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The OTHER project that’s taken up a lot of our lives this year…

The OTHER project that’s taken up a lot of our lives this year…

As of this moment, Project WeaponX (ask HyperHam, she decided on the name!) is due for delivery 15 January, 2011.

Mother is doing as well as can be expected – but tips for combatting morning sickness would be *highly* appreciated!

I am *exhausted*…

I am *exhausted*…

XKCD

Ever since Hyperham moved in, life has pretty much been a non-stop whirlwind of relaxing on the sofa watching Dave, running around London, trash-talking each other and endlessly re-arranging stuff in the flat without actually deciding on anything. And tripping over socks and cables. It hasn’t helped that we’re also in the midst of some redesign projects at work, and I’ve volunteered for more late nights elsewhere (exciting details to come later!)

and I am *exhausted*. Sleep has never come so easily in my life before – hell, some nights, we’re in bed snoring away by 10pm. Especially at weekends. Which has severely cut into my social media time… Yet, people keep commenting that I look healthy and happy. Which sounds rather bizarre to me, because I’m usually looking at them with weary lidded eyes.

This week alone, we’ve got two guests from overseas to entertain, a cinema screening with free whisky, a leaving do and a long night ahead for this week. Oy vey.

And yet, I must also show Hyperham the glory that is the United Kingdom, especially now that Spring has arrived.

How co-habitation has turned me into Monk

How co-habitation has turned me into Monk

So HyperHam has been living with me for over two weeks now – and it’s been going alarmingly well. Except when it comes to the battle for personal space.

At first, it was little minor skirmishes – she loves loads of pillows, I’ll just settle for one hard pillow. She likes her mattress soft and pliant, I like it hard. She tends to leave things all over the place – whereas I leave things in an organised pile of mess. Instead of asking me to allocate her some drawer space, she complained to my friends that she didn’t have one drawer. So I emptied a drawer for her, and as far as I know, she hasn’t used it.

Then I came home after a particularly hard day at work to find she’d rearranged the furniture to split the room in half, and create a relaxing space and a work space. I did point out that the original layout had been specifically designed to meld the relaxing and work spaces together and to create an open feeling that would be welcoming to guests. At which point she fixed me with a stare and challenged me as to how many people had dropped by in the last two years. Pwned.

The feeling gradually crept over me that something was *wrong* with this. I couldn’t put my figure on it – then I realised. Thanks to the rearrangement, things had not been allocated their proper place. Everything had been piled onto the coffee table, so consequently you couldn’t put coffee on it. Instead you put coffee on one of the remaining bookshelves – the bookshelves on that had been temporarily moved to a spare side table. The papers on that were temporarily on the sofa.

Things were not in their rightful place. This is wrong.

I should have tried to relax. But I just couldn’t. We were watching an episode of House – top marks for drama, but really, the patient-of-the-week had been involved in a side-on collison with a bus, her heart had stopped, they’d cracked open her chest to see what was what, her lungs had been pumped full of a freezing solution to induce hypothermia, her kidneys were shot to buggery, and yet they were able to revive her for one long last farewell before she died – and I just couldn’t relax. Even mild surfing on the Internet wasn’t doing it. It wasn’t until we embarked on an organisational orgy that I was finally able to relax. And then it was time for bed.

Now I’m wondering what other mild mental malladies will be sparked by the ongoing co-habitation wars…

Inside a Hong Kong village…

Inside a Hong Kong village…

Apparently, Hong Kong is all a twitter about the sit-in demonstrations (complete with riot police and pepper spray) that have been taking place as the Hong Kong Legislative Council rubber-stamped a decision to build a high-speed railway line through Hong Kong to China, demolishing ancient villages in the process. (Interestingly, the official Chinese news state agency thinks the protestors barely deserve half a sentence in their report).

Anyway, cnngo.com had a photo-essay featuring the village at the heart of the railway line, and it’s rather striking how it looks an awful lot like the village my parents grew up. Even if I haven’t been back there in 20 years.

Oh, while we’re here, 50 reasosn why Hong Kong is fab. Now if only I spoke Cantonese…

Ten years ago today, I was…

Ten years ago today, I was…

stumbling across Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations with my mates including Sheff01, watching a couple of Turkish guys begging every woman around them for a kiss, and not getting any. Then again, I wasn’t getting any kisses either.

The best moment though, was coming up to the police barriers – due to sheer numbers, you had to have a special ticket to be allowed into the street celebrations – and watching one woman screaming “I’m pregnant! Let me through!”. So eventually the barriers were raised, and a lady with a large stomach was let through. Once she was past the policemen and the barriers, she lifted her shirt to reveal a six-pack of beers – she pulled one out, opened it, and went on her merry way.

At the stroke of midnight, the fireworks were unleashed over Edinburgh Castle – followed by the fine ash/gunpoweder glittering all our faces. Which beats the year after, when I had to duck and cover from hundreds of bottles thrown over Westminster Bridge on December 31, 2000.

Never mind all that, what you really want to know is what Doctor Who and sci-fi writers (including Russell T Davies, Steven Moffatt were doing on Millennium Eve

You never forget your first crush…

You never forget your first crush…

Lucina Dickey (and Jean Claude van Damne) in a scene from Breakin'

Lucina Dickey (and Jean Claude van Damne) in a scene from Breakin'

Believe it or not, when I was a tender 10-year-old boy growing up in a small seaside resort in mid Wales, I developed a temporary crush for the purple-dressed lady who steps in from the right. A crush I am still at a loss to explain to this day.

The scene is from that seminal street movie Breakin’ (the first movie all about Breakdancing) and the actress is Lucinda Dickey. Lovely lady though I’m sure she is, I can’t figure out why I had a crush on her. There were/are a huge number of “glam American” movies extolling the delights of living in a fantasy street-savvy America, so why she turned my tender young head/heart, I have no idea. And she’s not my usual type. Although she is cute. Fortunately, she’s still retained her looks today.

Thanks to the futuristic technology of YouTube, you can also watch the entire film online – or just the trailer, which has enough Lucinda Dickey goodness.

Life in a small Northern University

Life in a small Northern University

Around September 1992, I went to Bradford University (with a year off for good behaviour). And instead of doing the sensible thing like going to lectures, going home and then going to the pub, I did the insanely stupid thing of throwing myself headfirst (and very foolishly and naively) into student media/union life, alongside fellow students who seemed to take the Union far more seriously than I did.

Fast forward 17 years, and thanks to Mosh (who patently has nothing better to do), he sent me scurrying down the research hallways of the Web and Wikipedia to deduce that in those 17 years:

  • Ramair pub crawls are no longer held “because of risk to students off-campus”. Blimey, is it THAT dangerous in Bradford these days? (Then again, there were two riots while I lived there)
  • The “famed” Friday Night Disco (or FNDs for short) are no longer FNDs. In a nod to the subtleties of today’s multicultural multimedia multitasking students, they are now called Flirt! instead.
  • The Biko bar – where I spent the odd night drowning in perry before it disappeared from every pub I went to, only to come back into the warm bosom of my throat 15 years later as pear cider – closed in 2005
  • The student magazine I used to write for (and the one which got me a whole week in Prague just before the Iron Curtain was blown apart by McDonalds and Starbucks) has now been renamed from Scrapie to the unimaginatively entitled ‘The Bradford Student’. Tsk, tsk, no imagination these days.
  • When I was there, four people I knew ran for President or Vice President. Which was a shame, because the post was apparently abolished in 2000. Although they still have a Woman’s Officer. I hope she’s as feisty and alluring and purple-headed as she was in my day…
  • Radio Ramair offices

    Radio Ramair offices

    There’s a student radio station called Ramair, where I had a terrible radio show for three years. I’m also listed as News Editor in 1995, but I can’t really remember that much about it. Which seems odd considering I must have had to do at least one news bulletin a day…

But most important of all …

Back in 1994/5, I ended up setting up the Bradford University Union website, back when most people didn’t even know what a website was. Somehow, I was given Lifetime Membership of said Union as a reward, although I’ve never been back since to claim my discount pints. And for all the confusing clutter that it has today, it still has the name I gave it back in 1994 – UBU Online.

However, I shall now shut up (chorus: too late), lest I become yet another one of those sad people who relive their student days through golden-tinted specs, and are so compelled to write themselves into the story of a student media radio station that they set up their own amateur press agency. Yes, Simon Sheikh, I mean you. I’ve been trying to figure out why he wanted to add me on Facebook.

Film pop quiz, hotshot…

Film pop quiz, hotshot…

I’ve been tagged by Jan to do this follow up to the 100 books meme, using the Channel 4 list of top 100 films (which is probably a bit more realistic than the AFI one).

Trapped on a plane…

Trapped on a plane…

With my glamorous international air travel lifestyle, I’ve been trapped on an airport or plane numerous times.

One time, I was at Philadelphia Airport when it was snowing outside. Despite the blizzard conditions, they still insisted the flight was going to take off, so we all schlepped onto the plane at 8pm. Which remained standing still at the gate, while my ridiculously tall seat neighbour tried in vain to find a comfortable position. An hour later, they started the film, while we were still standing at the gate watching the snow swirl outside. Two hours later, they started the on-board meal service – while we were still at the gate, watching men on the wing vainly try to sweep the snow off. At 3am, they finally conceded defeat, and we all trooped off the plane, to finally arrive at some stupidly plush hotel at 5am to sleep. 24 hours later, we were back on the same plane, in the same seat, shown the same film and given the same meal. Although at least this time we were in the air.

Of course, there’s also the last time I was in the US, where I was stuck at JFK Airport for 18 hours

Still, none of this compares to the 50 passengers stuck on a Continental plane overnight by an airport gate, with no food and overflowing toilets, because most of the airport security staff had gone home.

Total eclipse of the sun…

Total eclipse of the sun…




Solar eclipse

Originally uploaded by mclarenjk

Ten years ago today, the UK went solar eclipse crazy, knowing that one faint corner of the British Isles (Cornwall and Devon basically) would be seeing a total eclipse.

While Mr McLaren (who I didn’t know at the time) took pics from his student union, I was a bit older – earning a wage in fact. So I decided to splash out and get to Cornwall the only way that was possible from London.

For the princely sum of £100 (which was very expensive in those days, but now is the average price of a ticket to Leeds), I could get a seat on the Solar Eclipse Express, a specially commissioned train that would get people from London Paddington to Penzance, in Cornwall to watch this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. (The next UK total eclipse being in 2090.

Of course, what we got for our £100 was a knackered ye olde train that had probably previously seen service during Agatha Christie’s era. Full of very sleepy, slightly grouchy passengers who weren’t looking forward to a six-hour train ride to Cornwall.

But somehow, the train wheezed past Paddington, and eventually arrived in Cornwall – to incredibly cloudy skies. You couldn’t really see much of anything in the sky – and the landscape was full of day-tripping tourists like me looking upwards for any sign of sun.

And when the time of totality came, it got dark. It got darker. People oooh’ed. Birds stopped crowing. Street lights came on – finally answering the question as to whether they had light sensors or not. People whispered.

Then it got lighter again – far more quickly than when it’d gotten dark.

And that was the solar eclipse. I was also trapped in Penzance for another six hours before the train back – and there’s only so many Cornish pasties you can munch on.

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