May 05, 2006

Another Update

I realised yesterday that I had not made an entry on my blog for a worryingly long time. This can be attributed to a combination of having had a lot to do, and not having done anything very interesting. I still have a lot to do, and I still haven't done anything very interesting since I made this observation. To prevent my blog from being discontinued, however, I will report some of the not–very–thrilling things that have been taking up my time since I last blogged:

Home: I allegedly have a new housemate. I say allegedly, since she is hardly ever there, but I have been made aware of her existence by the diminished fridge–space and the arrival of a rice–cooker in the kitchen. So far so good, though I may introduce her to the hoover the next time she passes by…

Watery worries: Following the departure of my housemates (see earlier entry), I thought – naively – that it would be a good idea to phone up the utiliies companies and convert all of the bills into my name. This resulted in a series of long and painful conversations with Severn Trent Water, who, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to add an additional 6 months to the bill they had originally sent me, covering a period for which we had already paid. On calling them to query this I was naturally met by the usual set of options – 'press 1 if you have a question about your bill', 'press 2 if you don't like the look of your bill', 'press 3 if you want to speak to someone incompetent who won't listen to you', 'press 4 if you want to leave a personalised hate–message for one of our employees'. I was then subjected for a good half hour to the watery piece of piano music they inflict upon you whilst you are waiting to speak to somebody, which, though clearly designed to be atmospheric, does lose some of its charm after the third or fourth hearing (to put it generously). All of this would have been marginally less annoying if it had been a freephone number – which it wasn't – and if Severn Trent Water kept records of earlier payments – which they seemingly don't. Luckily I still had the receipt to show we had paid, so it alll turned out okay in the end. This, however, will be the last time I try to be helpful where ultility companies are concerned.

Work: Well, I've done some, which is probably the main thing. Quantity, good. Quality, debatable.

Culture: The other pinnacle of excitement in (relatively) recent weeks was going to the cinema to see 'Walk the Line'. This film dramatises the life of the country music singer, Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his romance with fellow country singer June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Although I was hardly a Johnny Cash expert prior to seeing 'Walk the Line', I now know that he was a very prolific songwriter, and that most of his songs, involved some variation on the format – man shoots wife/unfortunate stranger for no apparent reason; man is incarcerated for his crime; man languishes in prison and repents. To give an example, the song 'Folsom Prison Blues' includes in its lyrics the charming line 'But I shot a man in Rino, just to watch him die' – a sentiment with which I'm sure we can all empathise… During the course of 'Walk the Line', I also discovered that Jonny Cash spent the majority of the 1960s in a drugged stupor, and that his brother expired after an unfortunate incident involving a sharp piece of machinery – which I could see coming from a long way back, but which, thankfully, was not displayed too graphically. With all of these ingredients, 'Walk the Line' could obviously not fail to be an excellent film, and duly lived up to expectations. The performance sequences were especially impressive, with both actors doing their own vocals.

Walk the Line

Important IT–related discovery: I discovered yesterday that pressing Ctrl, Alt and the number code 129 you do not get a 'u' with an umlaut, as anticipated. You do, however, turn the screen upside–down and make the mouse work back to front, which is far more interesting. On the downside, working upside down for prolonged periods of time can lose some of its novelty after a while (say, the first five seconds), and unfortunately my genius did not extend to rotating the screen back to its normal position. Still, I suppose all great discoveries have their shortcomings…

Hamster update: The hamster, I am pleased to report, is still alive and dwelling in its 'chube', part of which it has now consumed. In fact, I have just completed some important research into its origins. Apparently there are 4 breeds of dwarf hamster; Campell's Russian dwarf, the White Winter Russian dwarf, Roborovski's hamster, which lives in Mongolia, and the Chinese dwarf. After extensive study, I can confirm the Jackie is definitely a Chinese hamster, which is seemingly quite rare. I know this because it has a longer tail than the Russian varieties, and a single dorsal stripe (for evidence of tail, dorsal stripe and gluttony, see below).

A wondrous discovery

In the course of my hamster–studies, I also read, with some alarm, about common hamster injuries and diseases. I discovered that it is quite common for hamsters to lose an eye or a limb, and that they can suffer from brain tumours, diarrhoea and something ominous known as wet tail. As if that wasn't bad enough, it seems that they sometimes they stuff things in their cheek pouches which then get stuck there. Moreover, it transpires that I should not have been feeding Jackie lettuce, as this may damage its liver, nor oranges, quite why I don't remember. On the plus side, I did learn that hamsters can be toilet trained and taught to respond to their names, though no major progress has been made in either of these directions. Clearly I am a neglectful hamster owner…


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