Friday, January 31, 2003

Credit Referencing
My credit card expires today. They tried to deliver a new one three weeks ago, but I was at work. Obvious, really. They left a form, and I faxed, and went through their automated phone system, but no card arrived. There's no real-person phone number on the form. So I resorted to email, and asked for it to be delivered to my office yesterday, and nominated a colleague to sign for it if I'm not there. There immediate-response email system )presumably a bloke in an office in a tertiary real-estate part of town somewhere) emailed me and said delivery OK for Friday.

Now, of course, neither I nor my nomimated colleague are likely to make it in to work. I've now tracked down a phone number, called them, and asked for someone else to sign for it.

"Courier won't do that love. Got to be the named person. Security."

I'm too tired to argue. And I can't get out anywhere to use my credit card anyhow. It's like the shtetl; I'm going to walk gingerly on ice to the corner shop and buy whatever food they have and turn that into lunch for tomorrow, for whoever braves their way out of their house.

Tales from the customer service hinterland, nonetheless.
Woken up to a crazy, crazy, white-blanket world. And it's only three inches of snow. I have left the box of salt I bought on the way home last night in the hall, so we can de-ice our steps.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I've never been so pleased to see my bus-stop. Just got home - stopped at Finchley Road station on the off-chance there'd be trains, but there weren't. Although it was like a cocktail party there - lots of people who live in Rickmansworth hanging out hoping for trains because it's sixteen miles.

Walked up the Finchley Road - healthy to walk, but unhealthy in that the only moderately safe un-icy route was through the middle of the traffic, so I've probably inhaled the equivalent of 200 cigarettes. Saw a C11 bus near Swiss Cottage, was going to get on it, but it was the same off-route C11 bus I'd seen in Camden an hour or so before, and it wasn't going any faster than me and I stopped for a cup of tea and to read J&H's little girl a Jemima Puddleduck story.

Met a woman on the Finchley Road at ten o'clock who'd left Harlesden at six, a Japanese bloke in West Hampstead who said this is his first London winter, is it always like this? What's scary is not the walking, but the black ice - there's people falling over all over the place, and my back feels very stressed just from concentrating on looking for a reasonable footing since 7pm.

Hitched a ride from Sally, a lovely American woman from one end of Mill Lane to the other - about twenty cars wouldn't stop, as this kind of weather brings out the selfish gene in most people.

I am going to have a very, very long, hot bath.
London Travel Update
At Finchley Road, in the easyinternet cafe, having stopped at a friend's in Chalk Farm for a cup of tea, the loo, and - rather indelicately - borrowing a tampon from my friend's husband, H. J has been stuck in a colleague's car in Kentish Town for two hours. Walking is the only way - all the tubes seem shut, and there's a lot of northbound walkers. I guess I'll be home in around 45 minutes.

It's like the war, it is. I've spoken to more strangers today than... since the blitz. Honest.
London Grinds to a Standstill
It's like living in a third world country, I tell ya. So I left work at 5.30, met a friend for coffee at Oxford Circus, did some (sadly, window) shopping, and delivered my tax return to Euston.

At Oxford Circus tube, there was rumours of mal-tube-ness afoot, and that blitz-like we're-all-in-this-together spirit was starting, with random stranger conversations breaking out all over the place. When I returned to Warren Street, people were already saying the circle line, Bond Street and Kings Cross were shut. Walked to Euston Square, and it was already starting to feel like a real war - people wandering the streets aimlessly, unsure of which direction Euston station was in. Desperately trying to get any, inaccurate information, trying to make decisions with very little to go on. Lots of mubling, rumbling and slagging off of Ken.

Most people couldn't get a mobile phone signal, because we'd turned most of W1 into a cell-phone blackspot. Traffic's gridlocked back to I don't know where, and people in cars are trying to do u-turns in a one-way street, which is never a good idea. Buses aren't really going very far - in fact, I've never seen so many in one place, not even at my own personal bus-stop.

Decided to walk, now I'm in Camden, and M just called me back with directions home (4 miles), although I've just printed them out in this internet cafe I conveniently happened across.

Last time London ground to a standstill, in the flashfloods in the summer, I missed the whole thing because I was sitting at my desk with my muse. Least this time I have my own transport infrastructure war story. Wish I'd worn thicker socks, though.

Saw The Pianist last night - more, later - but because I grew up with holocaust stuff hardwired into the very social structure, it wasn't quite as mindblowing as I guess it is for some people. However, it reminded me that I often used to wonder how I would survive during a war/in a concentration camp: would I be the one who just fell apart and mumbled till they were trampled over? Or would I be the resourceful, survivor type. I don't know for sure, but today I'm feeling a little more problem-solving resourceful-stylee, which can only be a good thing.

But it did make me scared about another war, but that's another story.

Right, I'm off to walk 3.9 miles (or so multimap tells me) home. I may be gone some time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

VaioLink customer service (0870 number) want £12.50 service fee and £37.62 to collect my laptop before they'll even give me a quote on the repair fee. It's like some bizarre Alice in Wonderland experience; I tried to explain that a three year old notebook is only worth a finite amount of money. Darragh was extremely nice, but ultimately I'm left banging my head against a brick wall. AndI've spent 22 minutes on a call. I'm waiting for a team leader... I'm waiting for a team leader... I'm.... waiting... Oliver, the team leader starting giving me the same old shpeil and it was clearly going nowhere. Tried ProCom - they don't answer the phone.
Head of Product Marketing at Sony Vaio told me that I have to call either the VaioLink line, for $25 as my machine is more than one year old, or Micro Anvika can do repairs. Micro Anvika say that they can't do repairs because they can't get the parts. It's a merry-go-round of pointlessness.
Do you think it's possible to get late-onset dyslexia? I love words, and lately, I've found myself writing something down wrong, but thinking I've written it right. Like EMDAILD for EMAILED.

I think it might be because my current work requires me to write notes with a pen - can you believe - because I can't type quickly enough when I'm talking to people. I'm a straight to keyboard-PC person, really. Of course, apart from now, when my handbag-sized sub-notebook is not the man he used to be.
Completely forgot to mention that I saw the Stephen Frears extravaganza, DirtyPretty Things, last week (at the Curzon, Soho, which is a proper, old fashioned movie house, with a cool bar and good shorts, ie films not shots). It was great to see Audrey Tatou in something meaningful and un-chi-chi, and Chiwetel Ejiofor was mindblowingly good in the lead as Okwe. I don't think I was the only person sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, in tears.
Nail/Vanity Update
Got email from G this morning - don't think I'm the only unhappy Nails Inc customer. Unbelievably, it's nearly two months since that whole saga, and my nails still won't grow. Anyone want to form a lobby group? Nails Inc Survivors? Maybe.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

My computer:
Laptop actually. It is rebuild time, but my external floppy drive died some time ago, but that's cool, I've got a CD recovery disk. So I dig out the PCMCIA card, and boot it all up, and it's not bootable, it seems. The book says boot the PC from a floppy, and then go to the CD. Except they didn't give me a floppy back in 1999. So I check the Sony Vaio site on my main machine (which must have supra-powered cookies, because it knew everything about me), and it says the CD is bootable. So I figure that's buggered, too.

So now I'm down one great sub-notebook that fit in my handbook, and a lovely wireless network. Bugger.
Courtesy of Z - an hilarious article from today's Guardian about speed dating, which I am too time-poor (read disorganised) to read yet.

Monday, January 27, 2003

In case someone breaks off your aerial.
This morning, it took me 45 minutes to drive to Hamsptead, because I was in a hurry, when it probably only takes 30 minutes to walk - hampered enourmously by the mother-types in their 4X4's who can't let cars through as they're so wide. I made a tailback from the tube to the pond, because of one them. And now it'll take 12 minutes to get a bus to Kilburn from outside my house compared to the seven minutes it takes to walk. London is grinding to a standstill, I tell you.
Last night, spent some time hooking up my wireless network because I'm still - shhh, don't tell anyone - on Windows98, and he's a Linux/opensource kinda guy. But it worked: for around twenty minutes, I could do mail and webstuff anywhere in the house on my Vaio subnote book. Until, that is, I decided to download IE6, which I realise some of you will say is a message from the universe about Billness on my PC. Now the whole thing is dead as a very dead thing, won't even reboot.

Abort, Retry, Fail?
Yesterday, a friend said to me "what's the difference between vanity publishing and weblogging?" and I didn't have a fullsome - or any - answer.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I am superfit. Walked 8 Mile today; to Highgate and back via South End Green and Hampstead village - Parliament Hill is beautiful in the cold weather, and I really enjoyed admiring a collection of gothic Victorian buildings. Met R for coffee in Cafe Mozart, which is just like Vienna, only more so. Got back a little tired, watched HIGNFY with the commentary on DVD - it's like having Paul Merton and Ian Hislop round at your house for coffee and a chat. Fabulous. Fell asleep, and got woken up by R (that's R2, not to be confused with D2), here with WIFI cards and expertise that will have me networked all over the shop.
Despair Inc - increasing success by decreasing motivation. Courtesy of RC.
Just done minimum-level washing up before I go to bed: it's one thing not waking up to dirty pots, it's quite another being extra-anal about perfection. Had a fun evening, which I've had too much to drink to discuss in detail. For some reason, we got to talking about spies, and I remembered going to a friend's wedding in Israel, and an old friend of my Mum's being there. When he walked in - a fiftyish man, in a seen-better-days suit, everyone yelled "hey, it's Jonny the spy!". He did something for Mossad, apparently. One of those Jewish secrets; everyone knows, really. I wonder how the Israeli secrets services run when everyone appears to treat their secrets like a family cheesecake recipe that your grandmother said you shouldn't share, but just this once can't hurt.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

I spent the whole day doing nothing today - something I've come to enjoy since I've had like three jobs. Now I'm making Moroccan Couscous for a dinner party later - the secret is in the spices: Seasoned Pioneers make the best Ras el-hanout this side of the Saharah, believe me.
On my current contract, my opposite number in New York is called Rhonda. So far, I've resisted the temptation to burst into song, but I've got another couple of weeks left.

Friday, January 24, 2003

You know I used to work on the Industry Standard? On the commercial side, I hasten to add. Well now, our esteemed former editor-in-chief (or some such job-title) has written a book: Starving To Death on £200million a Year.

You couldn't make this stuff up. I can't wait to read it.
So I ordered a new toner cartridge for my fuck-off bigger-than-a-house laser printer Wednesday, and it's supposed to arrive yesterday. I chase them this morning, they come back to me, and say someone signed for it in the building. I say, if someone signed for it, they'd leave it outside me door. She goes away to investigage.

"I'm not winding you up, right," she said in a charming, lilting South Wales accent, "but it was signed for by [famous soap star]. Is he your neighbour?"

So yep, my - celebrity - neighbour took delivery. We're like a JIT warehouse, only with paparzzi.
Just got home - as David mentioned, my bus stop - as opposed to a mere shelter - arrived last Friday. I have even used it - it's convenient. Came home from town on the bus tonight, walk into my path, and the aerial on my car has been snapped off. Of course there's no way I can prove that it was a bus-stop waiter - and indeed, it may not be - but it's odd that I've parked my car outside my house for eight years and no-one's ever snapped of my aerial, I have a bus stop for less than a week, and it happens.

Of course the London Transport people are going to be really, really interested in my tzorres.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

In December, I had some roofers round to give me a quote on our storm-oriented lost tiles, and they pointed out that the wall between next door and next-door-but-one's gardens was an "accident waiting to happen, love" - the subsidence or something had clearly got to it, and bulging like an eight-month pregnant woman, it was lightly propped up with a couple of pieces of wood, but didn't look long for this life. Yesterday morning, I saw the whole thing fall down: it was like watching a real-life slo-mo movie.
So yesterday, I was in the Pret a Manger on the Haymarket, and who should I bump into but Jonathan Freedland. We had one of those slightly awkward "what are you doing here" type conversations; he was obviously a long way from Farringdon, and who knows where I work.

The joy of the itinerant self-employed.
Oh, and a smaller font for those who complained. Thanks to Stuart for troubleshooting.
I can't really stay awake, but I have a lot to say. And a lot to do: Yoz was even nice enough to do some of my Limmud stuff for me. I have to go to bed now, sorry.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

I'm getting very excited about being properly self-employed and building up my clients and everything.
Anyone know where this quote comes from?

"She's so tough she won't take yes for an answer."

Not that it's me, you understand.
Interesting Gangs of New York thing about Irish-American slang, and particularly who/what the Dead Rabbits were.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Busy weekend: barmitzvah/lunch party/funeral. Going back to work for a rest, as they say. Oh, and decided I'm definitely not taking the permanent job - I'm going to tell them on Thursday. So if anyone has good leads on freelance copywriting/marketing/conference work...

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Just in case I ever need to region-hack a DVD player. Where else does a body keep this kind of information?

This hack should also work on the Goodmans GDVD-134
To change this players Region:

Turn On the player and Eject the disc tray
On the remote press 2, 8, 1, 2 followed by Enter
This gets you to the engineers menu
Press Down until you reach COUNTRY CODE and press Enter
The current region code will change to four dashes (----)
Input one number (0=Region Free, 1=USA 2=Europe, etc) and press Enter again
The new region code will now be displayed. You can exit by just pressing the Eject button once more
Enabling VCD playback:

Turn On the player and place a VCD on the open tray
Using the front panel press Close quickly followed by Menu and 5 on the remote
This should load and play the disc. If the disc fails to play then press 0, 0, 0, 1 and the disc should then play
Barmitvah Boy
No, not the Jack Rosenthal extravaganza, but my cousin's coming of age. Edited hilights, as I have a bundle of people coming over for bagels in a moment, and the water board have, in their wisdom, chosen to turm off our water without giving us notice (my neighbour is currently "having a conversation with them" on the phone).

Had a great weekend; friendly synagogue, my cousin's R & M had fabulous, largely creative/professional style friends, who I really enjoyed talking to, hung out with my (immediate) family, which I don't get to do very often, and then last night was a sefardi-style meal (all my favourite humous/aubergine/couscous type bits) with klezmer music, and dancing, and a bloke going round cutting out people's sillouettes (I declined). I felt very abenon (entirely unsure of spelling: but means respected, sorta) because I was seated with the celebrant's immediate family and all sorts of other interesting people to boot. Sample conversational soundbite: "Jews are like other people, just more so."

Also met all manner of interesting folk - pension people, housing association people - who, if I were Taking The Job, would be great conference speakers. I feel a little sad that the networking bit that I like is the piece I'll miss most. Oh well.

Got back 1230ish, ended up chatting with two sets of neighbours for half an hour, going out to get bagels, and getting to bed far too late for someone of my advancing years. Oh well.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Forgot To Say...
On thursday: I was so caught up with work. I have had a weblog for one year and two days. Yay. Or Nay. Dunno, but some kind of observational celebration thang.
I haven't yet seen Eight Mile, but it just sounds like someone with a UK regional accent: "how far is it?" "oh, about eight mile."

Of course I have no idea what it's really about.
Eat Your Oats
You know this whole story about Ricin (or whatever it's called)? Well, apparently they're making it in North London (my current home) and Manchester (the place of my birth) - strange, huh?

When I first heard it, it sounded like they were making one of the B5 vitamin group. Like for cornflakes or something.
Hi-speed hello: I'm in the middle of my cousin's barmitzvah, having spent the weekend so far in Hampstead, come home to shower and change for tonight, and do some stuff tomorrow. I've got twenty people coming over for lunch including my Mum and Dad (and someone who used to be a caterer). Here's what I'm making:
egg and onion (homemade)
aubergine salad (not mine, I can't make it this good)
cream cheese
smoked salmon
herrings with sour cream, apples and dill
quinoa salad with cashew nuts, dried sour cherries and mandarins
roasted red pepper salad (kinda my Rumanian heritage)
carrot and courgette salad with sesame oil
rocket salad with pinenuts
chopped fried fish

and for desert (if there's room...)
homemade honey cake
fresh fruit

What do you reckon?

Friday, January 17, 2003

I know I'm prone to too much navel gazing: should I ever write my autobiography - which is unlikely - I think I'll call it Enquire Within.
I have a desire to buy Solid Air by John Martin in the Virgin sale. Apparently one of the triumvirate of British folkies, along with Nick Drake and Richard Thompson.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Tragedy! (to be said in best Steps-stylee voice). Unbelievably, my preferred curry supplier, the Crescent Tandoori has gone out of business. I hope it wasn't because they only charged £1.65 for mutter paneer. Wherever they went, I wish them all the best, and hope that they sold the property for loads of money, rather than disappearing because they couldn't make a living.

I will miss them. I'm sure I'll get over it, but tried out the Khana buffet tonight, and it's just not as good. Not least because they have bizarre hologramatical placemats that make you feel you either hav a headache or have lost your contact lenses, or both. And the father-and-son crack waiter team were deeply friendly, but ultimately; irritating, unlike the nice bloke.... OK, I'll stop now.

RIP, Crescent Tandoori, Crickewood Broadway.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

So much to say. So much - not all of interest - has happened that my head's due to burst. What I need is a cuddle, a stiff drink, and a really good lie in, though probably not in that order.
In a meeting this afternoon, a couple of colleagues noticed that I was wearing my heartrate monitor, and the conversation digressed somewhat. I'm trying to kid my metabolism that it's quicker than it is, so every hour, minimum, I get and do something that raises my heartrate. They all thought this was very entertaining, and I suspect it might catch on in my office. Cheapest heartrate monitor: £38 including delivery.
I'm trying to cram a lot in this week. It's my cousin's barmitzvah this weekend, and my sister and brother-in-law and my parents are in town for the weekend. After all the festivities, I've invited them and some other (largely grown-up) people for brunch, Sunday, and because some of the guests are of the former-caterer kind, I feel like I don't want to embarass myself.

So I've made two honey cakes and put them in the freezer, and I've planned what I hope is an interesting menu. It's just a case of fitting everything in before Sunday - like getting up at 8am that morning to go and get 40 bagels. There's no Delia Day for this. And I promised my trainer I'd go to the gym three times before I see her next. I'm hoping my 45 minute walk to Hampstead this morning counts: I did keep my heart rate at 140.
White Space
So I'm leaving - short contract - work, tonight, and the security guard and I, a fiftyish guy in uniform, get to talking about the book he's reading, The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini.

"It's, right, yer really old fashioned language, yeah? Written about 1910, and it's a cracking, y'know, the story. It's great."

Yesterday, the female bus driver on the 189 bus on the way home was reading White Teeth (Zadie) while she waited for her bus slot. Meaningful, I thought, as most of the book happens on the 189 bus route.

I, on the other hand, haven't read a book in three weeks - or if I've started one, I've not got to finishing it - because my head is full of derivatives (don't even ask me about Monte Carlo), big company politics, spreadsheets and lists. Forget about writing: there's just no space.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Also, my shoulder really, really hurts.
Job Update
Despite the death of a Gibb, and the Queen being rushed into hospital (people are always rushed into hospital, have you noticed?), I'm feeling neither observational nor entertaining.

Here's where I'm at on the job front: there are four problems
  • the marketing people report to the marketing manager (no problem), although I pay for them. They currently sit with the team, but the new marketing manager is planning to move them to sit centrally. If I can't negotiate my way out of this, I think it will have a detrimental effect on acheiving the business plan: most comapnies in the industry no longer do this, and in fact this company stopped doing it two years ago, but a new MD thinks it's a good idea. The new MD is my boss. Conversation with marketing on Thursday.
  • Ditto the admin people - although they already sit with their cost centre. I'm an internal "customer", and I'm concerned that really smart, responsive businesses in this sector have multi-skilled teams that work together and nothing falls through the cracks because of departmental borders. Conversation a week Thursday.
  • The guy who used to run my team and lost a bundle of money, has moved over (ie spun off) a more sales oriented business unit. I was led to believe it was a completely separate unit; now I discover that he gets the revenue, but I have to resource his products. Even if it means I can't resource mine because my people are busy resourcing his. I talked to him on the phone, and he knows I've rumbled him. Conversation a week Thursday.
  • I was led to believe a market sector in which I have experience would merge with my new team. Now I find out I have to negotiate to get it. Conversation a week Thursday.

    So these are my four deal-breakers. I can live with out the last one, I guess, but the first three are pretty fundamental. So if I can't sort them by a week Thursday, I'm going to have to have one of those "difficult" conversations. My boss thinks I'm all signed up. Better to have a plan, though. I've talked to my current short-contract employer to see if he has more work - he's coming back to me - and the contrast between his high-speed, responsive, smart workplace and the slightly bureaocratic, SLA-negotiating, internal customers thang at my putative employers, is in sharp relief.

    I was taking the job for (a) the intellectual challenge and (b) the money. Or the other way around, I dunno. But if I don't think I can turn the business into profitability, and hence not get a bonus, I'm better off freelancing.

    If only someone would discover me. That's what I need.
  • Monday, January 13, 2003

    0870 nirvana?
    Does anyone know what the deal is with these? It's charged at a local rate, but the call-receiving company gets a kickback, right? Seems so...
    Obviously, this must happen to most people every day, but I just got email from Neil LaBute in response to comments I made about Possession back in November. P tells me I am now officially a cineaste, though I suspect I can't spell it.

    Sunday, January 12, 2003

    Choice Inertia?
    So here’s where I’m at: I’m holding the contract for my new, full-time job, due to start mid-February, in my hot sticky hand. And I’m having some second thoughts. I’ve already agreed to do a day a week on a consulting basis, which I’ve started, and they’ve already told me that they’re extremely inflexible about the few small points I raised in relation to the contract (like I want three months’ notice, not one). Actually, call that totally inflexible.

    This is just to help me think.

  • Guaranteed income
  • Recession-proof topic areas
  • Intellectually challenging work

  • The more I find out, the more I think the profitshare element is increasingly less achievable
  • Inflexible, public-sector style corporate buzz
  • Annoying commute
  • Building expertise in low-price markets which won’t help me get another job
  • Not convinced about value of brand-name in the market
  • Left with a team who are morale-free, and the people who didn’t take voluntary redundancy
  • The team’s been leaderless for a while, and so been “raided” for resources by other managers
  • My boss offered me another topic area in the interview, and now I find out I have to negotiate with the current owner
  • Two crucial sub-teams, don’t sit with me, but with their cost-centre managers, which will impact on my ability to deliver my bottom line
  • It all just seems very bureaucratic, and I’m basically an entrepreneur
  • I may have to work very, very hard to not achieve anything at all

    I’m kinda talking myself out of this, aren’t I?

    And I know the pro list is way shorter.

    I just feel that deep down I’m a writerly-creative type, and I may be better suited to self-employment. My freelance work has started picking up, and I’m just thinking: do I want to be tied to this place for a minimum of a year and probably two when I’m having more than basic bad-vibe-style feelings? I don't want to sign up for a job where I'm worried up front that I won't get the resources to meet my objectives. Right now, I'm thinking I'm 75% unlikely to make my target.

    I’d really appreciate your view. What would you do?
  • Saturday, January 11, 2003

    War Child?
    Are we really going to war? I have a sudden sense of being an extremely small person in the world with no ability to influence my environment.
    I've been so busy working - I actually woke up just now having completely overslept through synagogue and my lunch invitation - that I haven't had time to (a) go and get film for my new Lomo, or (b), thank Meg for sending it to me.

    It's the Multi-coloured Swap Shop all over again. (Wo)man, that ages me.

    Friday, January 10, 2003

    Weird Norton Internet Security 2003 and Blogger problems. Contraindications, almost: check this Norton generates a script along these lines ( = SymRealWinOpen;) and the only way to not do it is to turn off Norton before you upload your script.
    Even though there's no such thing as a free lunch, this site, which R sent me, lets you dial internationally from your mobile phone, using your existing tariff free minutes.
    Email from J, a very old school friend, in response to my redesign: "and you are finally happy with your handwriting - amazing - now you won't have to spend the summer holiday reinventing it."

    It's true: much like people redesign their weblog every so often, from the age of about 11 to 14, I got a new handwriting every summer. Strange but true.
    I'm melting, I'm melting... the snow, that is.
    Good Service Shocker!!
    Mark, the Master Manager - don't ask: that's what his badge said - swapped over my battery, printed out the new receipt, and said I still have 21 months left to run on the guarantee. This whole exercise has taken 38 minutes. If only life was always this easy.
    Unbelievable - as I put the phone down from the AA, the bloke was at my front door. Started my battery with a magic gadget, so I could drive round the corner to the extremely close National Battery and Exhaust supplier, which I conveniently live pretty damn close too. Who says urban is a bad thing? Just popped back for the paperwork - I can even find my receipt: 12 October 2001 - what's the betting they'll say it's only guaranteed for a year?
    I'm so green/London that I've not used my car all week. Also, it's been snowing. So this morning, try and start it, dead as a Labour candidate in the Conservative heartland. While waiting for a man who can from the AA, I look online to see about car news in general: check out question two of this quiz. Deja vu? No thanks, I've got one already.
    The Empress Has New Clothes
    Kinda... behold, my new layout. Well, new-style: shamelessly ripped of venusberg, which was, in turn designed by Tom at plasticbag, and code-fixed by Cal.

    For a few reasons: time for a change; nearly my one-year anniversary; there's nothing new under the sun; why re-invent the wheel; why use one cliche when four will do; sick of people telling me they can't read my links; sick of green; couldn't get purple to work; feeling minimal/white (as in white-is-the-new-black); I like my handwriting. And just because.

    If you've got anything to say - be it good, bad, or ugly - let me know. Feedback. Things I Could Do Differently. Cock-ups. But it would be good if we could just limit it to the new layout, for now.

    Thursday, January 09, 2003

    The writer on Gangs of New York is Kenneth Lonnergan, who wrote This Is Our Youth - which I saw back in May. Dunno if Lobby Hero, which was at the Donmar in April, is still around. He's cool.
    Someone phoned me and witheld their number at 3am. I'm tired.
    In my first - real - job, in the winter, I'd leave for work when it was dark, because we were in a - probably illegal - windowless office on Conduit Street - it would be dark all day, and by the time I left, it was dark again. You sense a theme emerging? Winter hours/no light is bad for your mental health. Snow's good, though.
    Now that I am the number one search for "a certain person" and Raelianism, I feel I should tell you that I am reliably informed that Rael is the lead character in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway a concept album by Genesis. These two facts may, of course, be unrelated.
    Gangs of New York - not to be confused with Slaves of New York - was fab, if violent. More later.

    Overhead someone in my office today saying on the phone "if I don't get it done today, I'm in real shtum." Yiddishologists (and Delboy Trotter) - not to be confused with mixologists - will know that shtum means quiet and shtuck means trouble.

    Can't chat - just finished my (copywriting) homework, then up at stupid (six) o'clock to interview people for my new job. I would say no rest for the wicked, but, sadly, I'm not that wicked. I'm too busy.

    Wednesday, January 08, 2003

    The Bloggies
    On an entirely transparent, if-you-don't-ask-you-don't-get basis, here's where I'm at. If you like what you read here, and you want to enter me, then I'd suggest you think about these categories:
    Best New Weblog
    Best-kept-secret Weblog
    Best European/African Weblog

    ... and if you want to enter me for the Best Essay About Webogs, check out this piece on the Friday Five.

    If you only want to enter me for one category, then I don't think I stand a chance at best European weblog, so I'd go for Best New Weblog - this is, after all, the only year in which I'll have just started: January 13th is like my anniversary.

    Honourable - belated - mention for my sister, whose birthday was on Monday. Don't say I don't do special requests.
    I just have too much to do. I have four days worth of financial services copy to finish by Friday, a bunch of derivatives research to do, calls to US to make, and a whole lotta numbers to crunch for my new job. Basically, I'm trying to finish off the old stuff, and plan for the new stuff, all at the same time. I'm planning to do four days at my new job before I start in mid-February.

    I do feel a certain kind of energy-buzz (like I was up till 3am on Monday, developing conference ideas), but I think it affects the, er - sorry to be so pretentious - muse.

    Also, I spent two hours last night entering names in a spreadsheet for the derivatives thing, and this morning, it's gone. I know I saved it, but it's genuinely disappeared, along with an email I got yesterday. I don't believe all that "computers don't like you" crap, but I'm pissed off. However, the practical-me (second cousin to the mini-me) thinks I should just do it again, rather than spend two hours harping on about it and looking for it.
    Doesn't snow look like God has very, very bad dandruff?

    Tuesday, January 07, 2003

    I was just talking to some friends whose baby is due any minute. It reminded me that, because I used to research and put together clinical negligence conferences, not only do I know everything that can go wrong with a birth, but I know it in descending order of claim value size.
    God, this is cold.
    God, this is early.
    So my mum calls me from Marbella or somewhere, loud stage whisper: "Can you hear me? I'm by the pool. I've met someone who knows you." Turns out that when my mum and dad introduced themselves to a young couple by the pool, in answer to a query about local restaurants, because they have unusual names, this bloke, S, immediately recognised them. "You're Sasha's parents! I used to go out with her."

    Which was news - apparently - both to his now wife - when my mum called me they were allegedly having a row because she'd never heard of me - and to me. When we used to hang out, nearly ten years ago, we were good friends, but never got together. Had a relationship. Whatever the appropriate language is. I'm sure I'd know. My mum was trying to remember why we "broke up" - was it because he didn't keep kosher? I eventually remember why our friendship faded: in an apparent bid to curry favour with someone senior in his chambers, he told an old friend of my parents that he was going out with me. Which was news to me then, too, and I think I must have decided I was sick of being taken advantage of.

    It's a very, very strange world. My mum has lent him a book. They are new best friends. I imagine that eventually all the people I've ever met in the world will become a smaller and smaller circle of loose acquaintances sipping cocktails on some far-flung beach, comparing notes. Shame about my multiple personality disorder.
    Met up tonight with a bunch of girlies I used to work with about four jobs ago: dinner in a January-empty so-so place in Covent Garden, but it was cool to hear what we are (variously) doing: opening a French manor house as a holidayhome, doing a Masters in psychology, going travelling to Oz, writing, being a civil servant... of our original group of thirty-ish people who were all there in the early-mid nineties, there are four people still there, as far as I can tell.

    There's one question I'm never good at answering: how's your love life? Reminds me of my cousin who's Dad taught him to answer the cutesy kids' question "how old are you?" with "37 how old are you?", but I'm just too well-brought up for that.
    So my new - temporary - office is opposite the Pret a Manger on the Haymarket, and everyday I've been there, I've gone across the road to buy a More Than Mozzarella sandwich.

    I know people think that sandwiches are healthy, but this has a whopping 32g of fat, but is fabulous. So today, I go to get one: it's gone. Nice blokey behind the counter tells me "zey are not doing it any more." When from? "today." Today was the first day in a more-than-mozarella free world. I am bereft.

    Having said that, I am trying to eat a maximum of 35g of fat a day, in a healthy-living bid (but combine that with minimal dairy/wheat/refined carbs, no fizzy drinks, no caffeine, easy on all carbs, actually - well, it doesn't leave a lot apart from rocket salad, lots of water, veggies and humous). So it's a good thing.

    How do people get around this: you get up full of good intentions to eat healthy food today, and then by the time you get into town you are hassled and hungry and fat-laden food calls to you, verily, from the shops. What do you do?
    Through a strange quirk of googleisation, I am the number one return for the search on symantec yellow suits.

    Monday, January 06, 2003

    The wonder of the interwebnet 2: oodles and fun and games last night with DJ, when he took control of my PC in a netmeeting to show me how to do something in PaintShopPro. In the olden days, he'd have had to drive over to my house. I know, I should get out more, but I still have a bit of a sore throat, really.

    What this is truly about: I have a redesign up my sleeve (OK, on my hard drive): I'm just perfecting it. Sorta.
    The wonder of the interwebnet 1: I got email at the weekend from a an old university friend who I think I haven't seen for ten years or so, saying he found my blog, and here's what he's up to. Cool.
    This apocalyptic weather is just going too far: someone has a message for the universe, although it may just be "you left the oven on for too long".
    What happens to writers who don't play the fame game?
    Linky-dink-dink. Obscure and not-so stuff that I'll - one day - want to remember. That's what a weblog's for.
    Mute magazine.
    Granta's list of Best Yong British Novelist is out. Although they use a very broad definition of "young" - under forty. And this list only comes out every ten years; it's not one of those "it's Wednesday, there's nothing to publish, I know, let's make a list" lists.
    School night. Still got a sore throat. Made moroccan cous cous last night for a bunch of people. Did some writing today. Did some work. And have to get up at stupid o'clock because now I'm one of those slightly pissed-off people you see on the tube.

    Saturday, January 04, 2003

    Anyway, while I was hanging around waiting for my MOT, there was a funeral going from the catholic church across the road. All pomp and ceremony: two big flower arrangements that said "MOTHER" in some proto-Victorian style, a see-through.... black bordered, glass carriage, drawn by four black horses. Couple of hundred people (and I'm in the conference business, so I'm accurate at guessing crowds), lots of incense, but probably no mhyyr (if that's how you spell it).

    Got me to thinking about how Jewish funerals are (I try so hard not to be hello-I'm-Jewish, but I can't help myself); generally very low on pomp and cirumstance, mostly about humility. Like, people don't dress up; you're supposed to be humble before God. Although, that may be more of a Manchester thing; in London, funerals are dressier. No flowers, plain box. And quick - generally the same/next day. I remember when I was at school my RE teacher's mother died and she told us they had to wait for ten days for some family member to come home and her mother started... decomposing. I had nightmares about that for years.

    Also, you don't leave the body alone; someone sits with the deceased until the funeral, and says psalms. My brother did it for a neighbour when he was a teenager, and I think it was dead scary.

    I've just had a - certain sense of deja vu: I've said most of this before (Z says I have a proof-text story for every ocassion) - go, read.
    Went to get my car MOT'd yesterday in a place next door to the gym (which may be truly living in 1974) - it took three hours to do my MOT and change two lightbulbs (sample conversation: "there's no such thing as a quick job, love"). Compare that to the 23 seconds it took Marcus' guys at Wembley Tyres to swap over my spare tyre, put on a new one, balance the wheels and all that (sample conversation: "don't mean to be rude, love, but I don't want yer 'ere. Quicker we get the job dan, better the business"). I'm better with the high-speed types.
    I've been wondering about the word avuncular (in an uncle-like way, or something like that) - why isn't the word uncularity?

    Friday, January 03, 2003

    Do you know that if you call Direct Line Car Insurance, they can only give you an indication of the cost of car insurance, not an actual quote?
    Now that murderous bloke isn't even from Camden any more, he's from North London. Soon, he'll be from Hertfordshire. I don't really get how news works: do they think we forgot?
    If Mike can do it, I can too, right?

    So, like the rest of the country - and uncanilly like Mike - these are my resolutions:

    1 Be in bed by midnight
    Shouldn't be so hard, right? I spend a huge amount of time faffing around because I'm a night person, and it has to stop...

    2 Go to the gym before work three times a week
    ... because I have to get up early now

    3 Eat healthily
    although the year started off badly yesterday with a Pret a Manger sandwich followed by salty sweets

    4 Keep writing
    self explanatory, really

    5 Do the work...
    ... and other such dictats, too numerous to enumerate
    Yesterday, on the desk next to me, there were a bunch of cutely wrapped Japanese sweets - H and I tried one. Within milliseconds, we were spitting them out: they were like that stuff you put on your nails to train your mouth it doesn't like biting them. "Oh," exclaimed H, "those are those salty sweets everyone was talking about before Xmas".

    Pavlovianally, trained me not to eat sweets least a fortnight.

    Salty sweets, I ask you. What is the world coming to?
    There are people in my office who received letters to "Dear Fred Smith" - is this considered regular business practice now? (Obviously, they're called Fred Smith or whatever).

    Thursday, January 02, 2003

    SAY NO TO STEP-CHANGES. All of them.
    Word Up
    Been a day of wordage: oddities, the BBC's e-cyclopaedia and "Lake Superior State University's annual list of words that should be banished for "mis-use, over-use and general uselessness"".

    Or maybe just a slow news day all round? What's some body parts in Camden and murdered teenagers in Birmingham? Just a regular, twenty-first century day.
    OK, OK, I'm going to work. I'm not skiving - it's just that because I'm doing business with the States, there's not a lot of point in getting there early.
    Do you think it's possible that Tony Blair's a depressive? He's just not very Pollyana, is he?
    I've often said of Jonathan Sacks - the Chief Rabbi - "he's not the messiah, he's just a very naughty boy", but this morning he excelled himself on the Today programme. I think this may bode well for the fact that - conceivably - I'm going to spend the rest of my life in an office. Don't know why: some kind of karmic-canonical-rabinnical thing.

    Wednesday, January 01, 2003

    Can't say that when I come back, I don't come back in style. Or at length.
    And another thing...
    I wrote another story: a satire on Anglo-Jewish life. I can never tell if it's good or crap; so far the votes from my readers are 2:1. Me, I'm ambivalent.
    Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to Work We Go
    There's a Jewish concept, which I can't be bothered to google about, called chol ha-mo'ed, literally, "days in between" and a couple of major festivals and big starts and finishes, and then a few days in the middle where it's still the festival, just less so.

    You know where this is going.

    So it's really felt for the last few days that the whole country is doing chol ha-mo'ed, and this can only be a good thing.

    Tomorrow, I'm back to finish my derivatives contract, and I'm fairly sure I'll be one of a handful of people in the office, and I'm desparately hoping that when my para-boss left on Christmas eve, promising all the stuff I needed would be on my desk 2nd January, he didn't forget. Otherwise, I'll be back here. Or, er, getting my life in order before my real job starts mid-February.
    The Bloggies....
    ... are open for nominations. Not that I'm hinting. Or anything.
    Hey Chitty, You Chitty
    Just got back from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium - fantastic night. I wouldn't naturally choose big-sound musicals, but I came out singing along and full of beans. My preferred choices are earnest, intellectual fringe things, and you always come out of those suicidal. M took me with S&B, his niece and nephew, and it was a real kids thing: great atmosphere, everyone clapping along, the car flying out over the audience.

    I couldn't help noticing some sheitel (religious Jewish women cover their hair) wearing frummers, and when the Baroness stripped down to her basque, I kept thinking "look away, don't sully yourselves". Not sure their ESP was up to much, though.
    That DNA/Raelian Thing?
    Remember I told you about how I met a cool guy at a party and we talked about haircare products? He had curly hair, like me? We communed, on a hairproduct platform?

    So last week, the story broke about the Raelians having cloned their first human child. And I'm interested in religions and the like, and I'm watching the story on the news, and then they say, "let's hear from Glenn Carter, the leader of the British Raelian movement." It's him, it's the bloke I met at the party! For some reason, he never mentioned he was a Raelian - but then, I never mentioned I was Jewish. Perhaps he was worried about anti-raelianism?

    I am a celebrity magnet. You heard it hear first.
    OK, OK, I'm back. Back with a vengance, back with the new year. Back from the brink. Back in town.