Sunday, 28 February 2010


As you know, when I buy something, I always check the packaging, read any manuals, etc, before using or eating the product. This ensures not only that I get the full benefit of my purchase, but also that I am completely aware of any potential issues that might arise from its use.

My printer stopped working the other day. Because it was a cheap one that cost less than the replacement ink cartridges, repair was out of the question. As luck would have it, my local supermarket is currently selling hp all-in-one-wireless-photosmart-printer-scanner-copier-coffee-makers for half the usual price. So in addition to green beans, washing liquid and toilet rolls, my weekly shop also included the Photosmart C4780.

In addition to printing, it has a scanner. I've never had a scanner before. It means that I will no longer have to photograph product package warnings that I want to post on my blog about 50 times before I get a picture where the text hasn't been totally wiped out by the flash. The picture below was produced using this scanning technology.

The package in question was a free pack of HP Premium Plus photo paper. Now, I know what you're thinking. How can paper possibly be dangerous? Perhaps there'll be a warning about paper cuts. Maybe it's not a good idea to eat it.

We're all familiar with warnings such as "May contain nuts", but I wasn't aware that Swiss products might be dangerous. Other than Swiss Army knives, of course. And Swiss cheese can cause problems if you leave it in the sun for too long. But I'm not sure about swiss photo paper. Perhaps some people suffer fatal anaphylactic shocks when coming into contact with Swiss products? Maybe it's something in that clear mountain air? I've searched through all three sheets of the free paper, but I can't find any hidden switches that launch corkscrews out of the side, or any sign of mouldy cheese.

Anyway, now that I'm suitably forewarned, I shall handle this product with extreme caution and seek immediate medical attention if anything unusual develops on the photo paper.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

My Week

Things I did not do this week:

I did not get stranded on a makeshift life raft, almost starve to death and then have to give myself a makeshift enema from the only non-salty fluid which I was able to gather up, consisting of fish blood and other less savoury ingredients.

I did not have any time off sick. In contrast to the beginning last week, when I was still recovering from my near-death experience of catching one of Helena's colds.

I did not manage to find a way to emigrate to Greece without going bankrupt. Though I'm not giving up hope. Perhaps they'll consider sending me there as part of some future EU recovery programme. "We're sorry, Mr Papandreou, but we don't have €22bn in ready cash to bail your country out right now, but Brian says he's worked out a way to beat your deficit." Admittedly my idea of acquiring a time machine, going into the future and back and then making a killing on the horses isn't the most original, but it's still pretty sound, I reckon. Certainly more sound than the stock market these days...

EU Rescue package

Things I did do this week:

I did get my car taxed and insured for another year. This always seems to happen at a time of year when my finances aren't great, so I've had to make some tough economic sacrficies. A bit like the Greeks. However by making sure I ate something every other day, I've managed to avoid that enema thing.

I did book my car in for its annual service and MOT. Which means that I won't be eating that well in March, either.

I did waste many hours playing "The Feasibility Experiment". That's one of those 1980s text-based adventure games, which I never had the patience for when they first came out. I think I'm almost there with this one, though.

I did finish reading Agatha Christie's "They Do it with Mirrors". I correctly guessed the murderer's identity, which makes me wonder if I've read it before, years ago.

Thing I almost did this Week:

I almost bought the American remake of Taxi on DVD. It was on special offer in one of the shops, but before I parted with my hard earned cash, I had a look on IMDb. Not all of the reviews are bad, but here are some of the comments:

Its a mess, a real mess.

If you're thinking of seeing this movie and haven't seen the French one, please, do yourself a favor. See the original.

Avoid this film at all costs

A major disappointment

We just caught with it thanks to a borrowed DVD and we are so happy we didn't have to pay to watch this "masterpiece".

Like Roger Ebert once stated about a movie, I'll use his words to state this one: (This movie)isn't even the bottom of the barrel, it doesn't even scrape the bottom of barrel. It doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as barrels.

I make myself believe that I've seen worse but I have doubts.


This film is one of the worst films i have ever seen

Perhaps if people boycott movies like this we may be rewarded with originality rather than attempted cash cows.

If you've any sense at all then you'll run a mile from this hugely disappointing waste of your time.

I'll start by saying that this movie is one of the worst movies if not THE worst movie I've ever seen.

This is not a movie. This is a crime against French cinema.

I got this as a free rental, and even then, I felt ripped off.

This is truly one of those remakes that never should have been made.

The overall marking is 4.2 out of 10. It's that high because not everyone marked it with 1 - someone gave it 10 because "everyone else gave it a 1". I wasn't persuaded by this argument and decided to spend the money on alcohol instead. Consequently, this evening I sipped claret and watched the original French Taxi film, which gets 6.8 on IMDb.

It's very funny, and the driving sequences are amazingly realistic. Nothing looks speeded up and the roads seem convincingly busy. The Franco-German rivalry stuff probably loses a bit in the translation. In the end, the French taxi driver in the Peugeot beats the German criminals in their Mercedes, but the hot-policewoman-love-interest is German, and the French police are totally incompetent, so it's not all one-sided.

Next week, I have plans to do at least as many exciting things, not to mention hopefully solving "The Feasibility Experiment". And as always, I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, 18 February 2010


First I have to start with an apology. It's been over a week since I last posted. I know. I should feel really bad about this.

After all, I know that many of you rely on this blog as a source of useful information, of advice and helpful tips on the main burning issues of the day. And I've been amazed by the number of readers who have been asking me how they should be preparing for that most burning of issues. The end of the world. I've lost track of exactly how many of you have asked about this, but it's somewhere between zero and one.

The End is Nigh

If you visit the cinema regularly, you'll know that the End is scheduled to happen on 21st December 2012. There are several totally unrefutable indicators of this.

Out of Time

Firstly, and most importantly, the current Mayan calendar will end on the 20th. Don't listen to the naysayers who point out that the Mayan calendar has ended 11 times already in the past, a bit like our calendar ends every year. They might also mention that the Mayans underestimated the length of a year by about 6 hours, thus questioning the competence of their calendar makers. Some crackpots even suggest their failure to predict that the Spanish would turn up and wreck their civilisation casts doubt on their ability to foresee major events. This is rubbish. Even the Mayans couldn't overlook the End of the World.

The Coming of Nibiru

Then there's an out of control planet that might collide with the Earth on the fated day. It's got some funky-sounding New Age name, which is a sure-fire sign that it means business. Although the scientists are all denying that it even exists, there are plenty of anonymous people on the internet who say that the scientists are being bribed by retailers who don't want to lose vital pre-Christmas sales in 2012. And who would you rather believe?

Cancel Your Insurance Policies

So having proved beyond any doubt that the End is Nigh, what should we do about it? Assuming that the planet Zog, or whatever it's called smashes into the Earth, the answer is nothing. We'll all be wiped out like the dinosaurs. The trouble is, that it might not actually hit us. Which means that we have to assume that we might need to survive beyond the End. After all, you'll feel pretty stupid if you wake up on the 22nd, presumably feeling like shit after all the End of the World Partying, and after you've cursed Fate for making you suffer the one hangover in your life that you thought you were going to avoid, you realise that you haven't got any food left. And more importantly beer.

Every Man for Himself.

Your government isn't going to help you. Bastards. Apparently they want to avoid a mass panic. You might be alright if you live in Norway, since there's a massive bunker-building effort to ensure that all the important Norwegians survive to carry on civilisation. All right, maybe it's not massive. Luckily for those of us who aren't important Norwegians, the anonymous folk on the internet have produced a carefully thought out survival plan.

So there you go. All you have to do is make sure that between now and 2012 you have moved to somehwere inland (with a basement) that doesn't have any trees. Or volcanoes. I'd suggest that you do this sooner rather than later, as property prices in the Sahara will no doubt rocket in the next 2 years. And make sure that you buy a decent kitchen knife. And stockpile green beans and seeds. Popcorn is about to become even more extortionately expensive than it is already.

And invite some friends to stay, to ensure that if you do survive you won't be the only person left on the planet who doesn't speak Norwegian.

Oh, and don't forget a tin-opener.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Ever since man discovered fire, and how much easier and nicer it was to eat bison after it had been heated up, he has been fascinating with the way that things change when you cook them.

At first, man was interested in the way that animals and plants which you wouldn't dream of eating raw suddenly became appetising.

Cooking is an essential part of the beer making process

Only by letting his imagination run wild could he discover things like popcorn. After all, who'd have thought that little seeds that would break your teeth if you tried to eat them would, with the simple application of some heat, turn into one of America's favourite foods?

In the 21st century, the pioneers of cooking have given up with log fires, and moved on to microwaves. One group of experimenters have made hundreds of youtube videos, including this one of an iphone:

People have zapped everything from Barbie to a whole load of fireworks. As far as I can tell, none of the results are very edible, but one day they might find the next best thing since popcorn.

Well, all right, they'll probably have killed themselves first.

Incidentally, when Apple learned that people were microwaving their product, they came up with a version that can't be zapped because it's too big to fit into your average consumer oven. And I hope they've added a suitable health warning to their packaging.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Staying Alive...

I said in an early post that one of my aims this year was to live to be forty. I've no idea what time I was born, so I have to survive for another 8 to 32 hours yet. Whether or not I'll make it is another matter...

A few weeks back someone was telling me about a colleague of theirs whose very high pain threshold meant that she almost died of apendicitis, because she hadn't sought help when the first symptoms appeared.

For a couple of weeks I've been in some abdominal discomfort, and so I turned to that well-known medical journal, Wikipedia. I was relieved to find that it was talking about pains on the right side of the abdomen, as mine were on the left. So it was probably stress after all. Just then, I realised that my pains were on the right as well.

I decided I should talk to someone, and so I phoned NHS Direct. The nurse said that as I wasn't screaming in agony, and didn't have a spreading pain on my left I probably wasn't about to expire, and nor was a trip to the hospital necessary, but I should see a GP sometime soon. Just then the pain on my left started spreading.

I went to see a GP this afternoon. She prodded me, listened to all the other near-death experiences I've had over the last couple of years and then said that she didn't think I had apendicitis. "I could be wrong, of course." she added reassuringly. Her advice was that I wait a couple of weeks, and if I'm (a) still alive and (b) still hurting, it might warrant further tests.

The last time I went to see her was several years ago when I suspected that I had broken my neck in my sleep. I'd read that sometimes people break their neck and are walking around quite normally, but one slighly wrong movement of the head and they're dead. She didn't agree with my diagnosis. "So I'm not going to drop dead, then?" I asked. "Well we never know," she answered. My neck healed in a matter of days. All that time these doctors spend training obviously pays off.

Anyway, rather than tempt fate I'm not going to start celebrating my birthday until the day after tomorrow. That way I'm covered if it turns out that I was born at one minute to midnight. Having said that, I've just been shopping and have enough food to last me into next week, should I last into next week. However, that's not really tempting fate. It's an insurance policy against starvation.

In the meantime, I'm struggling on. Laughing in the face of death (but not too hard, in case I rupture something). Sneering at the Scythe. After all, when you're old enough to remember Grease and Saturday Night Fever, you have to take a philisophical attitude to birthdays...