Friday, June 29, 2007

Tonight for the first time in days I WILL get to bed before 3 AM.

I will. I will. I will.

Between writing things that need writing, and suddenly finding Phoebe on line and having a good chunter with her, and the incredible compulsivenosity of Perky Pat Place I seem to be surviving on five hours sleep a night at the moment. This is not enough for me. I need a good eight hours. At least. I could sleep for Scotland given a chance ( at last, a sport I could get behind: Sychronised Sleeping! ) and if I don't do something soon I am going to make myself ill. I wonder if there is such a thing as a tamper-proof computer switcher-offer somewhere out there that you could programme to switch off your computer for set periods of the day - or night. It would have to be tamper-proof because I would immediately override the bugger if it threatened to shut down the machine as I was in the middle of typing something dead important - like this.

I can't see how it would work. It would have to be a web thing. A service provided on some huge remote server. Users, or, more likely, user's spouses, would log in and instruct the service provider to turn their pooter off at 1.30 am or whatever. Sitting there typing away the customer would suddenly get a warning window saying "Switch off now - 'cos we're pulling the plug in a minute." Panic.! Lots of frantic [Alt] + [F4]ing later ( or on a Mac [Command] - [Option] - [Griddle] - [Plunge] - [Shift] - [Cuddle] - [Shift] - [Other Shift?] - [Why Isn't This Working?] - Ohhhh! BUM! ) everything is off and people go to bed.

Result? People like me actually getting some sleep and a brazillion dollars for whoever writes the software when it's sold to Google. I want a cut.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Stalag Luft Morag II

The minute prisoner of war camp is complete. Six to eight hours my arse! Mike and I spent the best part of 20 hours assembling the bugger - and improving it. Some of the delay was due to the fact we were putting the thing on a hillside when it clearly would have been easier to errect on the flat. The two pieces of timber which secure then end of the arm the swings hang from took us an hour to get in position. An HOUR! digging holes moving one leg then another it was - to say the least fucking frustrating. On flat ground it would have taken us five minutes. Still. It's done.

Sitting afterwards looking out over the Loch down towards The Ballachulish Bridge and Arnamurchan beyond,I realised I have been living here for a third of my life.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stalag Luft Morag

Most of the day has been spent wrestling with the idiot instructions for the lumber yard of roughly sawn timber, and the sack of assorted screws and bolts that Mike and Morag bought under the impression it was a kid's adventure play thingie. It's one of those huge wooden two towers, a shooglie bridge between them, slide, swings and climbing rope affairs.

The job was supposed to have been done today (how long can building something that looks like a small POW camp take? The people who sold it to them said 'two blokes should get it up in six to eight hours'. The instructions (hah!), when we eventually found them in all the tons of shrink-wrapped timber, said ten to twelve hours - but whether that included the concrete, which we had been assured we wouldn't need - we're not sure. With the dedication and determination that only two Fathers presented with a large toy that needs assembling for their eager and expectant kids, Mike and I spent a happy two hours counting all the bits of wood and stacking them in neat piles, counting all the screws nuts, bolts, and washers and separating them into easy find little pile-ettes of their own, having several cups of coffee and sits down (sit downs?) while we worked out the 'best way to tackle things'...

Then we went for lunch.

After that masterful piece of avoidance (oh we're good!) there was no getting round it, we would have to enter the seventh layer of hell that was 'The Instructions'. Now, I'm pretty good with instruction books, they aren't my choice of bedside reading but I have ploughed through a few in my time, working out how to assemble stuff, or take it to bits and fix it and then put it back together again. Though I may joke about it: "When all else fails, RTFM!", I do usually look at plans before I start a job. What I don't usually end up doing is making wax effigies of the writers* and sticking three different sorts of wrong sized pins into the buggers which is what I am so tempted to do for whoever is responsible for the bits of A4 incoherence I have been wrestling with all day.

Okay, my mood wasn't enhanced by the fact that we were building something designed to be built on firm, flat ground on a swampy slope (I know, I would have thought it was impossible too, but Mike and Morag have a sloping swamp in their back garden - a sloping swamp moreover, with an insanely dense midge population) but you would have thought the writers would have put the size of the damn thing in there somewhere. How much space did we need? We didn't know and could only find out by laying the whole thing out. Measurements were inconsistently given to different edges for no apparent reason, bits of wood were not the same size as the instructions would have us believe, and as a master stoke were bizarrely Labled A,B,C,D,D1,E,F... it took us ages to spot that '1' on the page. Life got an awful lot easier when we realised that two components were, pointlessly, labelled almost identically - but why two Ds? Why??? It's not as if they got up to Z with all the components. They had a whole slew of other letters to choose from. Over half the alphabet. Grrrr!

I want a job. I want companies to send me stuff for free without the instruction manuals and I will build these things (whatever they are) in my workshop, or out in the garden and I'll write the manual for them as I go. The company will get a manual NOT written by someone who already knows how to do it with their eyes shut and the technical names for everything and which says things like "Ease the Trunion Gussets" or whatever. They get a manual that says "Hit the flat bit with a big hammer", the sort of language that bad tempered people, kneeling on boggy hillsides can understand - and I'll get to keep the stuff.

*(Insert pin A into groin of effigy E whilst holding locking nut F against both the upper trunion flanges...)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Schrödinger's Carrot

Well that was fun.

The other day I received a mail from Ilona, aka The Job Pimp, saying "I kno u don't want to hear this but I fink yore stuff is dead gud and that and you shud maik it into a buk." Except, being a well respected, and often performed, playwright she spelled it almost correctly (I promised I would big up her part in this blog just in case any mildly influential people actually read it.)

My reaction (as always),Aw shucks! Pshaw! Piffle! Don't be daft, awa' with ye, etc. etc.

The next mail not offering me Canadian V14gr4! was from JS over at Palimpsest saying that, if I was at all interested in the ever-so ever-so ever-so slight possibility of getting some of my stuff into a book, I should drop a line to a friend of his over at Web-to-Book publishers

Aw shucks, pshaw, piffle, etc. be damned! A real publisher. A carrot! Dangling! - an ever-so slightly possibily hypothetical carrot albeit, but there it was: dangle, dangle! Fuck me!

A short email correspondence ensued:

Me: I'm interested.

Him: Phone me tomorrow.

So, apart from rolling the phrase "my publisher" around in my head for a few hours to see how it fitted (I like it!), and composing dedications to my forthcoming book...

"...and auntie Ethel for all the buns, and everyone else who knows me..." brain went into huge Hugh Grant, uber-faff, panic mode and refused to function on any useful level. I spent a while looking through the blog, occasionally laughing at my own jokes (never good), and wondering how the hell anyone could consider these ramshackle wafflings bookworthy.

I phoned the man this morning. Nice bloke. We had a bit of a chat (and I feel like an idiot for not even trying to blag at least one book off him when he asked if I was familiar with their publications, but proud of myself at the same time*), but I was right, the carrot suddenly became as totally very hypothetical as I knew it was all along, these ramshackle wafflings aren't bookworthy.

Basically the man liked (some of) what do and said if I want to think about getting some sort of idea together he wouldn't immediately throw it out the window unopened. (I'm paraphrasing wildly here because I can't actually remember exactly what he said, but that was the gist, and, having seen unopened, unread scripts tossed in Roger Corman's wastpaper baskets because they didn't come via an agent, I am flabbergasted at the compliment - can I stop crawling now?) I guess I have to get my finger out my arse**, get my act together, draw together all the bits of web funnies I've left scattered all over the place, and get organised (stop laughing!). I need to get some traffic. Create a demand. Make myself a bit more culty.

"Here, Liam? "


"You're a cult, you are."

But most of you know that already.

*There is a long German word for this feeling, I'm sure.

**Removing fingers from arses is always a good idea when sitting at the computer (or sitting down in general come to that), typing one handed is a pain, and it's awkward having to use the Caps Lock key every time you want to use a proper noun.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Daisy Has a Very Big Sense of Hearing

I find it hard to believe it's a week since I added anything to the blog. A whole week. That's seven days - unless they've been metricated since I last looked - which is possible, I wouldn't put it past Blair to ensure his place in history by lumbering us with a ten day Euroweek. I'm all for the metric system but there are limits. Mind you the surreptitious introduction of the ten day week could be one reason I permanently have no idea when I'm supposed to be doing anything at all, and how I have managed to miss Dr Who not just once, but three times a week for the past month. (Is David Tennant still the doctor? I have no idea).

I also have no idea what I have been doing for the past week. Which means either nothing happened, or I have forgotten, which is why I need to update this blog more often that I do. The meaningless trivia of my life need recording before they evaporate.

(Insert a vast Swathe of Googletime here as I try and find out what the singular of 'Trivia' is - if there is one. What is one trivial item called when it's surrounded by lots of non trivial stuff? Wikipedia says it's a 'Trivium' - but I'm not convinced. The only way I can even start to convince myself that's true, is if I imagine Stephen Fry saying it: "Here's an interesting little trivium, did you know that frogs only mate on a tuesday?")

Yesterday I started work on a job I've been promising to do for my parents for ages: building a raised bed from blocks in their back garden. Yesterday was a nice summer sunny day, the few midges that were around, were flitting about under the trees happily playing chicken with the vastly expensive but under performing Midge machine which - when it is working at full speed - sucks the little buggers up by the horrifying bucketful. The chickens were just playing at being chickens; scratching holes in the dirt, having dust baths, and stalking very small things in the shrubs. Daisy was happy playing with her sand in the sit-ooterie. A good day to be working in the garden.

I set to work. After masterfully measuring the space where The Bed was going to be three times and then pounding sticks into the earth at the corners of where it was going to be, and running strings to mark out the edges of where I had to dig, and measuring them all again just to make sure, then asking my mum to come and look and make sure that everything was going to go where she wanted it - Did she realise it was going to be as big as that? Was she sure it wasn't too big? I mean I could make it smaller if you wanted? Please? - I set to with mattock, spade, and wheel barrow. Two hours later, drenched in sweat I had managed to scratch out a long, thin, shallow hole that might do as the start of the job. But only down one side. The chickens could have done better. I was bushed as soon as I started digging, and quickly rationalised a whole raft of reasons why it would be simpler and easier to only dig one side of the ditch, build the first course of the wall and then start on the other side. Some of the reasons actually made sense when I said them out loud - which is always comes as a surprise when I start trying to justify putting things off.

I was so depressed by the discovery that I am getting, fat, old, and out of condition that I went and flopped on the sofa and ate a half a litre of high octane ice cream while watching a Bela Lugosi movie. The Ben & Jerry workout.

Today I relinquished my post as the Secretary of the Rainbow Parents and Toddlers Pre-School Playgroup and Plastic Dinosaur Sanctuary - or whatever the organisation I have been Secretary for over the last year is actually called. I'm not too sure what it's called because over the past year I have done bugger all in the way of secretarying except to not read the vast folder of stuff that was handed over to me when I took on the role, pass every letter I have received addressed to the Playgroup over to the treasurer who lives just over the road, and, in return, sign every cheque she has pushed in front of me. (Luckily none of them were from my own chequebooks but I doubt if I would have noticed).The hardest thing thing of the whole gig will be typing up the minutes of the AGM we held this morning in which I gave up the job. I might just get round to it by next week. However long that is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Merriol had the day off today - so I escaped. Off like a rat up a drainpipe to Fort William to shop, get a hair cut, buy some shoes, donate blood, NOT THINK ABOUT HOUSEWORK OR THE KIDS! It was great! (Didn't get the shoes though.)

The first thing that struck me about walking down Fort William high street was, that after spending far too much time in my Perky Pat layout recently, that people walking down the street looked really weird without floating orange and brown signs above their heads displaying their names.

This is why I need to get out more.

Being free of the kids for only a couple of hours and my brain suddenly had enough space to start telling me jokes again. It wasn't a full blown performance from Dermot O'Brilliant but a few slight gags popped into my head. A couple of which are cartoonable. It's nice to get in touch with my inner jokes again. I've missed them. I've known they were there but it was a bit like communicating with the "Other Side". It's nice to get my seance of humour back again. (Rimshot please!)

And I spotted this in W H Smiths while wondering what DVDs not to buy. For some reason it amused me no end, though why a DVD and a PC game were next to each other on the same shelf I have no idea.

If I had had the wit to take a photograph of it with my rinky dinky camera phone I would have done. But I didn't. So I have lovingly recreated this wonderful juxtaposition in widescreen Photoshop-A-Scope and couldn't help adding word bubbles.

This evening the kids, Merriol, and I trolled off to the local inter Primary School Highland Games in Glencoe. Let me tell you, folks, you haven't lived till you have stood in relentless drizzle, randomly walking from one place to another in an effort to outpace the cloud of midges forming around your head (and immediately walking into the cloud of midges someone has just left behind) while watching wet six year olds running foot races, and tossing the caber* somewhere through a thick fog of insect life. The midges won. Evil bastard fucking things. When I got home I found I had picked up a tick which was happily gnawing its way into my belly before I managed to pull it out.

Perk Pat never gets ticks in Second Life.

This is why I need to stay in more.

*Though not, unimaginatively, at the same time. That would have been fun.
After several days of assiduously avoiding the panto script because I wasn't feeling very funny I finally forced myself to team myself away from my Perky Pat layout - sorry - Second Life, for long enough to tackle the scene I am supposed to have written by now. Enter left Bert and Ernie two not very loyal but very stupid henchmen of the villain and comic relief for the hero . (The names will change of course - if I remember to do it).

An hour and a half and a page and a half later Bert and Ernie get to deliver a couple of good jokes (both of which Ilona will chop out I have no doubt) I am going to have to just grit my teeth and do this. I don't know why I put it off and off and off. When I finally get my bottom in front of the script and get to it, I enjoy it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's Cheese Juice!

One of the few things that keeps me sane while doing this job (looking after the two psychotic dwarfs that are my beloved children) is the vast amounts of music I play while I'm doing it. I need it. I need to know there are people out there whose attention spans are longer than the kids' (and by extension mine). Some tracks are over three minutes long!

The other day I realised I was getting in a rut. Playing the same dozen or so Thud Thud Thud heavily bassed electronica CDs over and over again - which is stupid given that I have some 1500 CDs and LPs to choose from, I think it was the fact that we have so many that was just short circuiting my choice circuits. Too many! Too many! Panic! That one! ...and whoopee! I'm listening to Royksopp or Leftfield yet again.

So this week I have started a new regime. Each day I am restricted to listening to artists starting with a certain letter. One letter a day. (Phoebe, you might want to put your fingers in your eyes for the next sentence...)

Because I have all my music thoroughly alphabetised this isn't difficult.

Friday (you can look now, P) was C: Elvis Costello, Cheryl Crow, Nina Cherry, Nick Cave; yesterday was H: John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Olaf Hund, Haydn and Handel. Today is F (There's no rhyme or reason behind the choice of letters). The Family Dogg, The Fugees, Quatre Black Brothers (recorded in a dustbin, 70s Afrojazz - and I know Quatre Black Brothers starts with a Q but - absurdly weird Franglais of the name aside - it says 4 Black Brothers on the cover so it got bunged in the Fs . Calm down, P, it's over.).

It's great discovering all the stuff I had totally forgotten I had bought, some I'm sure I have never listened to after buying and filing it. Why for instance, do I own quite so many Frankie Goes to Hollywood LPs? I played one and Daisy asked me to take it off after side one. She "didn't like it". So we listened to Connie Francis singing 'Never on a Sunday and other Hits From the Movies' instead. She liked that a lot more. Sad to say so did I.

So, there I was, sorting the laundry, rediscovering Aretha Franklin*, joining in, belting out You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman) at the top of my lungs, when I realised I had tears streaming down my face. I had forgotten what a great song it was. Gets me every time. Trying to explain it to Holly was a little difficult.

"Why are you crying?"

"I don't know. This song made me cry."

"Stop listening to it."

"No, it's a good kind of crying."

I may have to go back to the sterile Electronica. I don't have to explain it to the kids. I just have to turn it down because I play it too loud. "Too loud, Daddy, too Loud!". They'll get their revenge when they are teenagers I'm sure.

*How had I forgotten about Aretha Franklin? I mean how? Though it was gratifying to see as I typed this that Firefox's spell checker knows about her and hasn't queried her name! Didn't like "Firefox's" though. Baffling.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I think Holly has been secretly reading Science Fiction books when no one is looking.

This morning on the way to school...


Pretend I am a little girl and you are my Daddy.


(Guardedly) Er... okay...


And you are holding my hand and we are going to school.


Right... So, essentially, you want me to pretend this is reality?



That's the plot of several of Philip K Dick's better books right there.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My problems with Merriol's minimalist approach to dishwasher filling are over. Yesterday, after hearing the non-verbal comment I made on seeing the the last 'load' she put in, she swore she would: "Never ever touch that machine ever again - ever! Your job. Over to you buddy, if that's the way you feel about it..."

(I think we are both secretly relieved).

Mind you, I didn't think my "Gmmmph!" on seeing that she had 'filled' the thing with glass jars and bottles which were on their way to the recycling bin was THAT extreme. I mean, what kind of noise are you supposed to make when you find you are paying to have your garbage power-washed?

No idea if this will work but...

Bugger I, it did.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Hello much neglected Blog.

Neglected because nothing of any sort of interest or amusement has happened over the last week or so. Apart from adding to the steadily growing list of totally shite movies I have watched this month* I have done very little - Highlights of the week (so far) include Holly discovering new ways to bewilder me:

Holly, being five, has mastered the art of the toilet. Holly being five has got bored with just using the toilet the same way every day and is starting to try variations on a theme. So far this week these have included pooing in a waste paper basket and going for a pee on the toilet while 'wearing' a sleeping bag.

Merriol finding new ways to bewilder me:

In our kitchen we have a big sink and a small dishwasher. We have the big sink because I bought it at an auction years ago, a huge industrial stainless steel double sink and draining boards. Came out of some hotel and I love it. It's a pity it has some weird Bulgarian standard pipe fittings and solid lead waste traps, which means it is connected to the rest of the world with vast quantities of Deso tape and finger-crossing because nothing we have found will actually attach to the waste pipes. We have a small dishwasher because there is not a lot of room for anything else in the kitchen with the sink in there and Merriol hated doing washing up by hand so much she bought me it for a birthday present.

Merriol and I have this recurring conversation (which only happens in my head)

I do all the housework. I'm fed
up with doing all the house work!

No you don't do all the housework!
I... er... I emptied one of the upstairs
waste paper baskets ... last week... sometime.

See, I do - well, okay I don't; but I do do
ninety-nine point nine nine nine (stop
me when you get the message) nine nine nine..

I get the message!

I think it was after a real-life version of this conversation that M bought me the dishwasher.

Occasionally she will, without any provocation, load the thing (ie without me getting all stroppy and slamming around the house in full I'M DOING ALL THE HOUSEWORK AGAIN! martyrdom mode). Usually this consists of 'filling it up' with three plates, a mug, and about seven knives and a spoon. She doesn't put a lot in - but boy does it come out clean. I, on the other hand, cram the thing so full I can hardly shut the bugger sometimes. I spend ages arranging dishes and plates so every cubic millimetre of the machine is filled with filthy pots. They might not be quite as clean as the stuff Merriol puts through but the dirty pots don't back up in the kitchen quite so fast.

The other day Merriol pulled a stunner.

Faced with a mountain of dirty pots and pans she decided to - put the washing-up bowl through the dishwasher...


Daisy has yet to bewilder me this week. I think she is luring me into a false sense of security.

The only other thing I have been doing is the occasional bit of woodworkery down at Mags and Simon's. A lot of the time spent cursing and fulminating against cheap rubbish scews and cheap rubbish screwdrivers. With all respect to Baz Lurman, Nat King Cole and any one else who has recorded or used "Nature Boy "The greatest thing you'll ever learn," is not "How to love, and be loved in return..." but "DON'T BUY CHEAP TOOLS!". Buying cheap tools is just a total fucking waste of time, effort, money, natural resources and just about everything else you can think of. It is pointless. Having said that one of my favourite screwdrivers (I'm sad; I have favourite screwdrivers) cost me a quid in a cheapo "Everything for a Pound" shop many years ago. This was back in the days when cheap rubbish tools were made in India not China where cheap rubbish tools are made these days. Back then even cheap rubbish tools used to be made from real steel made in real steel mills from Iron and Cobalt and all the other stuff real steel is made from. Now they are made from recycled fridges which we ship out there, and which are probably just melted down without even taking the magnets off the front, or checking to see if anyone took the milk out first. As soon as it's vaguely liquid, the resultant sludge is poured into tool shaped moulds and shipped west as fast as possible with some stiff packaging to stop them getting bent in transit.

Screwdrivers are supposed to be able to put more than one screw in before you have to junk them!

*Titles watched recently include: The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy, Robot Holocaust, and The Fury Of The Wolfman.

** Merriol's dishwasher habits almost probably grossly exaggerated for comic effect.

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Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

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