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Chris Harris's Blog Archive: April 2010

I was still spending a lot of time - well, okay, too much time - working away from home this month. Nevertheless, it was an eventful month for blogging, with the announcement of a general election and the disruption of Atlantic air traffic thanks to a volcanic eruption in Iceland. For a couple of weeks there were two or three news crews set up outside the building where I was working.

Aside from all this I managed to catch up on some reading, watch a few films, I wrote about an obscure musical instrument, and still found time to get some fresh air. Blimey.


These days I tend to post stuff on my Twitter account when I find it, but I've not always remembered to add it to the blog. Here's a brief round up of recent things I stumbled across in the course of the last week or so.

Simon Price at The Quietus has been hanging out with Adam Ant. It sounds like the King of the antpeople is getting his musical career restarted. About time, too - I've always had a soft spot for antmusic and he's a genuinely talented songwriter. He's been through some rough times,though; he's frank and honest about them in the interview. It makes for a fascinating read.

If you grew up in the 1970s the chances are that you can recite at least one Monty Python sketch. If you can remember the Philosophers' Football Match you may well be as amazed as I was to hear that The Philosophy Shop have organised a real-life match celebrating the original sketch and promoting reasoning as the "fourth 'r'" in primary school education (what a great idea!) The match will take place on Sunday 9th May at the Harry Abrahams Stadium in Finchley in London, and those taking part include original Python Terry Jones along with John Humphreys, Mark Steel, A C Grayling, Professor Laurie Taylor and Graham Taylor (no relation). It sounds like it'll be a hoot.

The story of what happened to the band with the same name as Banksy's latest film made me smile.

We found out that Sir Ridley Scott is planning not one but two prequels to Alien and he's hoping that Giger will be joining the team. They'll be made in 3-D, of course. However, I got really excited when Sir Ridley explained that one of the prequels will be about the mysterious space jockey that the crew of the Nostromo discovered in the first film. Expect the first of the new movies to be on our screens by 2012 at the latest, he says.

I discovered that Dyson Spheres (one of science fiction's greatest staples from Bob Shaw to Star Trek and beyond and the invention of one of the great heroes of modern science, Freeman Dyson) are - according to their inventor - mechanically impossible. Still, the idea of a Dyson Swarm is fantastical enough...


On Saturday afternoon I went for another of my hikes around the neighbourhood, doing eight miles. I started by walking out to North Nibley, climbing up the hill to the Tyndale Monument, then walking along the ridge past the iron age hill fort at Brackenbury Ditches. The ditches are being cleaned up a bit as there are some fairly mature trees growing on the slopes, and English Heritage, who look after the site, are concerned about damage that the roots are doing to the archaeology below ground. I'm pleased to hear that they're hoping this will make the site more accessible to the public - when I first moved here I walked past the fort several times without knowing it was there.

I emerged from the woods again at Wotton Hill. I stopped for a breather and enjoyed what there was of the view - it was very hazy and I was kicking myself for not doing the walk on Friday when the seeing was much better. There was a buzzard slope soaring along the ridge by the hill and I managed to catch a half decent shot of it:

Soaring sentinel

Then I climbed down into the town, made my way along to Kingswood, and then crossed back over the fields towards home. It's the first big walk I've done this year and I arrived home with sore and blistered feet, but it was good to be out in the fresh air.

On Friday I blogged that I hadn't seen any swallows this year. They arrived the following day, and as I walked towards North Nibley I saw several pairs swooping low over the fields and catching insects. As I walked in the woods towards Wotton I heard a cuckoo, and as I made my way over to Kingswood I watched a kestrel being given a distinctly hard time by a jackdaw. There were even some skylarks singing high above the village. The hedges are frosted white with blossom and there are primroses in bloom by the side of the road. In the woods you can smell the unmistakable scent of ramsons. So it seems like spring has definitely arrived; it feels like summer can't be far behind.


Well done to Al Jazeera for the best news report I've seen all week: How to pronounce the name of that volcano, courtesy of Eliza Geirsdottir Newman and her ukelele.


I don't know where the weeks go at the moment, but it looks like the weekend has rolled around again. Today mostly involved other people's PowerPoint presentations, which I have been working on for something exciting (for me, anyway) that takes place next month. I spent the afternoon doing some serious editing rather than enjoying the sunshine; it's been a beautiful day here, and on reflection, I shouldn't have spent most of it staring at a computer screen. If the weather is as nice tomorrow, I shall head off with the camera. The countryside here has started to blossom and bloom, and the trees and hedgerows are - finally - beginning to sport a halo of green as the spring buds burst into life. By this time of the year, I'm usually blathering on about seeing swallows and suchlike. This year there's been no sign of them yet, but my parents report that their local cuckoo has already returned so I suspect it won't be long before they appear.


I'm sitting at the computer getting a healthy dose of 70s prog rock courtesy of one James May, who is this Friday's guest DJ on BBC 6 Music. The programme at the moment involves hefty doses of Peter Gabriel, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nice one, James.


Last weekend I finished reading an extraordinary book called Infinite Jest by the American author David Foster Wallace. It's taken me over a month to read; it's not a novel you approach lightly. From the foreword by Dave Eggers encouraging you to set out on the adventure, reassuring you that the effort expended in reading the beast will be Worth It All, it is clear that this is no ordinary book.

Infinite Jest took three years to write, and it was first published in 1996. It chronicles life in a dystopian version of Boston, Massachusetts at some time in the early 21st century. America, Mexico and Canada have combined to form the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. for short (who said Americans don't do irony?) A vast ecological disaster has laid waste to much of the country which has subsequently been abandoned and is referred to as the Great Concavity. The country is governed by a former crooner who sounds like a cross between Hank Williams and Howard Hughes, and everything is in decline. More specifically, the book tells the story of the students and staff of the Enfield Tennis Academy and their neighbours, the inhabitants of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House (sic) and their interaction with several organisations desperate to track down a video cartridge produced by the now-deceased head of the tennis academy, James Orin Incandenza. It is Incandenza's youngest son Harold "Hal" Incandenza who acts as narrator for the opening and closing passages of the book. The video cartridge (the "Infinite Jest" of the title) has an interesting property: it is so entertaining that its viewers lose all interest in anything else. They either die of starvation and neglect, or are "rescued" and left permanently insane by withdrawal. One of the organizations seeking the cartridge is a Québécois separatist group called Les Assassins des Fauteuils Roulants (A.F.R.) or in English, "the Wheelchair Assassins." Seeking revenge for the creation of the Great Concavity, they intend to deploy the cartridge as a weapon, using it to incapacitate or kill anyone who opposes them. As the book progresses, the A.F.R. draw closer and closer to Incandenza's surviving family as they attempt to locate the master tapes with ruthless, brutal measures.

Wallace was a former junior tennis star, and majored in English and Philosophy at Amherst College in Massachusetts. It would be trite to point out the many details in Infinite Jest that appear to be autobiographical; suffice it to say that the novel's description of life on the junior tennis circuit is richly, almost obsessively detailed and various characters expound convincingly on a bewildering variety of subjects. The bizarre behaviour chronicled with such loving fidelity in a variety of narrative styles, idioms and patois grounds the more bewildering aspects of the plot. However, when I discovered that the Incandenza family's more eccentric foibles (such as Hal's mother's obsession with grammar and language) were, apparently, mirrors of Wallace's own it subtly altered my perception of the book. When you realise that Wallace appears to be writing much of the book as reportage, the scale of his achievement becomes almost intimidating. However, Wallace defuses the threat of his own intellect by using footnotes throughout the text. This is an important stylistic tool that draws you in as the author's confidante and further grounds the reader in Infinite Jest's reality; in effect, you're sharing in the process of constructing the novel from a bundle of conversations, correspondence and miscellaneous tidbits. There are over 100 pages of the things. Three little numbers at the end of a sentence result in the reader diverting into two, three or four pages of tightly-constructed musings which often reveal important plot points or lay clues for the reader-as-detective to decipher.

And to get the most out of the book, you do have to assume the mantle of detective. Human memory being what it is, tiny things that go unremarked at the beginning of the novel assume huge significance when, after completing the herculean task of finishing the book, you rashly decide to wade right back in again at the start. It's only on rereading the novel that you begin to pick up how frequently Wallace describes events that are revealed long before they can assume any significance to the reader.

If you draw a line along one surface of a Moebius Strip, you eventually reach the point where you started. Much of the book's story is folded back on itself in the same way: the latest events in the book happen at the very beginning. As a result the story itself is as engrossing and seductive as Incandenza's "entertainment" and, like the lethal cartridge which is the story's MacGuffin, the book is constructed so that the more you examine it, the more it draws you in. Don Gateley discovers in the course of the story that his recovery from addiction works best if he takes one day at a time; in effect, his survival strategy depends on being unstuck from the perspective of narrative. Like Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's main character in Slaughterhouse-5, we experience the crucial points of Gateley's story out of sequence, and his chronology becomes more and more disrupted as the novel progresses. The stories of the other characters are similarly muddled. Wallace's use of "Subsidised Time" to blur and obfuscate the passage of time isn't just a clever literary device to mimic intoxication or obsession - it also makes it easier for the story's structure to loop around. If you really want to know what happened (and I strongly suggest that you don't click on this link until you've read the book at least twice) then Aaron Swartz has a plausible explanation for you.

I can't remember the last time I read a book that affected me quite as much as Infinite Jest did. It's full of minutiae and acute observation yet at the same time it's vast and sprawling; it's obsessively detailed and yet (on first inspection, at least) frustratingly ambiguous. In IJ, Wallace took the concept of the unreliable narrator and turned it up to eleven: the language and style of the book - even the sentence construction - changes from chapter to chapter as the narrator expresses himself in the manner of each character, with the limited knowledge of the plot as seen by that character. The reader is left to join up the dots. As a device it can be annoying, but it's another facet of DFW's writing that contributes significantly to the literary experience that is Infinite Jest. There was one point in the novel - I won't say where - where I suddenly twigged that a character in one scene being described in passing was actually a protagonist who we'd already met. The point at which I recognised that DFW had pulled the wool over my eyes and then let me suddenly see things in a new light was the first moment where I actually said "whoa!" out loud as I read. It wasn't the last, either. Various images stick in the mind, from the rampaging hordes of mutant hamsters to the gigantic feral babies roaming the wastes of the Great Concavity; from the array of giant fans designed to blow the pestilent clouds away from Massachusetts towards Canada to the giant catapults throwing garbage up and away throughout the night. O.N.A.N. is a republican wet dream gone bad, consumerism taking its place in the book as the most damaging form of addiction of all.

The language of the book is vast and accomplished. Wallace uses expressions like "the howling fantods" which are so seductively expressive that I find myself repeating the phrase at random intervals. The emotional range of the book is wider than I was expecting, too. There are moments that actually made me laugh out loud, but there are also moments of degradation and shocking, brutal violence. The plot is set against a dark background indeed, and if there's one lesson to be learned by the characters in the book, it's that you really, really don't want to "hear the squeak."

From my ramblings here you may have gathered that I consider the book to be something special and out of the ordinary. But please don't get the idea that IJ is a novel where you'll have to endure hundreds of pages of an author showing off how brilliant he is. DFW just gets on with the job of entertaining you, and does it superbly well. If you have sufficient time to devote to it, IJ will reward your efforts handsomely. And like me, you'll find yourself thinking about it for a long time to come.


It says a lot about the events of the last forty-eight hours that when I heard the sound of a light aircraft overhead this afternoon I rushed to the window to see what was going on. The majority of flights to and from the UK are still grounded, and Ryanair have given up and gone home until Monday. Here, the sky in the west has a slightly milky hue, but otherwise there's no real sign of anything untoward in the atmosphere. Sunset yesterday was disappointingly low key, with the most striking aspect about it being the complete lack of contrails:

Empty sky

If the ash does start to settle, the World Health Organisation have recommended that people susceptible to its irritant qualities should stay indoors, although the amounts involved are likely to be less than the falls of Saharan sand we get from time to time. For the time being the eruption is relatively small scale and unless circumstances change drastically, the UK isn't about to experience apocalyptic-looking ash falls like those from Mount Pinatubo in 1991 or Mount St. Helens in 1980. Keep your fingers crossed things stay that way!


Last night I switched on the TV to watch the election debate on ITV. I thought I ought to - after all, these are the people who want us to pick them to run the country for us. Even with a feed of comments on Twitter to buffer the inanity of it all, it was excruciating. Almost immediately I read a string of tweets comparing the setup unfavourably to a Kraftwerk gig and the studio set looked like someone had been told to stick chrome on anything that didn't move. I lasted five minutes before giving up in disgust. The TV set is unscathed.

During the portion of the debate that I managed to endure, the cameras dollied from side to side every thirty seconds or so. Now you might not know this, but sideways panning is a sure-fire indicator that the director thinks the material he's working with is so deathly dull that the only way to maintain audience attention is by giving the impression that the subjects are about to slide off the screen and disappear altogether. (It's true - just look how often it's used in interviews with scientists or political figures). The director's assessment of the event looked pretty sound to me.

Brown and Cameron behaved as they have done since the campaign started: they argued. Each man clearly had a set of little soundbites prepared, and they dropped media-friendly little snippets in their speeches when they could. They are both business-as-usual politicians; that's what they do. But I really feel that it's not going to help them this time round. They both came across as disconnected, arrogant, and out of touch. Neither of them has realised that people are looking for a real change, not soundbites. The Conservatives are clearly hoping that by tacking a few Obama-esque slogans on to the same old manifesto they always trot out, they'll get the same success that Obama did. This afternoon Cameron was pontificating about John Lennon and Oasis, trying to show that he was hip and credible, and failing miserably. On the other side of the house, Gordon Brown has been smilling away as hard as he can, looking like someone who has been told to "look upbeat" despite the fact that he clearly hasn't a clue what "upbeat" actually means. As a result, the only word I can think of to describe him is "terrifying." If someone tried to talk to me with their face set in an expression like that, I'd run a mile.

Congratulations, then, to Nick Clegg, who came out of last night's session a clear winner. He's called for a repeal of the Digital Economy Bill, too - the Lib Dems were the only party who unanimously voted against the bill's introduction, although less than a third of Lib Dem MPs bothered to vote on the bill at all. As Douglas Adams wryly observed, anyone who becomes a politician is not to be trusted. But for the moment it looks like Mr Clegg is the least worst option we've got.


It's been an interesting sort of day. As I'm sure you've seen on the news, a volcano erupted under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland this morning. I was working at the headquarters of NATS today, and they've had a very hectic day - there were two news crews camped outside main reception from early this morning as NATS had to shut down UK controlled airspace completely - the only reason you're allowed to fly an aircraft anywhere in the UK at the moment is if you're responding to an emergency. This is a huge deal, and it's never been done before, not even on September 11th 2001. Every airport in the UK is closed. No passengers will be travelling anywhere today, and I suspect they won't be going anywhere tomorrow, either. The latest reports on the evening news suggest that the eruption is intensifying and it's still pumping clouds of ash several kilometres up into the atmosphere.

So, did air traffic control overreact? Absolutely not. Volcanic ash tends to melt when it gets inside a gas turbine engine, and then stick. This disrupts the flow of air through the engine, which is what normally keeps turbine engines cool. So your engine stalls, and melts. This is generally considered to be a bad thing by the passengers, who tend to get upset when such events occur on their flight.

Back in 1982, Flight BA009 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth flew through a volcanic plume caused by the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Galungung. What happened next is related in Betty Tootell's gripping account, All Four Engines Have Failed. Ash got into all four engines on the Boeing 747 and they stalled and would not restart. The aircraft dropped from 37,000 feet to 12,000 feet over the course of 15 minutes. Captain Eric Moody's announcement was the epitome of old-school calm:

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."

Fortunately, the aircraft got into clear air and eventually enough ash cooled and dropped off to allow the crew to carry out an engine restart. Unbelievably they managed to successfully restart all four engines, although No. 2 was in such bad shape that it failed again almost immediately. Nevertheless, the Captain managed to land the aircraft safely. It was in a mess: ash had melted inside the engines and fused to the inlet guide vanes. The turbine blades had been eroded - effectively sandblasted by the ash flying into them. The landing lights didn't work, because the abrasive nature of the ash had made their glass covers opaque. The ash had stripped paint off the aircraft's fuselage and the flight deck windows were so badly frosted that Captain Moody famously described the approach into Jakarta airport as "like negotiating your way up a badger's arse." After seeing the results of Captain Moody's adventure, it's clear that ash clouds are extremely dangerous to aircraft, and NATS are quite justified in closing down operations until the cloud disperses.


There are a couple of potential problems that don't seem to have been mentioned on the news. Firstly, the last time this volcano erupted was in December 1821. That eruption didn't stop until January 1823. Secondly, Eyjafjallajökull has another volcano as a close neighbour - and historically Katla tends to erupt shortly after there's an eruption at Eyjafjallajökull.

Just to add to the misery, Katla has a reputation as one of Iceland's most dangerous volcanoes. It used to erupt every 20 to 40 years, but there hasn't been any large-scale activity since 1918. Things could get even more interesting in the next few months.


The American midwest had a pretty impressive meteor last night, too. Fortunately that seems to have come down without causing any serious damage.


After blogging about The Beam yesterday I discovered that the instrument was responsible for V'Ger's signature sound in Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In fact, the sound became almost as much of a cliché in 1980s science fiction movies as the Theremin did in the 1950s. I always thought that the noise - which crops up on soundtracks from the 70s and 80s including The Black Hole and 2010 - was made by a synthesiser; it's rather satisfying to learn that it comes from a stringed instrument.

Exposure to the thing's live sound appears to have other effects, too! Sadly, very few of the instrument's mentions on the web credit its designer, John Lazelle and the Wikipedia entry for the Beam is woefully inaccurate. Perhaps this entry will go a little way towards setting that right.


...and the smell of magnolia blossom fills the air:

Spring has finally arrived

It's about time. In 2007 the tree was in bloom by March 13th; this year spring has been very late.


I picked up my new glasses yesterday, and for the last 24 hours I've been trying them out by reading books and watching telly. I haven't finished the book yet, and as it's going to need a blog post all of its own I won't say anything more about the reading and move straight on to the watching part.

First on the list was the second episode of the latest series of Doctor Who - and two weeks in, I reckon Matt Smith is doing just fine as the Doctor. Karen Gillan is eminently watchable as the new companion, too; there's a definite spark between the two of them and I look forwards to seeing how their characters' relationship develops. Watching Smith being interviewed, I get the impression there's a genuinely powerful intellect at work there - and the contrast with David Tennant's wonderful, but profoundly vaudevillian Doctor couldn't be greater. I like.

The whole show has changed in tone since RTD left. I can't quite put my finger on why, but under Moffat the programme seems to have developed a more mature and well-balanced outlook. So far, the stories have gelled together well and even if the idea of a "star whale" was a bit too heavy on the cheese for my liking, the resolution of each plot feels like a logical and ordered extension of what's gone before - as opposed to the hand-wavy, with-one-bound-he-was-free vapidity that sometimes crept in to the show in earlier seasons (yes Davies, I'm looking at you.) If the rest of this year's shows are as good as these, I'm going to be very happy, and as two of my favourite actors Bill Patterson and Ian McNeice are in next week's show along with a bunch of Daleks, I can't wait to see what happens.

After Doctor Who I fired up the Playstation to watch a couple of films directed by Ron Fricke, the man responsible for the amazing cinematography in Godfrey Reggio's classic film Koyaanisqatsi. Reggio's trilogy of films are some of the greatest works of film in the last thirty years in my opinion, and Fricke played an important part in creating the look and feel of that first movie. I've had Baraka on video for ages, but I only just got the DVD; it came in a box set with Fricke's IMAX movie Chronos. Both discs are region 0, which is to be applauded.

Both films are breathtakingly beautiful, full of images that are quite simply jaw-dropping. As its name suggests, Chronos has a lot to do with time; the entire film is shot using time-lapse photography. As a result, the environment comes to the fore and people blur into the background, becoming inconsequential. This gives the film an aetherial, distant quality that is enhanced by another stunning score from Michael Stearns. I was intrigued by one of the extras on the DVD, in which Stearns talks about a most peculiar instrument called The Beam which I'd never heard of (extremely unusual for me!) It's not the most portable of instruments, consisting of a twelve-foot slab of extruded aluminium strung with piano wires, but on the 5.1 soundtrack to Chronos it produces some quite extraordinary tones. The only complaint I have about Chronos is that it's much, much too short - when the final credits came up after just 40 minutes I was left wanting more. Highly recommended.


It looks like spring has finally arrived. The last couple of days have been wonderful and I've been out and about enjoying the sunshine. The magnolia in the front garden is beginning to blossom, too - much later than normal. Let's hope this means that winter is finally behind us.


I've been over in East Anglia, visiting my parents. Mum and Dad's place is in a small village in the Norfolk countryside, a few miles from the coast. When I got there on Monday night, I had to stop the car as I drove up their road and wait for a muntjac deer to get out of the way; I thought it was a dog at first. Mum says they get them in the garden quite regularly, and they often hear the barking call at night. There are red deer in the area, too - Mum's health visitor told me she'd looked out of the window one morning to see a fully grown stag in the front garden.

While I was at Mum and Dad's place, I kept hearing a strange "clunk" noise from the vicinity of my car. It turned out to be Frank, a tame pheasant who seems to spend most of his time hanging around the house in the hope he'll be fed (my parents put food out for him several times a day).

Are you talkin' to me?

He'd obviously taken exception to the other pheasant he could see in the rear bumper of my car, and he would display vigourously and then give it a hefty peck. He couldn't figure out why the other bird wouldn't back down...


After what seems like years of speculation, Gordon Brown has finally called an election. Provided that you're registered, you'll get to cast your vote on May 6th and until then, all rational thought or intelligent debate will be entirely absent from newpapers or television news channels. Each of the parties will be making more and more ludicrous promises about what they'll do if they're given the chance to run the country, and they'll be spending millions of pounds trying to persuade us that they're the people you should be voting for.

The political parties have already shown us what the main themes of their campaigns will be. Labour's is "we've nearly fixed everything; don't give up on us now." The Conservatives have decided that their safest bet is to crib shamelessly from Obama's campaign, so their messages are of "Hope" and "Change." The Lib Dems, at least, appear to be taking a more honest line - pointing out what a mess the other two parties have made of things, and suggesting that it is actually time for a proper change. I'd like to think they are right, but I doubt that there are enough people out there to help them make it happen.

Reading the papers over the last month it seems clear that Brown - and his predecessor Tony Blair - will be going down in history as being in charge of the "Rotten Parliament", a government that got in as a result of public outrage over sleaze and corruption in the last few years that the Conservatives were in power, and which went on to demonstrate that they were even more self-serving and conniving than the previous lot. As far as I can make out there's been no difference between the old regime and the new, and precious little effort has been devoted to stamping out corruption, mendaciousness or sleaze. Just the reverse, in fact. After watching ministers and advisors deciding to shape laws after going on holiday with business magnates and helping themselves to public coffers for any number of perks and jollies, I'd say that parliament has clearly abandoned, once and for all, the pretence that they are there to act in the public interest. It would be naive in the extreme to expect that things will be any different after this election.

The Digital Economy Bill is just one example of this new, democracy-free approach to Government. There seems little doubt that the bill will be introduced with no public debate; it's not even going to be subjected to a vote in the House of Commons. It's no longer a case of parliament telling us, "We know what's best for you." Now it's blatantly a case of "We know what's best for us." Given that ministers are happier to let record companies and film studios dictate law than they are the general public, for the first time in my life I find myself thinking seriously about emigrating. The only trouble is, I can't think of anywhere I'd want to live that isn't going through the same erosion of the democratic process.

Civil liberties and public freedoms are evaporating every day, but the Conservatives clearly don't believe things have gone far enough. Their campaign promises "in your face" policing should they get into power, a phrase that I find absolutely chilling. The playground in the village now sports fluorescent signs warning teenagers that they can be arrested for unsocial activity in the area, signs which I imagine were designed and erected by a team of rat-faced miseries who never enjoyed themselves when they were young and are now determined that nobody else should have the opportunities they squandered. You can't fix society by inventing slogans or putting up signs that tell you what you're allowed or not allowed to do - and putting "It's the law!" at the end just invites derision. You fix society by doing the things that create a society in the first place: encouraging people to talk to each other, getting to know one another and working together, involving citizens in the process of making decisions and establishing laws for the common good.

Sadly, all of the political parties seem to have forgotten this.


By the time you get to read this it'll be the second week in April; I'm afraid the blog is still suffering from neglect, and even though I've written a couple of updates I haven't got round to uploading them yet. Today I'm in Solihull catching up with Rebecca and the Twins - and I'm off to Norfolk tonight to see my parents, who don't really do modern communications. They don't have broadband and there's no mobile phone signal at all. How am I going to stay connected? It says a lot about my Internet habit that the first I heard about the earthquake in Baja California and Mexico at the weekend was through Wil Wheaton's twitter feed...

No, the simple solution is that I'm not going to stay connected - I'm going off grid. In the interim, I can't think of anything better to tide me over than a picture of Morgan Freeman with a kitten on his head. Enjoy.


I love bacon.

Bacon is the one meat that stops me from becoming a vegetarian.Bacon is also an Internet phenomenon. Do a search on Google for the word, and you'll get over thirty two million hits. You can buy bacon sticking plasters. However, I must admit I've never tried cooking it with a machine gun.