Monthly Archives: December 2006

Avaragado’s 2006 predictions: how didn’t I do?

For sale: one crystal ball, hardly used. One lady owner.

In a brazen and desperate attempt to retain the tiniest shred of credibility, I’ll mark each of my 2006 predictions out of five. Here goes…

From our if-only department Bush or Cheney will be impeached and/or defenestrated, in a shock scales-falling-from-eyes moment in the US.

Sadly not. But Rumsfeld did go, and this year saw a definite shift in power away from the neocons. The scales may be starting to fall. I’ll be generous and give myself one whole point here.

s/Blair/Brown/g The Dear Leader resigns, probably in the early autumn, and is replaced by Gordon Brown to nobody’s great surprise.

This was so close. There was a huge amount of speculation at that time, and Blair was forced to say that he’d be gone within a year. Brown is still the obvious replacement. I’ll award myself another point.

s/Kennedy/Oaten/g Take it as read that Charles Kennedy is a goner. My money’s on Mark Oaten as the replacement, but Lembit Opik’s a good bet too.

In all honesty I can’t justify any points here. Kennedy resigned only a couple of days after the prediction. Mark Oaten was discovered to have been renting things other than property. Lembit Opik was never a contender. Menzies Campbell ended up leader, and things have stuttered a bit for the Lib Dems.

Amateur hour A citizen journalist dies trying to get a unique angle on a story. There is much wailing and gnashing. The death of the net is predicted.

I don’t remember any reports of such a thing happening, so I guess it didn’t. No points.

Thar she blows Another record-breaking Hurricane season in the Atlantic. This time Miami gets it. There are few deaths due to Miami’s preparedness, and Jeb Bush uses this as a springboard for a presidential run.

Nope. Hurricanes not as newsworthy as 2005. No sign of a third Bush. No points.

Thar she also blows Mount St Helens.

Thar she also didn’t. No points.

Wembley stadiu Just enough of the new Wembley is complete on time to hold the FA Cup Final. But it’s a bit of a shambles. All-Premiership semi-finals, very tedious.

My faith in other people is touching. Nah, Wembley wasn’t ready by a long way. They were, however, all-Premiership semi-finals (and thus automatically tedious; but the final was a cracker). One point for the mini-prediction.

Home win Germany win the World Cup. England reach the quarter-finals as per, but no further.

I thought I’d nailed this one, but Germany lost the semi-final against eventual winners Italy (Italy!). England, naturally, lost on penalties in the quarters. I note that immediately before that match I predicted Rooney would be sent off, and he was. I award myself 2.5 points.

Tech buzzword Oh, something like “ubertags” (just googled it: 11,800 hits). How about “reputagging” (no hits).

And Google now says… eh? “ubertags” gets just 244 hits, how strange. “reputagging” – did you mean “repackaging”? OK, no points. Buzzwords, bah!

Double trouble Avaragado sees not one but two weddings this year in his general vicinity.

Hooray! Cryptic enough for me to claim five full points! Steve’s was the obvious one, but Bov and Chrissie also tied the knot this year. I count two!

Total score: 10.5 out of 50. Could do better.

Coming soon: Avaragado’s amazing 2007 predictions!


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Sciatic Atac

I’m really only posting this because I thought of the subject line. (What the hell am I talking about?)

Anyway. For the last few weeks my little unwanted friend has been visiting, on and off. Before my surgery it would kick in when I got up from sitting or lying down, and gradually wear off after n minutes/hours/years, depending. This time it seemed to cause pain when I lay down and signalled its ghostly presence at most other times through a vague feeling of pressure at the top of my right leg plus aches down the calves (all standard referred pain for sciatica).

I have no firm idea of the cause. Suspects include lack of exercise, excessive sitting, muscular surprises (some drooling cretin stops in front of you, forcing you to stop in a hurry or walk into him) and a spinal disc with a mind of its own (I think it moves about a bit).

I did the usual tricks: stood up and walked about a lot, avoided too much back strain (I’ve given badminton a miss for a few weeks) and did some prodding and poking (“physiotherapy lite”). It didn’t ease off, though – it got worse.

Lying on the floor on Monday lunchtime, inspecting the carpet, a Belle and Sebastian song popped up on iTunes. It reminded me of buying the album – a month or so before my surgery – and first hearing that song, while lying on the floor inspecting the carpet. Hmm, I thought.

I rang my physio and made an appointment for next Monday (nothing available sooner).

And when I got up the next morning, the sciatica had disappeared.

Expecting some cruel trick, I’ve acted as if it were still there but allowed myself to sit down a bit more (you can only stand or kneel for so many hours in a day). But it hasn’t (yet) returned, so today I cancelled the physio appointment.

Now I’m seriously considering thinking about possibly starting to go swimming every now and then. Oh, I’m so lazy.

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Wherein Avaragado realises he can still read that disk

A couple of months ago I blogged about my Palm’s forgetfulness, and my lack of backup of same due to disk fun and PC swappage.

Well, after a suggestion from Chef I just tried plugging the dodgy disk into my new PC. And it works fine. So I’ve recovered the last backup from Palm to PC, including my address book. The disk has now resumed its position on a bookcase, under the watchful eyes of Lego-based Jedi.

I’ve now signed up with Plaxo. Joyously my address books on Mac and PC are now automatically synchronised with the online version. Sadly I only appear to know two other people from Plaxo’s 15 million customers, so I don’t get all the benefits of the site (when they update their details my address book is magically updated). But having an offsite backup and synchronised address books is good enough for me.

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That’ll do nicely

Not that I have a thing about British Gas all of a sudden, but I was just paying my gas and electric bills on, their cranky, temperamental, slow web site. It gave me the usual dropdowns for card start and expiry dates.

But both have ranges 1900 to 2999. See the screenshot!

Yes, of course you can also select a start date in the future and an expiry date in the past.


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That time again

Yes, it’s the Exsquiddy Christmas party.

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Nando’s Labyrinth

On Thursday night, after my gassy fun, I headed into town to meet up with the usual suspects for food and a film.

For some reason we ended up in Nando’s on Regent Street. I don’t know why but I felt about ten years too old for the place. It reminded me of a 1970s trip to a Wimpy bar in Waltham Cross when my grandma asked for a knife and fork. And when tomato ketchup came in tomato-shaped squeezy bottles. Mind you, Nando’s had proper Heinz bottles.

Anyway, the food was OK and the view was acceptable.

Avaragado’s rating: a chickpea

To the film! Pan’s Labyrinth. At first glance, a screenplay that must surely have been the result of a photocopying catastrophe: A gritty thriller about Spanish fascists in 1944 accidentally collated with an effects-filled fantasy about a young girl and some fairies, now with automatic stapling!

But no. Writer/director Guillermo del Toro weaves the two story strands together pretty well – and he doesn’t hold back on gruesome camera shots either. It always amuses me to hear audiences when they see a needle penetrating skin in glorious digital widescreen colour. It’s rated 15 in the UK, R in the US, so, you know, think on. Strangely from the trailer I imagined a more fantasy-oriented child-friendly film with the fascists only in the background, but maybe that was just me.

It’s in Spanish with subtitles, but then I always think that makes the acting better.

Avaragado’s rating: two grapes

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Wherein Avaragado smells gas and is disbelieved

I had, as Jimmy Saville would put it, Dr Gas round this morning to service my boiler. Everything was fine, he said, no carbon monoxide poisoning me (“it’s a sealed unit”), no problems. Great. He checked out the gas meter, all OK.

Later I went into my kitchen to make some lunch. And smelled gas. I opened the cupboard with the gas meter in, and it was stronger – definitely the source. I thought, well, maybe it’s some artifact of the testing. Let it clear, see if it’s still there in an hour.

An hour later, I try again. Yes, still there. I turn off the gas.

I ring Tucker Gardner, née Camflats. They first decide that I’m talking about the boiler I’ve just had serviced, and inform me that I’ve just had my boiler serviced and everything was fine. I emphasise that I’m talking about the meter. They tell me it’s all just been tested, and there are no problems. I counter that I couldn’t smell gas before the engineer came, and now I can. And I mention how I left it for an hour, and can still smell gas. I speak to one of their maintenance staff, who tells me confidently “it’s a sealed unit”. I say that I appreciate that, but I can smell gas. He tells me that they were doing some varnishing work outside my flat today, according to the engineer who visited. I know, I say, it’s not that. It’s gas. It can’t be, they say, everything was tested etc.

I ask for their recommendation. They tell me they’ll ring me back.

Meanwhile I turn the gas on again, leave it a few minutes, confirm that yes, I can still smell it, and turn it off again.

Ten minutes later, Tucker Gardner ring back with their considered wisdom. “Phone Transco,” they say, “0800 111 999”. I predicted that. They’ve clearly decided that I’m deranged or paranoid and are washing their hands of the situation. I should have gone “Boom!” down the phone at them.

I ring Transco and speak to a very bored call centre worker in god knows where. He gets my details, goes through his script (“Can you smell it outside?”, “No, I’m leaning out of a window and I can’t smell anything”), and sends a man over. I imagine a man in a cape, like Bicycle Repair Man.

Meanwhile my kitchen window’s open and it’s blowing a freezing gale outside.

Twenty minutes later Captain Transco arrives. I can tell straight away he’s a good’un, as he says he’s from the National Grid. I tell him the story, he puts his little hose up to the meter, and it smells gas, just like I did.

He has a tut, a poke around and another tut and discovers the problem. Apparently when engineers test the meter they unscrew a little nipple thing. After several years of this unscrewing and screwing it gets less and less effective until it becomes useless. “This is the third one I’ve dealt with this week”, he says. One chap recently had a hyoooooge bill as his (outside) meter had this problem and he was paying for lots of lovely gas to escape into the atmosphere.

Solution: a new gas meter, which he cheerfully fits.

Good thing I was in today, wasn’t it? Or I’d have come home to a flat full of gas and immediately turned a light on.

I may give Tucker Gardner another ring later…


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Avenue Jew

For those of you who’ve seen Avenue Q.

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Casino Roy

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: I don’t like the theme tune. It is much better than the awful Madonna theme from Dire Another Day (do you see what I did there?), but fails to pass the Bondness threshold.

That’s a shame, because everything else about Casino Royale is pretty much spot on. There’s no campery, over-reliance on gadgets, mwa-ha-ha-take-over-the-world-with-my-big-laser plots or scenery chewing, unlike in yer Brosnans or yer Moores. It’s very much as advertised: back-to-basics, raw, gritty, violent. A bit like yer Daltons or yer Connerys, but with fewer wigs and not, you know, in the 1980s. And just generally better.

I was never one of those nay-sayers who scoffed at the casting of Daniel Craig as Bond, none of whom could come up with reasons better than “he’s a bit ginger”. They forgot that Bond is supposed to be English, and yet has been played by a Scot (Connery), an Australian (Lazenby), a “Welsh-born Englishman” (Dalton) and an Irishman (Brosnan). And that Felix Leiter, that old fraud, has been played by about a million different actors, both white and black. And ditto Blofeld, etc.

I’ve decided that most Bond films take place in their own universe, independent of all other Bond films. This works, apart from some disparities (such as the multiple appearances of Jaws and J.W. Pepper and others, a few references to Bond’s dead wife, and more), and it’s the only way to avoid cranial implosion regarding continuity. This film blows away any attempts to do so anyway, since it shows the start of Bond’s 00 career and yet has Judi M rather than harrumphing old Bernard M, and is of course set in the present.

Oh, enough Bond geekery. Wikipedia has it all, you know.

Avaragado’s rating: salty water


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