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March 30, 2007

Joanna Newsom in Concert

Realising that the last concert I went to was The Chuckle Brothers, I have decided that I need to get out more, and I need something a bit more adult. And so have made a booking to see Joanna Newsom in September, I've even booked a car park space, and will be dragging the rest of the family along if I can.

Newsom is a unique artist, and a bit of an acquired taste, but I have the latest CD in the car, and I'll have everyone singing along to 'Only Skin' or 'Monkey and Bear' by then - mark my words :-)

Posted by se71 at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2007

number9dream - David Mitchell

After the roller-coaster ride that was Cloud Atlas, I was really looking forward to pludering the small back catalog of Mitchell's work; this book and the previous one Ghostwritten.

From Mitchell's brief bio in the inside cover, it says he spent a few years living in Japan. He has made full use of what he learnt about the country and it's people in this book, as his hero is a 19 year old Japanese man and most of the action takes place in present day Tokyo. It's all very authentic sounding, with some small details thrown in to convince us he knows what he is talking about, like the Kanji symbols making up Eiji's Japanese name being unusual.

Eiji Miyake moves from his home in the countryside to try to find his father, who he has not ever met, in Tokyo. He does not even know his father's name, but has some leads. The narrative progresses fairly normally, except for some disconcerting daydream excursions. Eiji gets a dead-end job, rents a small room, desires a waitress in a cafe.

Not for the faint hearted - Eiji gets mixed up with the Japanese mafia - the Yakuza. There are some very violent scenes which come as a bit of a shock after the more sendentary opening chapters. I wasn't totally convinced by the plot here as well; Eiji risks life and limb for information on his father - information I'd probably not want to die for. However, this section is the most exciting and interesting part of the book.

The latter sections are a bit disappointing after all the Yakuza drama, and I didn't think the father story ended well. A subplot about Yakuza and computer viruses is also left hanging. Maybe we're supposed to extrapolate the future for ourselves, I just feel a bit let down by it.

Overall, it's a very accomplished novel. It's very clever and I enjoy some of the games he plays with us, though there are too many dream sequences (something I *hate* in novels). There are some very odd sections that I think I'm just not smart enough to see the significance of (Goatwriter), and some nautical history from the Second World War that is interesting, but just too long. If I was an editor I'd probably cut out a third of this book.

So I'd have to say I admired the writing, more than I enjoyed the book. I'm not sorry I read it, there are a lot worse books around. In the end, Eiji started to get on my nerves a bit, and I didn't care that much about his quest. I was hoping for a more emotional attachment, he proved he could do that with the characters in Cloud Atlas, but missed the mark a bit here.

Posted by se71 at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007


I'm moving house, and I want to rent a skip to get rid of some old rubbish that's been occupying my garden shed and loft for years.

They can deliver tomorrow. Excellent.

I'm moving next Monday, can they make sure it's removed by then?

Well no, this appears to be impossible. They can guarantee that they will take it away sometime on Friday OR Saturday. That's the best they can do.

But I need some time to actually fill it, in daylight. Sod's Law states that they would come bright and early Friday morning, and I happen to have a full time job so it's still going to be pretty empty then.

So, Simpson Skip Hire in Slough, please do not have my money. Please give me terrible customer service when I try to explain that Saturday afternoon or Monday morning would be good - and you have a whole week to plan that. Please demonstrate yet again that the UK is completely crap at giving the customer what he wants.

Now I have to rent a van and move the whole lot myself.

Posted by se71 at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2007


[this post is probably only really of interest to me, it's just a diary entry so I remember what I'm up to these days. You have been warned!]

Some of you may know that I spend a lot of my time cycling. I have a folding Brompton bicycle which I ride to the station in the morning, then catch a train, then ride up from Waterloo in London to my office near Bank. With the return journey, I'm covering approximately 15km a day.

Here's a picture of my Brompton folded up on the train Image009

I also cycle at weekends, doing a long ride on a Sunday morning of between 60 and 80 km. And I try my best to fit in 30-60 minutes on a stationary bike midweek too.

Even so, I wasn't sure how I'd cope with a commuting the whole distance to work, cutting out the train completely. Long rides can be quite draining, and I was worried I'd

Yesterday the weather forecast was for a fine day, so I made my preparations and set off from Ascot at 6am in the predawn light. It was a little chilly, but nowhere near freezing. It was very pleasant really to watch the sun come up and the mist on the River Thames outside Chertsey. Traffic was fairly light and I made good time to Kingston and into Richmond Park by about 7.10am. Once out of the park though, and onto the Lower Richmond Road and Putney Bridge, the heavy traffic forced me into a stop-start pattern which endured right to Bank. I'm used to clipless pedals, where your feet are physically attached to your bike and you can get much more power into each stroke. I'm used to having to unclip my left foot at traffic lights to avoid the ignomy of losing balance and falling over into an untidy and painful heap. But I'm not used to doing it quite so much, or so suddenly. And getting my foot firmly clipped back into the pedal again when I'm trying to pull away in front of ferocious motorists is a little intimidating. I managed though, and only whacked my ankle on the pedal painfully once.

I'm very competitive when I get on two wheels, and hate being overtaken by other bikes. I had to remind myself that I shouldn't worry today, as the people passing me probably hadn't cycled 50km over the last two hours and had fresher legs - it didn't always work though, there was no way anyone on a mountain bike was allowed to beat me.

So I made it to the office safely completing almost exactly 60km in 2 hours 25 minutes. When I use the train the same journey takes 1 hour 40 minutes. Of course, then I had to make my way over to my gym for a shower and clothes change. My cold legs and feet went bright red as very welcome hot water splashed over them.

Things to remember for next time - bike lock. I left my bike in our underground carpark, unlocked. It's guarded, but even so I was worried all day. Also, rememeber train pass. I forgot my pass and so any option for going home by rail was out - I'm far too mean to buy a ticket twice.

I didn't actually feel very tired - maybe the stop-start nature of the riding in the last hour allowed me enough rest. I wasn't too worried therefore by the thought of doing the return trip by bike again. But even by leaving at 4:30pm I knew I wouldn't be home in time, and also would be cycling in the dark in the evening rush hour, and for various reasons it was convenient to be picked up by car at 6pm in Staines. It wasn't sunny any more, but still daylight, and off I set.

I am not much of a fan of turning right across traffic, and I also missed an easy left turn outside Richmond so I ended up taking a different route this time. The only time I actually got any speed up was a 2.5 mile stretch of the A308 into Staines. I went right along the Thames embankment, over Putney Bridge and along to Richmond. Through Hanworth and then Feltham and on to Staines. I *hate* traffic lights, and wish I was one of those cyclists who feel free to ignore them.

I completed 40Km in around 90 minutes, making a total of 100km for the day. Once the days are a bit longer, I think with a 5.30am start to get more traffic-free riding, and a bit of work on my routing, I can seriously challenge the train times, and get fit enough for the 180km leg of my Ironman race in June.

Posted by se71 at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2007


Pedestrians are stupid. Really Stupid. You wouldn't believe just how mind numbingly stupid they are.

So I'm approaching a green traffic light on my bike last Thursday. It's also a pedestrian crossing, and they have a red man against them on the lights. It's a slight left hand turn and visibility is good.

I speed up a little to get through the light, and I see some pedestrians standing at the side tempted to walk across. So I slow slightly and ring my (admittedly pretty pathetic) bell. I do this many times a day - I know pedestrians are stupid.

I see one man looking at me, he's thinking of crossing, I ring my bell a bit more and slow down. But I'm not a car, or a bus, I'm not making enough noise, or blocking enough light, and he steps out right into my path anyway, sending me sprawling onto the muddy tarmac, bruising my ribs, scuffing my shoes and forcing me into an eloquent outpouring of the kind of language that New York rappers might learn a thing or two from.

Be warned, even if a pedestrian is looking right at you, they are STILL stupid enough to not see you, so be ready.

Posted by se71 at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)