And Vanished

I am a lot more sanguine about the book this week than I have been for the past month. There’s been a lot of low-key freaking out about how much still needs to be done, and how close the deadline is for publication this year. As of this weekend, though, I have one more chapter to write and I’m at the point where I might have to eject some things from my outline to fit within the originally specified book length. Which is a rather nice position to be in! Let’s hope that I can continue the pace through June.

Wait, how did it get to be June?

Some big things this week in ‘lost media’ (and you know me, I do enjoy seeing YouTube clips filmed through Lucozade packaging). Firstly, the long-lost alternate ending of Quantum Leap:

Beth: You’ll find him.

Al: And what makes you so sure?

Beth: Because that’s what friends are for.


Secondly, an ITV sitcom that was so badly received that it was taken off the air after the second episode, and has never been shown since. Although Hardwicke House is absolutely terrible, one of the lost episodes features Rik & Ade doing a proto-Bottom routine and so has been something of a holy grail for UK comedy fans. And as of last week, the whole thing is now up on Youtube, sandwiched between episodes of The Dot Stop of Playdays.

I don’t recommend actually watching it, but fun to see it turning up in broadcast quality after being unavailable for 32 years…

Finally, as tomorrow seems to be the day that Apple sticks a knife in its back, I would like to declare that I may be the only person on the planet that doesn’t hate iTunes. I know, worse than Hitler…

Terminate with extreme prejudice

Chemical warfare works, people. Dead ants as far as the eye can see

This week, I settled into my 40s by having an exciting night going to a different supermarket…and going to the gym. Honestly, I don’t know how to contain myself with all this wild hedonistic fun. And I spent Saturday night watching World In Action episodes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Admit it, you’re jealous. Tonight? Tonight, it’s Columbo and deep learning papers. The life. Right here.

Anyway, June approaches. Now June is a sunny month and full of long days. Which would normally be great, but I’m about to enter a crunch period at work and on my book (available to order now on Amazon, coincidentally!). So I feel like instead of being outside enjoying the summer, I’ll be looking out of the windows as the sun sets every night. sigh Still, it could be worse. I feel like I’ll be happier come July or August, though.

Lastly, hurrah for a Bank Holiday Weekend! On both sides of the Atlantic for once.

Ant Farm

In contrast to last week, at least one major event happened this week, but I probably shouldn’t talk about it. It’s absolutely hilarious, mind you.


In other news, I seem to have an ant invasion. So many ants. They’re only little ones, but once they get into the hundred counts, that doesn’t help so much. sigh They’re happily eating all the poison, but instead of toddling off and dying, they just keep coming. Everything itches.

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But! Foxes! Maybe they can chase away the ants. Otherwise, I’m doing to continue to use an arsenal of chemical warfare against them…

The Phantom Holiday

It still feels odd to be working on a Bank Holiday. At least I get one at the end of the month, even if it’s not quite in sync with the Spring Bank Holiday. Besides, I was in the UK for Good Friday, and BBC1 didn’t even seem to care. Disgraceful behaviour! Standards have fallen! etc.

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A weekend of writing, chocolate-making, and a return to the Asian Food Festival! Which was in a different location this year, affording views of both concrete and the Roebling Bridge. Discovery of the day was probably Bánh xèo, which I will be attempting at home at some point.

Other than yesterday’s outing though, it has been a very quiet week. Boring 40s, ahoy! I’d like to say that things will be more exciting next week…but…

How About A Nice Game of Chess Instead?

There is, of course, the theory of it all. This is going to cost a lot of money and we will need to dig all around your basement. And you know that, have steeled yourself for it. It’s going to be okay.

Then the jackhammers kick in.

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The foreman talked to me on Tuesday and told me that he recommends that people don’t see what’s going on until the project is at least over half-way done. But I’d already gone downstairs, seen the carpets pulled back, the massive holes chipped into the sides of the house, the large trenches in the garage, the destruction in the bar. I didn’t even know you could pull that table in the bar out

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By the end of Thursday, they’re done and things do look better. The basement will still be a mess while the concrete cures, and I have to find somebody to re-lay the carpet. But maybe the house won’t leak anymore. And maybe the new iron bars on the foundation will stop the house from attempting to slip off it. Things won’t be quite the same again down there, but I guess that’s what you do when you own a house.

I eventually found where they’d put the bar table. As I tried to work out how I was going to put it back, I saw that previous occupants had left a mark to be discovered in times like this. I guess I’ll have to add to it before it goes back.

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To celebrate having something of a basement again, I watched the second greatest film in the world: WarGames1. I joke about how good this film is, but on this go-around, I think I was taken aback by…how WOPR uses the exact same methodology as things like AlphaGo and the OpenAI 5, even to the extent that one character talks about how it’s a ‘hallucination’ of a war., exactly the same way that PlaNet and similar techniques work for reinforcement learning.

Anyhow, you should watch WarGames again (and Sneakers from the same writers, which is actually a little better). It’s a shame however that Ally Sheedy’s character has so little to do - there’s a moment where she touches the computer screen and the film threatens to go off in a completely different direction, but 1983 and all that…

  1. The greatest film of course is the first 25 minutes of Transformers: The Movie. “Here, kids! All the characters you love die in terrible ways! Buy the new toys!” [return]

Flipping Over The Water Table

To celebrate having lived in Cincinnati for a year, I have spent the weekend moving everything away from the walls in the basement in preparation for a week’s worth of (quite expensive!) building work that purports to fix a) my water issues, and b) my previously-unknown foundation issues. What fun!

Other than that, a very uneventful week. I didn’t even leave the house until Thursday evening, and that was only because I had nothing to eat on Friday if I didn’t go shopping. I’d like to say that this allowed me to get lots of things done…but I hardly did anything. Decompression after London, perhaps.

But! I finally got around to making Detroit-style pizza, something that I’ve been itching to do for years:

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(thanks to Tammy for supplying me with the pan!)

More exciting updates next week as I relate how I share my house with a bunch of builders and still try to get work done!

You Ought To Tie Those

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For anybody reading who was also at university with me, yes, that really is David Warner signing “So do I” on a Titanic DVD as part of my 40th birthday presents from my sister. Apparently he was quite confused, but appreciated it when explained that it had developed into a university slogan. Ah, memories…

As I write this, it’s 25°C and I’m sitting on a blanket in the middle of Hyde Park as a rather fun weekend draws to a close. Some highlights!

  • Tammy being offered a cup of tea, declining, and then being given a cup of tea “just in case you change your mind.”
  • The 688 song playlist for the birthday party which sadly did not reach the amazing heights of selecting The Reynolds Girls or Transvision Vamp, but did open with the ever-cheery “I Trawl The Megahertz.”
  • My delightfully informative Endeavour-inspired tour of Oxford, with highlights such as “that’s an old building”, “that’s probably a college”, and “oops, this is the wrong way.”
  • Whilst delivering a passioned lecture in the shortcomings of the abomination that is the new Westgate Centre in Oxford, I slapped a woman in the face with my gesturing. I’m blaming it on the poor architectural choices.
  • Bicester Village seems to be gentrifying on a geometric scale. It was high-end when it opened, but now it seems to be approaching “oligarchs and people who like a big Pret” level of excess.
  • On that front, Pret is basically our equivalent of Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston, isn’t it? You can’t go 500m without bumping into one, especially in London. I also spotted the much rarer ‘Veggie Pret’ and ‘Petite Prets’ too!
  • The cats essentially moved out for the days we were there and then came back inside just as soon as they were satisfied that I had really left. A little harsh.
  • I know they warn you, but the 191 steps notice in Covent Garden doesn’t convey just how knackered you are by the time you reach the top.
  • My feeling is that we need to make cannabis legal so we can ban it properly from open area just like smoking. This is in no way coloured by the smells drifting across the Park right now. Although it’s hilarious that the Police have signs up saying “you will be arrested!” and people are literally walking around shirtless using bongs (it turns out that I didn’t realize what day Saturday was, did I?)
  • Indiana is quite flat. And so many wind turbines!
  • Of course, I went to the South Bank. Of course, I went to the booksellers. Of course, I looked at the Pelican books. I did move it up a notch though, as I made another tourist back off the Pelican I had briefly put back down to answer a text message. AJP TAYLOR IS MINE
  • I was in Queen Elizabeth Hall when the Mueller Report dropped.
  • We had an amazing 11-course meal in [Roganic]() that was probably better than Alinea or Next (quite cheaper, too!). Only slightly spoiled by an annoying American family next door that managed to demand massive changes to a tasting menu, hassle the staff to speed up service not once or twice but three times, and made comments about Michelle Obama’s arms. Not exactly the best neighbours.
  • I wore out the soles in Tammy’s shoes. I think that possibly beats the time when I made Richard walk the entire Las Vegas Strip.
  • Honestly, I did not realize before I booked that The Tower Hotel was a brutalist outpost on the Thames. Totally a coincidence, I swear. Would have been nice if the A/C had been working properly, but oh such concrete! Also a place where you can take pictures like this that make you think a Victorian East End child in rags is just out of shot.

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  • Tattooing may take longer than originally estimated!
  • My Mum will never forgive me for willingly going on the picnic in the park.
  • Using Apple Pay around London really feels like living in the future. I’ve barely had to get my actual credit card out. That will all change as we head back to the Land of Terrible Banking Choices.
  • I introduced Tammy to both Pointless and Meal Deals, so she’s much less of a tourist! Though she did walk on the right in the Tube…
  • Cakes & Bubbles was good, but ultimately disappointing, considering what Adria has done elsewhere. I liked the chocolate/yuzu/coconut flower quite a bit, but everything else was a little “…and?”
  • The Underground is just so much better than anything DC or NYC has to offer. Even if Tower Hill was shut for the weekend.
  • I approve of the increased incidence of the 1970s/80s NASA logo that people have been wearing around the city. Down with the meatball!
  • Dishoom’s naan rolls are just as good as we remembered. Once the cookbook makes its way to Cincinnati this autumn, there will be many of them in our future. So so many.
  • In contrast to the ruins and the sold-off, it was nice to see some council houses that are still owned by the people. Balfron, on the other hand, is a total disgrace.

All in all, then, a good trip. Feel like I could do with a few more days, but I think also that Tammy would have killed me if I made her walk even further. She only had light bruising on her feet from her boots, honest!

Tomorrow, we get in a plane and the long flight home. Well, to Chicago, as there’s still a four hour car trip back to Ohio after that!

And upon arrival: my goodness, this house is big, isn’t it?

“Goodbye To All That”

It’s going to be a quiet April here on the blog; I’m not going to have access to my amazing blog-publishing pipeline1 while I’m in the UK, so if you want immediate updates, you’ll need to catch me on either Twitter or Instagram. And by ‘immediate updates’, I of course mean all the photos of the National Theatre and the rest of the South Bank that you can stomach.

This last blog post of my 30s is therefore underwhelming and something of a disappointment.

comedy pause

Actually, no, I think my 30s were pretty good, to be honest. Let’s hope that continues into the 40s.

I instead leave you with a picture of a cat holding onto some socks.

See you later in the month!

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  1. Basically Hugo and a set of terrible scripts while every time I upload, I whisper to myself “I should put this all onto S3, you know”, which I normally spend an hour looking into every April when the hosting bill comes around. On the other hand, I’ve been with this hosting company since 2002 and inertia is such a powerful thing… [return]

“The Blake's 7 Anti-Cat Device, and Frank”

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Yes, it has got a little ridiculous, but the cat has to be kept out of the basement at the moment until it relearns that it’s not supposed to go to the bathroom on the carpet, so of course we created something that looks like it came out of Series B of Blake’s 7 to keep Helvetica out. You’d be surprised how well it works.

And Frank. So Being Frank was released in the UK this weekend, but in a twist of fate, it’s already out on Amazon Prime Video here in the US. And it’s…well, you know everything that I hold on to about Britain in these times of fascists walking the streets and Brexit? Frank Sidebottom is that. Britain: “it’s crap in a funky skillo type of way.” There’s something about Sievey and Sidebottom that could really only happen in Britain. This absolute lunacy was given free rein on Saturday morning TV, touched so many of our lives and we never really appreciated just how lucky we were to have that craziness touch us until he’d gone.

And Panic On The Streets Of Timperley is better than Panic. Less racist for a sodding start.

It’s silly, I know, but Being Frank is everything I love about my country and everything I miss, even though most of it doesn’t exist any more. A world where a papier-mâché man-child sent you hand-written sheets of A4 via SASE, a world of Little Frank and Little Denise, insanely indulgent sets on Yorkshire Television, and a staple of all the shows you only watched because Going Live and Live & Kicking had terrible cartoons on in the 90s.

And yet it was never weird? It was just Frank Sidebottom. You never gave any real thought that it was strange to have this character jumping about the TV screen. He was just…there? Part of the country. Until he wasn’t.

Also, I had forgotten, until Jon Ronson pointed it out, that I had contributed to Sievey’s funeral. A time when Twitter was less of a nightmare device where everybody takes cover in the morning during Fox & Friends

“A Lost Week”

Psoriasis flares are fun. Inverse psoriasis flares even more so. Without being too graphic about it, it took me until Wednesday to sit down comfortably. Which has meant something of a lost week, to be honest, in both work and non-work avenues. Admittedly, I did make around 10 desserts last weekend, so a come-down period might have been necessary. Just wish it was one that was not quite as painful.

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In happier news, we finally got to visit the Gold Top Dairy Bar this week! In addition to having a website that looks like it has stepped out from a GeoCities account in 1997, it’s a charming old-school soft-serve ice-cream parlour that has no time for your fancy Vietnamese Coffee flavours or what-not, but it will dip your cone in chocolate. And the staff are almost all teenagers that look like they’ve stepped out of 1977, just like the signage. And of course there’s a drive-thru option.

(I’m given to understand that Cincinnati has quite a few of these type of places dotted around, so maybe I’ll explore a little further when it warms up some in the months to come)

And just one week of March left. And about three weeks left of being in my 30s.