Yearly archives: 2006

And now for some really bad news

Based on current measurements, the Arctic summer ice cap could be gone by 2060. However, if the expected feedback- less light reflected by ice, more absorbed by exposed sea- happens, it will be even earlier than that.

Recent studies suggest that even a minor local nuclear exchange could cause a far worse nuclear winter than previously expected. But don’t tell Bush that, or he might suggest it as a solution to global warming.

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Doom turns 13

Thirteen years ago today, Doom by ID Software was released. It wasn’t the first “first person shooter” (Wolfenstein was), but it did change the face of gaming (not to mention the course of my degree) to a large extent.

Doom spawned a lot of competitors, including ID’s own Quake.

Don’t forget, you can buy Doom the movie.


Quake 4, Doom 3 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein

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Fines and bath reduction- council level green action

Two proposals from local councils to battle energy consumption and waste-

Barnet has drawn up guidelines for planning, including a suggestion to leave baths out of new builds.

Tameside council will fine departments £30 for each computer left on overnight.

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Boyfriend Season

“Autumn is boyfriend season. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting worse it’s the right time to have a man to keep you warm and stuff.”

I was with Lauren and Vanessa, a few pints into the night somewhere in Didsbury, when Lauren had dropped this concept into the conversation.

“And in Spring you can dump them because there’s so much else to do.” Vanessa added.

I think I did a guppy impersonation for a while. It was only later that I thought that men are at their horniest in Spring. It’s all sunny and the serotonin levels are rising again. I’d probably have been told that that’s just the way it goes.


Tis the season to be hunted
Important message for the Brotherhood of Single Men!
It’s Boyfriend Season.
They’re after you, be afraid. Be very afraid.
Or let yourself get caught. Whatever.
Posted by Jim at 00:52:34am


I really ought to have asked what a boy does to attract attention during the season. Preferably early on. It could be useful information.

I’m not looking for a relationship, but, then again, I’m not not looking. You know how it is. And the sort of relationship I’m not looking for is a long term one. I don’t think I’m wired for one night stands, flings or seasonal affairs.

Unless the right woman suggests it.

So I’m meeting new people, trying to give a good impression to as many women as possible and having conversations about dating to suit the weather. There’s a whole world apart from the geeks I know and love and it’s quite interesting.

Just so long as they don’t ask me to do tech support.


Sue kills mice for a living.

Not, you know, herself, physically. She does have little hands, probably small enough to wring a rodent’s neck if the need arose. There’ll be a fetish site for that sort of thing.

No. Sue formulates the poison that goes into those mouse hotels, or whatever they’re called, the black or brown plastic boxes with little circular doors you see on the exterior walls of cinemas and the like. Her aim is, perversely, to make the tablets less toxic. If she can kill the mouse quickly and have the poison break down there’s less chance of it getting into the food chain.

God help me, but I found this fascinating. So much so that I sought her out after the speed dating session and we talked some more. It helped that she’s cute. Short, slim, very dark hair, pale. Perhaps a little too pale, she does look like someone who spends her days around poisons. In a room full of topped up tans, Rimmell and hair gel her unpainted pretty face drew me.

I didn’t ask for her number. I don’t know what the etiquette is about that, and she didn’t ask me. I ticked her name on the list, however, and hopefully she did the same for me.


The boyfriend season thing’s becoming a meme. I’ve had a couple of comments and a few people have mentioned it in emails. I’m waiting to see how long it takes for someone to tell me it as if they think I don’t already know about it.

In the meantime, the local chapter of the Brotherhood of Single Men is trying to imagine what sorts of lures we could be using.

“Shouldn’t the hunters be the ones using the lures? We are the prey, after all.” Steve observed.

“Ah, they have their feminine wiles to use as lures.” I can’t believe I said that. This is what happens when you drink strange spirits people bring back from holiday.

“T-shirts with big targets on them.” Bert suggested, “Or that say ‘This space available to rent’ and point at the crotch.”

“Mount me.” I offered.


“T-shirts that say ‘Mount me’.”

“Oh. Right.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of a duck call kind of thing.”

“What would it sound like?”

“Wa-Hey!” Bert offered.


“Get yer tits oot for the lads.” Me.

“Not going to work.”

“I have chocolate.” Bert again.

“That…. Now that might work.”


I really, really hate Neil.

Oh, okay, that’s a lie. I love him to bits, in a totally heterosexual way. But he’s getting laid, so I’m very jealous.

She’s a Phd student, “Companion Animal Learned Behaviour.”


“Pet psychology.”

“You’re joking right? They do postgrads in pet psychology? How?”

“Have you ever tried to out-think a cat?”

“Fair point. So what are you doing in the pub with your sad single friend when you’ve got a hot doggy shrink to go home to?”

“She’s got some sort of open session on. ‘Bring in your gerbil and we’ll deal with its Oedipal problems.’ That sort of thing. It won’t be done for a while.”

“I was hoping it was because you still loved me.”

“Nah, sorry. You’re last month’s thing. I’m just slumming with you ’cause she lives across the road. Bar billiards?”

Two games, and another pint, later, his phone rang. “Hey honey.” he glanced out of the window at the flats across the road. “Really? How come? Oh, well, that’s cool. Just take all your clothes off and I’ll be right over. Bye bye.”

My shot had gone so horribly wrong that I’d knocked over all three pins. Mental images.

“I’ve got to go. Finish this if you want.” Neil waggled his half drunk pint.

“She isn’t going to be waiting there naked you know.”

“She might be. And would you pass up the chance?”

“No, I guess not. No doggy style, though. Might remind her of work.”


Maybe Neil’s girlfriend can introduce me to a few of her friends.

Or maybe not. The last time we went to a student party Steve and I got drunk and started reminiscing about the early nineties.

There are only so many times you can hear, “I was only four!” before you start to feel old.


Larger offices tend to have a demarcation along employment status lines. The perms look down on us temps because we don’t have their security. We look down on them because that security so often leads to lack of imagination and risk avoidance. Morlocks and Eloi, where it’s always the other bunch who are the knuckle dragging devolveds.

Karen was another of the temps at work. We’d developed a nil carborundum kind of camaraderie against the management stupidity. It was her last day on Friday, so we went for a few drinks.

She’s quite buff, goes to the gym twice a week, to maintain the flat stomach and muscle definition. I refused the offer of an arm wrestle. Cycling does wonders for the definition of my arse and legs, but my top half is flabby and weak.

One by one our band of Eloi disappeared, off home to S.O.s and cats. In the end it was just Karen and me. Somehow we’d made it to the Kro on Oxford Road opposite the University. It was that flux period, between the after work drinkers going home and the party animals getting dressed and heading out.

Karen cycles as well. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Perhaps I should have suggested a ride, but there’s an inner ten year old that just can’t accept the possibility of being beaten by a girl.

At some point before closing time we went our separate ways. I don’t strictly remember the bus ride home. Not that I blacked out. It’s just that I’ve made it so many times it all passes me by unless something particularly interesting happens.
I can’t believe I didn’t get her number or email. I think sh
e knows about my blog.


Sue chose me!

Hungover and befuddled I checked my email. I nearly blocked the message from the speed dating site. It proclaimed ‘Susan wants to see more of you!’ and I was about to mark it as spam when I recognised the site name in the email address.

Sue put a tick next to me on the website. As I ticked against her on my page we get each other’s emails to do with as we please. I was far too hungover to do anything and decided to leave it for a while.

Steve owed me a fry up, so I headed over. Somehow he convinced me to pick up the bacon and sausages on the way. There’s something not quite right about that.

Bert had been photoshopping and now his desktop is a picture of Alyson Hannigan as Vampire Willow, saying “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting boyfriends.”

We like the idea of being hunted. We don’t believe it really happens, though. Any woman caught making it easy for a bloke would be kicked out of the girly club.


Sue emailed me whilst I was out. Is it a bad sign that she’s capable of being that coherent on a Saturday morning?

She wants to get together some time, tonight even, if I’m free. I guess if I take some paracetamol and drink enough water I’ll be able to pass for sentient by the evening.


Food and drinks in Metropolitan on Burton Road. We met early evening, before the pre-club crowd filled it. It was as awkward as you’d expect at first. I bought her a drink (Directors, good call) and we found a table.

“So….” I began, but couldn’t think of what to say next. ‘Why did you wait nearly a fortnight to tick my box?’ would probably sound too judgemental and/or desperate. I sort of waved my hands and smiled.

“Sorry I took so long to complete the feedback. It’s been hellishly busy the last few weeks. I just got back from three days in Germany yesterday.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“Not really. I didn’t get to see anything of the area. It was all meetings, trips around chem labs and late meals at the hotel. I got some reading done.”

“What sort of stuff?”

“I’m re-reading all my Pratchett.”

“Oh. I started doing that last year.”

We discussed the Discworld for a while, and somehow it segued into hobbies. Thankfully, nothing Sue does in her spare time involves cruelty to small furry animals. We ate, and drank a bit more, then it became a bit too crowded.

Her place was only a couple of street away. It seemed logical that we should end up there. It was a single bedroom flat on the first floor. I sat on the sofa and checked out the living room whilst she broke open some wine. It was good to know I’m not the only one who’s so untidy. It wasn’t messy, it was just that paperwork, books and magazines were filed in piles on available surfaces.

She brought a bottle of white and two tumblers and sat right beside me. One glass later she was draped across my lap and I was pushing and tugging her top off.

She’s got tiny tits with responsive nipples that seem, relatively, large. I couldn’t keep my hands, lips, tongue and, occasionally, teeth off them. She squirmed a bit, made a lot of appreciative noises and finally went tense and then limp with a little “Wow”. The flush on her pale skin was very sexy.

Having made her come just by concentrating on her breasts I had sealed the deal. We took things to the bedroom.


Coffee in bed. Sweet.

The bedroom’s tidier than the living room. Two bookshelves completely filled, a dressing table and two cupboards. The only signs of disarray were the suitcase and our discarded clothes from the night before.

It was good coffee, too. “I buy the beans from the health food shop. They’re FairTrade.” Sue explained.

She was wearing a big baggy top, looking tiny. Her hair framed her face and she looked worryingly young. “I nearly didn’t tick anyone from the speed dating night. I kept telling myself no-one would be interested.”

“So what made you change your mind?”

“You seemed a nice guy, and interesting. And I was a bit horny. And, well, it is boyfriend season.”

Notes I did think of posting this in parts, but then decided to present it in one piece. “Boyfriend Season” was written in October whilst working on an IT helpdesk. It was inspired by a conversation very like the one that opens the story (see my own version of the Boyfriend Season post). Sadly I haven’t seen the women who introduced me to the concept since that evening.

I’d like to expand upon this story. I was experimenting with minimalism when I wrote it and on re-reading it I think I may have stripped away a little too much. I’ve stated my aim to incorporate this into a novel about a blogger to be called Post & Publish. I see it being the second, of three or four, distinct parts of the novel. Parts 3 and 4 will concentrate on Jim and Sue’s relationship developing and the lives of their friends. I’ve only got this lightly sketched out at the moment, it’s my New Year writing project.

Other fiction-

So Much To Answer For, a crime story also written whilst I was on the helpdesk.

Heavensent is the propeller-punk sci-fi war novel I recently wrapped up.

Download Another Education/Ruby Red or Ten Years Asleep.

Donate Now I’ve started writing again I’m unlikely to stop, but it would be nice if I could eat during my breaks. So please feel free to donate some money to my starving author fund by clicking on the PayPal button below.

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Wigan Model Railway Show 2006

Rather than spending all week putting up all the photos from the Wigan Model Railway Show and then posting the gallery, I thought I’d do the job in chunks. So here’s my first batch of photos.

There were fewer modern image layouts this year than last, and those that were in evidence tended to display some quirky humour. There were also more foreign subjects, including a very nice French one and an American railroad town in HO with tongue in cheek names and notes.

The first batch of photos-

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Teas are good

Good news for several members of Team Spinneyhead- tea is better for you than water.

[Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie] Ruxton said: “Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.”

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The tale of the Sadistic Children's Author

Deep down, was Beatrix Potter just a bit nasty?

I can’t remember ever reading any of Potter’s books, though I’m sure I must have. You can get them all in Beatrix Potter Complete Tales, a hardback featuring her stories in the order they were published and four others published after her death. Better than all the merchandise is The Tale of One Bad Rat, one of the most incredible comics ever published.

I just found my review of One Bad Rat on Amazon-

One Bad Rat is a beautiful comic, entirely unlike anything I have seen before. With no fantasy elements (well, apart from the giant imaginary rat) the story stands on the telling and the art. A young girl escapes her abusive father and unloving mother, running first to London and then the Lake District, where she finds a surrogate family. It all sounds like a TV movie, but is far superior to subject of the week fodder. The story is less melodramatic, the detail better observed, the colour more vivid and (yes) the acting is more believable.

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So Much To Answer For- Part 24

“You should just put my number in your phone and call me directly.” Wood told Joe. She had taken his and Rachel’s statements on a digital recorder to save them a trip to the Police station. The scally had been carted off to hospital under armed guard, the gun was bagged and about to be sent for finger printing and the scene of crime officers were discussing removing the bullet from the tree it had hit. Rachel was sat on a wall coming down from her adrenaline high.

“That’s the way rumours get started. Do you know who he is?”

“We have a tentative ID. He was arrested and did time because of Hill’s last deal, the one with…”

“My money, I know.”

“He had a knife with blood on it that might link him to Hill’s killing. And he had a picture of you and your address. We don’t know where he got that from. How do you make so many enemies?”

“Clean living.”

“My…… What I think is he killed Hill.”

“With a knife? Not the gun?”

“He got the gun from Hill, before Sarah got back to him. This is just a theory, mind. He got the gun from Hill after killing him with the knife. And then he came looking for you. Just like so many others he thought you were involved in the deal that went wrong and put him in jail. He could have found the picture of you on your website, I guess.”

“How many more of these guys are there? Just waiting to get out and get even?”

Rachel came over and draped herself over Joe. “I’m starving.”

“Are we done here?”

“I guess so. I’m getting tired of saying it, and it obviously has no effect, but take care. Both of you.”

“We will. Let’s go order Chinese.”


“Okay, curry. But it’s a small room and not very well ventilated.”

Part 23
Part 1

Notes And that wraps it up. A bit of an odd final line, but it might make it into the next draft. This bit clashes a little with Sarah’s description of what happened a few parts back, but we’ll put that down to her being emotional and not keeping track of time so well.

Other fiction- check out Heavensent, the propeller-punk sci-fi war novel I recently wrapped up, or download Another Education/Ruby Red or Ten Years Asleep.

Donate Now I’ve started writing again I’m unlikely to stop, but it would be nice if I could eat during my breaks. So please feel free to donate some money to my starving author fund by clicking on the PayPal button below.

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Towards zero carbon new builds

When I wrote the piece about net energy producing social housing last night I hadn’t seen all of the proposals in Gordon Brown’s pre-Budget speech. Amongst the plans is the aim to have all new build homes zero net carbon producers within a decade. The carrot for this is a rebate on stamp duty for all new homes deemed to be zero carbon, to start next year.

There’s no definition of what constitutes a zero carbon home, we’ll have to wait for the Budget proper for that, and builders’ groups are already weighing in with complains about the rebate not covering the extra cost and house prices going up. Of course, house prices are rising regardless, and I’m sure there’s a case for larger mortgages on such properties because the savings on bills will make the buyers better off on a payment to payment basis.

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In over 16 years of cycling around Manchester I’ve only been knocked off my bike twice. This morning was the second.

Despite the fact that it was entirely the driver’s fault I can’t help but blame myself. I usually pay a lot of attention to cars pulling up at side roads ahead, expecting them to be idiots and just rail out without spotting, or looking for, me. (To their credit, most drivers don’t live down to my expectations.) Going through the Sharston industrial estate this morning I let my mind wander. I may have been worrying about the large roundabout up ahead, or thinking about sex (it had been at least 14 seconds) or relationships. Whatever it was, I didn’t do my usual assessment on the metallic orange Fiat Punto that was approaching the end of the side road ahead and didn’t realise it was sailing straight on until it was too late.

I did just enough braking and dodging to avoid broken bones- the car missed my leg but still hit the front wheel and took the bike out from under me. Turning the air blue I bounced off the car’s A pillar and managed to get my hand inside the open driver’s side window as I went down.

Sat on the wet ground, but certain I’d suffered no worse than bruises, the first thing I did was inform the driver that he really should watch where he’s going. He just stared at me blankly, shock just beginning to filter through his beanie hatted head. He asked a few times if I was okay. I guess I should have taken contact details in case the collision has damaged the headset (the wheel still spun fine), but you never think of these things when you’ve just dodged harm. I sent him on his way with a final admonition to pay more attention in future, remounted and carried on the ride to work.

There’s very little I can do to become a safer cyclist. I could, and plan to, mount more lights and reflectors on my steed. But this collision happened in near total daylight when lights would have made no difference to my profile. I’ll just have to remember that some drivers are idiots and I must judge them all by the standards of their worst if I’m to avoid future injuries.

I'm your stalker too

I'm your stalker 2

Okay, I didn’t make the text that much bigger in this one, but the derangedness is more obvious and it’s laid out differently. Which design appeals more?

I may yet change my mind again. The problem is that I’ve got far too many fonts and too many ways to distort and modify them.

Update You can buy “I’m Your Stalker” T-shirts at my shop on Cafe Press.

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