously dumped on the ground next to the car.

Seemingly satisfied with our efforts, he declared the whole shenanigan to be a rousing success before graciously taking all the credit when the slag fired up first time. What a great guy.

Since then, the battery has drained itself all over again. *sigh*

Meanwhile, Mahmond the Iranian has seemingly disappeared; which has given me more time for toy soldiers. Behold!

This ye olde dreadmob may look to some like a ramshackle bunch of metallic eggs on legs with silly claws; and in fairness, that's because that is exactly what they are. But they'll sure settle Smithy's hash...

Monday, 5 July 2010

Mata Hari: August 2007 - July 2010

I probably shouldn't have fed you so many chocolate coins last Christmas.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

it still functions

Plan A was to disconnect the battery for a while, and then re-connect it (the classic switch-it-off-and-switch-it-on-again manoeuvre). The problem with this was that the slag's alarm had drained the battery, so reconnection achieved nothing.

Plan B was to hook up another battery entirely - the one from my car, for example. This worked a treat, and after little more than twenty minutes of buggering about our beloved(ish) track slag was burbling away quite happily. Our escapades should have ended there with victory tea and Jambalaya, our mission having been successfully accomplished with ruthless military efficiency.

Unfortunately, whilst I was returning my battery to its rightful place (ie. my car) and musing on how nice it was that everything had gone so smoothly for a change, I managed to drop the spanner I was using; and instead of falling straight through the engine bay and landing on the floor, it landed on the splash guard and slid away far, far from reach...

So an hour and a half later we were still out there, with the front of my car jacked up whilst we debated which of us had the smallest and girliest hands and forearms (it was pretty much a tie between me and the RoboJew, as it happens).

When we finally retrieved the elusive tool, I further underlined my stupidity by forgetting to take away Matt's chocks from behind the rear wheels and reversing straight over them. Matt wasn't angry, as such; but he did use the kind of voice that he might use to oppress an entire race of people that he considered somehow inferior, if he ever felt so inclined.

Which I'm sure he doesn't.

Meanwhile, I seem to be tutoring English to an Iranian man. Mahmond is 45 years old, and has only recently moved to the UK from his home in Tehran. I feel like a bit of a fraud, on account of the fact that I am in no way formally qualified for teaching English, and generally don't know what I'm doing; but he seems happy enough to pay me for my time, and I have so far resisted the urge to press him for information on what it was like to live through the Iran-Iraq war of the early to mid 80's, so I guess it's going okay.

And finally... Toy soldiers have been absent from this piece-of-shit blog for a while now. Time to make amends. Here's what has been cluttering up my painting area most recently...

Yup, like a sucker I've been trawling eBay for classic/old/malformed/crappy models from when I were a lad, and now have a fairly sizeable collection of ye oldy space orks to scatter across the living room. This dreadnought is the first of the bunch to be completed; but I seem to have found a fairly quick way of painting them, so expect more photos of dated nerdy crap to be filling this space in lieu of any kind of meaningful narrative soon.