Monday, April 30, 2007

Signed by the hits

Looking for a soundtrack after stumbling down the stairs to meet the day this morning I came across "Signed by the Hits" on Freeview channel 18.

Music videos signed for the deaf! Why didn't I think of that?

I've seen not seen anything so inspired since the golden age of "Get Stuffed" and "Hollywood Minute" when ITV started its barrel-scrape fueled small-hours broadcasting years ago.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I'd smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs I'd been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And Lord, it took me back to something that I'd lost
Somewhere, somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.

In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl that he was swinging.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singing.
Then I headed down the street,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing,
And it echoed through the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.

A long overdue nod to Kris Kristofferson. Inspired by imagining John, the People of the Barn, and the fall out from the first annual Cardigan.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Annus Mirabilis Revisited

After Larkin:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather lost on me) -
I crawled then walked and I latterly ran,
I was only two you see.

Up to then there'd only been
A sort of gurgling,
A tendency to cling,
A stain that started inbetween
And spread to everything.

Yet even though my nappy stank:
Everyone smelled the same,
And every life became
A brilliant rattle piggy bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(And just in time for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Swingin' Affair

Camera phones are wonderful things. I was there to capture the moment when the New Ninja Bomber first got the drop on swinging from pole to pole in the playground (the trick it seems is to grab the target with your legs while still holding on the rope) and wondered how hard it would be to upload it to You-Tube.

There's nothing to it.

Note that he gets a bit cocky and fails trying to swing back again.

He gashed his chin playing in the garden at a friends house yesterday, so we spent a couple of hours in A&E having the wound washed and sealed. (Thank you to Sam the triage nurse and Mary the doctor.)

I guess that a certain amount of time in casualty is par for the course for a growing chap.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Style and Conditioning

One bonus of pounding the road since the New Year to get ready for the Childline Challenge is that it's made me confident enough to try other things knowing that, though I may be no spring chicken, I'll probably have have enough in the tank at least to get through them without making too much of a twit of myself.

With that in mind - having played five a side and been mountain biking in the last couple of weeks - I went along to Muay Thai on Monday, and came out with renewed respect for my little one (picture left) who's been doing it since last August.

The meat and potatoes of the training comes after skipping, stretching and shadow boxing. You tape up your hands. Could anything feel more gladitorial? Then - working in pairs, the hitting begins.

First we have "conditioning". Conditioning consists of being battered about the forearms, shins, and latterly the midriff with a Thai pad.

After that, you work on combinations; punching, kicking, kneeing and elbowing pads held by your partner, then swapping gloves for pads and having the favour returned. This is amazingly tiring, and to my surprise, holding the pads to be hit is easily as taxing as doing the hitting yourself.

It goes without saying that two hours of Thai boxing builds up a tremendous thirst that I was happy to slake yards away in Venus as soon as we finished.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

H-Dog an' tha Midstate Office Supply krew

Herbert Kornfeld writes about workplace issues for The Onion. He works as the Accounts Receivable Supervisor at Midstate Office Supply, the state's oldest wholesaler and retailer of office supplies and business machines.

Check it out, G's. Near two year gone, but now he back, an' the Stone-Col' Funkee-Fresh Mack Daddy Supastar Enforca will be crunchin' 'em an' balancin' 'em 2 tha grave. Word is bond.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

El Grupo

In the interests of historical accuracy, let it be known that "El Grupo" convened last Friday in the White Rose in Mumbles, and then dined at Lal Qila. The books enumerated here were exposed to our collective sensibility, and "This Thing of Darkness" judged the winner by acclamation.

Next time we shall be considering:
As ever, ordering via one of the links above will get me a piece of the action; I have also created a new tag "El Grupo" that I shall use in future and retrospectively to gather my musings on the books we consider.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I completed the Childline Challenge on Sunday morning, but had a bit of a 'mare to be honest.

Chris (who was riding shotgun with me rather than competing) and I seem to have taken a wrong turn after the Memorial and I found that I had to dismount and carry my bike up a few steps to get back on the main path.

I jumped on the bike again and changed down gears drastically while pedalling hard, with the - probably inevitable - result that my chain came off the chainring and got jammed. I tried to untangle it for what seemed like an age, then gave up and started to push the cycle to the stage end at Sketty car park, only to be saved by a Knight of the Road who got off his own bike and showed me how I could fix mine. (I was pleased to be able to thank him after the race and have made a vow to learn some maintenance myself.)

All these troubles - I learned later that Chris had encountered the same problem - meant that by the time I got in the pool - stage 2 of the race - I was way behind the group with whom I had started. It took all the will power that I had to complete ten 50m lengths rather than a sneaky catch-up eight as no one was checking, but I gritted my teeth and did it properly.

Subsequently, I girded my loins and ran the 3 or 4 miles back to Knab's Rock to finish last among my peers.

Same time next year?

Mais naturellement.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Afan Argoed

The two Robs were generous enough to lend me an appropriate ride and take me mountain biking in Afan Argoed yesterday. What an ideal way to rest and relax before this morning's Childline Challenge!

I wore my Garmin for the adventure, so here - as I promised them - are the links to our route:

I didn't wear the heart monitor, but I wish I had because I was scared witless by the precipitous drops inches from the edge of some of the single track descents and I 'd like to be able to prove what I imagine: that fear made my heart beat more furiously then, than effort made it pound on even the steepest climb.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ceci n' est pas une pipe

I can't get to a computer today, so I am writing this post with pen and paper.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The History of Mr Polly

The latest meeting of "El Grupo" is not until later tonight but, as Dave and Chris have already nominated their choices for the commingling after that, I may as well shoot my load.

Inspired by this article in The Times, I nominate American Shaolin:

P. J. O'Rourke 'I loved AMERICAN SHAOLIN. Reading it was like being abducted by an alien - a brilliant, funny and hospitable alien'
Dan Rather 'Tells more about what's going on in China, has more insights into the real China, than anything in recent years'

I'm already interested in the Bodhidhama, the Indian monk who seems to have been pivotal to the development of Zen and the Shaolin temple. so I may learn some more about that from the book, but I'm also partial to travelogues with jokes.

Rather sportingly, according to his website, the book's author Matthew Polly is "happy to answer a few questions by email or schedule a 30-minute conference by speakerphone when you’re reading American Shaolin!" That might be fun.

Serendipitously, given the amount of time I spend at Jackapong, here he is on Muay Thai - my boy's hobby - in Slate earlier this month.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pros and Cons

When I pump "Tristart Children" into Google, the number one hit is something I wrote the other day. A salutary reminder about the shaky nature of authority on the Internet, as I know lickety-spit about kids endurance events.

Google's also allowed me to discover however, that there is Cardiff Junior Triathlon Club, that runs a Tristart event in June, so I guess that - even though we live in London - my little fella could do that next year if he wants. Even though the club meets on Wednesday nights at UWIC Cyncoed, a matter of yards from where we were cycling on Monday, there is no way I was ever likely to have found that out without the search engine.

Pros and cons of Google, or just the nature of the beast?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I've started so I'll finish

With Friday's deadline looming, I've finally put The Unquiet Grave to bed.

The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence

... asserteth Palinurus.

For my review, you must imagine my lips pursed in a fleeting moue, as my left eyebrow arches a quizzical but elegant millimetre.

As Sainte-Beuve would have it:

In most men there is a dead poet whom the man survives.

Oh really?

No, O'Reilly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reassuringly Expensive

I went to GJs last night for a debrief after driving back from Cardiff only to find that I was required to pony up £3.20 for a pint of Stella. Just a 10p rise I'll grant you, but it stuck in my throat after downing the same stuff at £2.55 a pint in Wales after football on Friday.

I've therefore transferred my affections to Venus where Stella may be had for £3.00. I realise the savings are paltry, but "you've got to be true to your code." (I am even seriously considering the £2.90 a throw offering in the bar at Frankie and Benny's.)

The other local dives rule themselves out as regular haunts by serving different brands of strong continental lager, whereas I request and require Stella:

The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfxxxer in the room, accept no substitutes.

I wonder how long it will be before I look back on the prices in this post as bargains from a Golden Age of cheap drinking. In fact that is why I recorded them for posterity.

They tried to make me go to rehab
I said no, no, no

Yes I've been black but when I come back
You'll know, know, know

I ain’t got the time
And if my daddy thinks I’m fine

Just try to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Learning by doing

I bowed to the entreaties of my six year old yesterday and let him wear my GPS watch for a bike ride. We put the watch on the table in the garden and waited for it to pick up the satellites, then I set the watch to give him an alert after 800m (the Tristart cycling mark) and off we went along Penylan road and into the park for a few laps.

He took that watch off after the alert was triggered; "it's sweating my wrist" but uploaded the data to the PC and then the motionbased website when we got back.

As we were watching his route play back on Google Maps' satellite view - though he was surprised that the satellite had not photographed the dog that chased him in the park - I was struck by just how much education he had probably got from half an hour's messing about:

  • learning that location devices work out your position from satellites
  • getting good idea of how far 800m is
  • learning what uploading to the internet meant (he showed off the map to his cousins at his aunt's later)
  • seeing examples of photographs from space of his grandparents' house and environs.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mabinogion, I hardly knew you

We took the New Ninja Bomber and four of his cousins along to Cwmcarn Forest Drive for a lark and a barbecue yesterday.

I wish I knew something about Welsh mythology.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Knees Don't Lie

I played 5-a-side football last night for the first time in 24 years, my last outing coming when I was a graduate trainee at Fluor doing the EP1 course in Twickenham.

I turned out yesterday to fill a gap in my brother's team. He plays every fortnight at "Cardiff 5 A Side". This, the home of Boca Seniors and Real Madras, is situated in the kind of semi abandoned warehouse district to which it would be a worry to be driven by Tony Soprano.

We had the pitch for an hour and I scored two goals, one in the ninetieth second of the game and one with the clock reading thirty five minutes. In other words in the very earliest part of each half. This gives you a good idea of the pattern of my contribution.

My wind was quite good from all my endurance training, but the stops, starts, twists, and sprints played merry hell with my joints.

Great night though.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lucky Day

Due to a combination of stupidity and incompetence, seasoned with "Friday 13th" voodoo, I am to blame for a write-off level mangling of the New Ninja Bomber's pushbike, and I've had to take him to Halfords today to get a new ride.

It is a startling indication of the rate at which children develop that he his now aboard a 21 gear, 12" frame, 24" wheel machine. It would have been unthinkable that he could tame such a beast six months ago when I got him his last one as a birthday present.

He asked me this morning when I got back from training if he could compete in a triathlon as well. Googling round today I have found that there are indeed such things as Children's Triathlons and that there is a Tristart category of race that you can enter in the year of your eighth birthday, which means he could do it next year.

A Tristart race seems to average out at around a 50m swim, followed by an 800m bike ride, and a 600m run so it is a least a possibility for 2008.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I got an email from Chris telling me that Kurt Vonnegut has passed on.

A quick search reveals that I've made four references to Vonnegut here on my blog over the last couple of years: one, two, three, four.

Also the first conversation Chris and I had that I can clearly recall was about Cat's Cradle and Bokonism when we should have been listening to a chemistry lecture in 1979.

The last paragraph of the book seems appropriate today:

If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Big Night

A branch of Frankie and Benny's has opened round the corner so the Big Apple was our destination for "eat your way around the world in London".

The profit burglar had New York chicken. Chicken is Noo Yawked it would seem, by topping a breast with bacon, smoked cheese and barbecue sauce.

I had spaghetti with meatballs as a sort of tribute to Primo blowing a gasket when asked for it in Big Night - "sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone" - and of course Clemenza in the Godfather:
"Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."
'Twas washed down with a Sangiovese Merlot blend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oderint dum metuant

Hold the front page! The Sun has exclusive details of David Beckham's latest tattoo this morning, and breathlessly confides:
The former England skipper now has the words of a Roman poem etched into his flesh above a picture of a guardian angel with wings, shrouded in flames.
And I can exclusively reveal the message means: “Let them hate as long as they fear.”

That would be Lucius Accius' invaluable "oderint dum metuant", a favourite saying of Caligula according to Suetonius who reported:

He generally prolonged the sufferings of his victims by causing them to be inflicted by slight and frequently repeated strokes; this being his well-known and constant order: "Strike so that he may feel himself die." Having punished one person for another, by mistaking his name, he said, "he deserved it quite as much." He had frequently in his mouth these words of the tragedian,

Oderint dum metuant.
I scorn their hatred, if they do but fear me.

He would often inveigh against all the senators without exception, as clients of Sejanus, and informers against his mother and brothers, producing the memorials which he had pretended to burn, and excusing the cruelty of Tiberius as necessary, since it was impossible to question the veracity of such a number of accusers. He continually reproached the whole equestrian order, as devoting themselves to nothing but acting on the stage, and fighting as gladiators. Being incensed at the people's applauding a party at the Circensian games in opposition to him, he exclaimed, "I wish the Roman people had but one neck."

Given the context, an odd commendation to have permanently inked on one's body I would have said.

Monday, April 09, 2007

In Excelsis Geo

The Merton Abbey page in Wikipedia has been updated by a bot which tagged it with a message saying:

This apparently location-related article appears to lack geographic

You can help by adding them. Please don't be overly precise.

So I've pinpointed the location on Google Maps, and generated the Wikipedia code on World Wind, then updated the page.

The coordinates are rendered on the Wikipedia page as a link that takes you to this Wikimedia page which in turn plugs the location into all sorts of resources on the net.

There is definitely a lot of interesting stuff going on in the general area of geo-tagging.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It pays to increase your word power

I've discovered a remarkable new word.

Drapetomania was a psychiatric diagnosis proposed in 1851 by physician Samuel A. Cartwright, of the Louisiania Medical Association, to explain the tendency of black slaves to flee captivity.

It's easy to laugh, but I wonder how many contemporary syndromes will seem equally ridiculous to future generations.

It is often tempting to assume that something exists just because a name has been conjured up. This is a fallacy for which my limited vocabulary has no mot juste. Is there a phrase or word for it?

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I fell off the wagon yesterday, my excuse being that it would have been churlish not to support the Replay Festival at GJs. Never mind, a new day dawns.

I've come up with a training related idea to give Yahoo Pipes a test run and built a quick pipe here.

It takes the RSS feed from Triathblog and filters out all the posts except mine, and combines it with my RSS feed from

All very quick and easy. Graphical programming like this soon reveals its limitations but I've liked it ever since I tried Borland ObjectVision back in the nineties.

It is good to be able to gather training records together from different sources like this. I wish I could get at Virgin's Technogym records in a similar way.

It's all food for thought. I'm gradually coming over to Marc Canter's way of thinking vis-a-vis Digital Lifestyle Aggregators.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Point to Point, Point and Click has been updated with the facility for us to create, save and annotate our own maps via an intuitive point and click interface.

I've had a quick go at the route for the Swansea Childline Challenge, you can see it here.

(Bear in mind when considering the inevitable inaccuracies that I haven't lived there for a quarter of a century.)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Madness? This is WATER!

The New Ninja Bomber has broken up from school for the Easter Holiday.

I taught him how to make water bombs from sheets of paper yesterday afternoon so that he could amuse himself. It was good to see him honing his motor skills and spatial awareness in their manufacture, and even better to launch the weapons from the gangway that runs between the first floor of The Apprentice Shop and The Coles Shop. We did go down, pick up and bin the remains, but I must admit that we have very indulgent neighbours in Abbey Mills as no one seemed to object. They were, if anything in fact, rather encouraging.

I've pinched an swf file from here to remind you how to construct these origami projectiles. Making a couple certainly bucked me up.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Entertainer

I went to the Old Vic with Chris and Kim last night to see the 50th anniversary production of The Entertainer; references to Polish immigrants and trouble in the Middle East lent it a curiously contemporary feel.

The performances were universally excellent, but I'm still not entirely convinced by John Osborne. He had a great talent for dialogue, but I find the more declamatory portions of his plays can grate.

As a man, he seems to have been just as unpleasant as his creations Archie Rice and Jimmy Porter. That's not really an artistic judgement but it weighs heavily with me.

Good company and a good mojito fuelled night out though, Cubana - and its Happy Hour - being only yards from the theatre.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


The Six Bells begat The Riverside; and The Riverside begat Baobab; and Baobab begat Blue.

I noticed on my way home from swimming last night that the troubled boozer at 222 Colliers Wood High Street has reopened yet again, this time as a "stylish new club/bar" called Blue. I popped in for a cheeky drink, but wasn't all that impressed. I hope the new management make a go of it, but on the evidence of last night the prognosis may not be good.

I did notice however that Blue has signed up as a venue for the REPLAY Festival that Surrey Strings are putting on over Easter to raise money for their instrument recycling charity.

But hey, enough of my yakkin'; whaddaya say? Let them explain:

Monday, April 02, 2007

Literature, my mistress

Channel hopping on digital radio over the weekend, I came across Kenneth Branagh reading a gem of a short story by Chekhov on Oneword. A little diligence with Project Gutenberg has revealed it as "Misery", you can read it here if you like. I'm familiar with a couple of the plays, but I've never read Chekhov's stories, so I need to add them to the enormous pile of things I intend to get around to.

Casting my mind back Chekovianly, I particularly remember Peter Hall's production of The Seagull at the Old Vic. That was ten years ago according to this Google-sourced snippet. It starred Felicity Kendall as Madame Arkadina. Reading her autobiography when I was in India, picking it up because I knew that she was raised there, I learned that her actor/manager father was dying during the play's run which for me added a sort of retrospective poignancy to her character's relationship with Konstantin. Dominic West of 300 and Voysey Inheritance fame played the son. Round and round and round it goes, and where it stops nobody knows.

Off the the Old Vic again tomorrow for "The Entertainer".

Sunday, April 01, 2007

in vino veritas

I've had my traditional, morose drink in the pub at the bottom of the road today after dropping my six year old back at his mum's. As I've been dry for the last eleven days, and not felt the slightest desire for a sharpener, I can't help but wonder what light this sheds on my habits.