Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Grimm Tale

Are you sitting comfortably? Good - then I'll begin. I've just been on Facebook (doesn't everyone check their notifications as soon as they get up for work? No? Oh.) and somebody's status update about a nappy and a shit-covered child reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years back that I have very scarcely spoken of. I now believe though, that the time has come for me to disclose the details of said incident - and where better to do it than here, on my very own blog? It's sort of like when the Ministry of Defence decides to release details of UFO sightings by 'terrified' British Airways pilots 15 years after the event, only without the threat to national or global security.

OK, here goes - and please bear in mind that the various people depicted in this story still do not know any of this and I have changed their names to protect their identities.

A few years ago, when I was back in Manchester on leave, I arranged to meet up with a friend that we'll call Kevin. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I had agreed to go down to the flat that he shared with his long-term After a bit of a chat about what we'd both been up to and watching of a bit of TV, it was decided (as is the norm on a sunny Saturday afternoon), that a trip to the local boozer was in order - so off we went.

I can't really remember the order of events that fateful day, but I seem to remember seeing various faces from the past, multiple pints of ale being thrown down my neck at a rate of knots, and getting very, very pissed. Obscenely pissed, maybe. We then decided to go into Manchester city centre at some point in the evening to continue the bender and maybe go to a club. Then it sort of goes fuzzy.

Cut to the next morning. I awake in a state of half undress in the single bed in Kevin's spare room. The curtains are closed, but due to their (possibly) pound-shop origins, the bright sunlight outside has no problem penetrating them and virtually blinding me as I stir. As I lie there in a state of head-banging semi-consciousness, the reassuring notion that maybe - just maybe - I hadn't done anything stupid the night before crept into my head.

At this point I'd just like to state that this was particularly welcome because I - on my own admission - tend to act like a bit of a bell end when I've had a few too many beers. I don't really partake in anything sinister, like fighting or vandalising stuff etc; no - I usually just make up outlandish lies for no apparent reason in an attempt to impress people. And usually just end up looking like a bit of a cunt. But I digress. This particular morning, I had no feelings of dire regret - just a skull-splitting hangover.

Things, though, were about to go downhill. After wallowing there for about 20 minutes I realised that I didn't have my jeans on. Fair enough - I was in bed. Then I realised I had no boxer shorts on either, which was slightly more bizarre. I sat up in the bed and looked around the room. Due to the slightly laizzez-faire nature of Kevin's interior decor, the room resembled an Oxfam shop that had recently been hit by Al Qaeda - there were discarded clothes everywhere. I scanned my surroundings and located my jeans on the floor by the door and my boxer shorts a little further away. Why I had taken them off, I still didn't know. So I sat up, pulled off the blanket and prepared to get up. And then I saw the devastation.

I had shat the bed. Not just the bed, mind - I had literally shat the room. There were clods of shite all over the sheet and the underside of the bedspread. Even worse, trails of brown ran down the side of the divan and culminated in an almighty dollop of faeces on the carpet by the side of the bed at exactly the same latitude as where my arse would have been if I'd been lying down. I did the math: I must've needed a crap during the night, decided that I didn't need to visit the bog like a regular human, and just hung my ass over the side of the bed and opened the torpedo tubes.

Never, in all my days on this planet have I sobered up as quickly as I did that morning. I jumped out of bed, still semi-naked and covered in shite, threw my jeans on and rolled up the boxer shorts and bedding into a macabre poo-filled swiss roll. I then proceded to the bins outside the apartment block and stuffed said blanket into the furthest-away wheelie bin I could find. After legging it back upstairs and scooping the carpet-based turd up with newspaper and kitchen towel (which I then 'cleverly' discarded in a different bin to conceal any evidence), I located some bleach and Febreeze under the sink and began scrubbing and spraying the carpet in an attempt to banish the big brown stain. The cloths and sponges I was using quickly became fetid and the smell of the scat was overpowering. Kevin, meanwhile, was still in bed with Kate and I figured that due to the lack of noise coming from their room that they were still asleep. I opened a window to let some of the noxious fumes escape and, thankfully, the stain was fading rapidly as I pounded it with more and more Sainsbury's own-brand multi-purpose bleach.

I made another trip to the bin to dispose of another brown sponge and was beginning to think I might actually be able to clean up all the 'mess' before Kevin even stirred. These hopes were dashed when I re-entered the flat to find him stood at the door of the spare bedroom in his dressing gown, with a confused look on his face. The smell in the flat was barbaric - the fact that I'd opened a window only amplified the stench as the breeze carried it out of the spare room and dispersed it, but Kevin appeared not to notice (!). "Aw man - what have you done, Tom?" He slurred. " up mate...sorry."

He entered the room, still apparently oblivious to the overpowering odour of death permeating every pore. He sat down on the bedding-less bed. "Shit Tom," he began without a hint of irony, "I even put a bucket down for you...couldn't you have spewed in that?" He pointed at the pale blue, sparkling clean washing-up bowl by the bedside table. "Sorry mate," I repeated "I got some on your covers too so I just put them in the bin...I'll go into town later and buy you some new bedding."

Kevin sat there staring at the brown stain, the smell of shit whirling around us like some angry daemon. "No worries you want a brew?" He got up and shuffled off into the kitchen.

What. The. Fuck. How had he not rumbled me? How, with a big brown stain on the beige carpet (why is everyone's carpet fucking beige?!) and with the nostril-singeing bouquet of human faeces all around us, did he not rumble me? I didn't stay around to find out. "No mate," I replied, "I'm just gonna get off home and have a shower." Which I did.

Kevin has since moved out of that flat and is still with his girlfriend, and I still see him every time I go back to Manchester. He has never mentioned the described incident and neither had I - until now.

Hopefully, this blog will never attract his attention...

...and if it does - sorry mate!

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Man from the Pre

So my new phone turned up in the post. Surprisingly quickly, actually - and in a totally undamaged state. I saw a documentary the other week about Royal Mail and was pretty disgusted (although not exactly surprised) at the way postal workers treat our mail. Opening birthday cards and stealing the inevitable cash inside; chucking parcels about like rugby's a fucking disgrace. However, as previously stated, my new mobile telephony device arrived in perfectly good order. Well done, postie.

It's a Palm Pre. Here's what it looks like:

Now, some people who know a bit about mobile phones may think I'm a bit of a knob for swapping my all-singing, all dancing HTC HD2 for this handset. However, even though it is technically inferior I believe that the Palm Pre could be the new 'best phone I've ever owned.' Why? Well, it's in the subtlety of the thing. When I first unboxed it and turned it on, I was slightly underwhelmed by the simplicity of the OS and the comparatively basic features: text messaging, web, email...a few memo and calendar programs and the most threadbare options menu you've ever seen. But then I dug a little deeper. There's an 'app store' where every single app is free. The phonebook pulls in contact details from your Facebook account and merges all the duplicates you already had on your sim card.

Palm offer 'over the air' OS updates that continue to improve speed and stability of the operating system almost monthly. A good example of this is how the Palm Pre I have now does not have the ability to record video through it's 3 megapixel camera, but the next update will reportedly add this feature to the OS. I personally find this level of support from a manufacturer very impressive because it shows that they not only have faith in the hardware and continue to push it, but that they also give a shit about improving the experience for owners of their device. The same simply cannot be said of HTC.

I went onto the HTC website numerous times with the sole aim of updating the ROM on my HD2, only to be constantly confronted with error messages and such like. And that leads me to another aspect of the Palm Pre that I'm massively impressed with: everything just works. It doesn't freeze, the apps you download run perfectly and even YouTube runs smoother that it ever did on the HD2. Granted, the jitters I had viewing videos on the HTC could be levelled at the crapness of the O2 network (again), but I've been using the Palm in the same location as I used the HD2 and the quality and speed of the downloads/web browsing speed is vastly superior.

This thing came with my Palm Pre:

It's called a Touchstone and is essentially a wireless charging device. You change the standard battery cover for the Touchstone one and then you can just stick your Pre to the 'dock' part and it will charge up without the need for plugging wires etc in. It may seem like an insignificant feature of the Pre, but in practice it becomes invaluable. I've certainly never been able to just throw my mobile onto the windowcill and have it charge up, and then just be able to grab it again if somebody rings. Like I said, the beauty is in the simplicity.

Oh yeah, and the Palm has a proper QWERTY keyboard, so everybody's happy. Well, I am. Right. No more boring posts about new gadgets. For now.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Facebook of Psalms

Yep - it's been more than a fortnight and I've not written anything down. No particular reason, other than that I simply couldn't be bothered trying to get online. To wit: it really annoys me that getting online in this day and age is seen as a privilege as opposed to a right of living in the so-called 'digital age.' I remember when I was at secondary school in the time before the world went online mental. IT lessons were the only time you ever got near the internet (usually to check cheats and other such game-rated shite), and because stuff like Facebook, Hotmail, eBay etc didn't exist then, it wasn't overly important. And because of this lack of importance, the fact that the only way to get on the internet seemed to be a few stolen minutes in an IT lesson didn't matter. Fast forward to now though, and little seems to have changed - for me, at least. Trying to get the internet up on my phone inevitably leads to constant 'page error' messages, whilst trying to access a wifi hotspot on my laptop almost always leads down the dead-end, pot-holed lane of 'lack of connectivity;' or the appearance of one of those BT Openzone pages where you have to pay £6000 with a credit card for 3 minutes of internet access. Alas, in a parallel to my earlier internet experiences, the only time I seem to be able to actually get online with a decent, reliable (yet censored) connection is a few stolen minutes at work every now and then (like right this minute, for example). And yet still we are being coerced into thinking we live in some highly advanced, hi-speed online world. Come and live with me for a week. Not only will you learn to live on a diet of Cornflakes, toast and lager - you'll also learn that trying to get online appears to be more trouble than it's worth.

But enough ranting about that. In the time gulf between now and my last post, a few things have happened. Perhaps the biggest thing is that I finally managed to move into an actual house. It's not an exclusive, me-only house though. It's another shared one. However, unlike the one I lived in down in Portsmouth the landlord is a live-in one and so actually possesses the right to turn up at the house when he wants and sleep on the couch. The last landlord didn't live in the house, yet still partook in this activity. Which, as you can imagine, was a bone of contention with me. No, this house is infinitely better than that hole. It's massive, has a top view of Weymouth/Portland Harbour and I'm living with a good, varied bunch of people. Really can't complain. For now. I also got my first ever valentines card yesterday (which wasn't sent to me by myself), which is a result!

Tech news: I'm swapping my new phone. Yes, I harped on about the HTC HD2 a few weeks ago, and I still think it's one of the best gadgets I've ever owned. The only problem I have with it is the touchscreen interface. I'm forever texting and on Facebook (when it loads, fucking shitty O2 network), so a good input method is a must for any phone I own. This is really where the HD2 falls down for me. For obvious reasons, the keyboard you have to use is a software one that pops up on the screen when writing. It must be the buggiest input device on the planet. 5 times out of every 10, it will not register the letter you are trying to press and even with the predictive word suggestion (which is a godsend, by the way), it's still all too easy to end up writing a sentence of complete and utter gobble-de-gook when all you wanted to say was 'crypto-zoology.' It's even worse if you're outside in the blistering cold. For some reason, the capacitive touchscreen doesn't like the cold weather, so trying to text in such conditions truly is a test of patience. The only thing stopping me from hurling the bastard thing at the pavement at times was the knowledge that it's worth about £400. I thought about going into the O2 shop near my new gaff to see if they'd swap it for another handset with a keyboard, but abandoned that because I knew what the answer would be. So instead, I went back to my old friend

Lo and behold - I have found the perfect replacement for my HD2 - the Palm Pre. Whilst it doesn't look even half as technically advanced as the HD2, it has one massive advantage: a proper qwerty keyboard! It's also a bonafide smartphone with all the bells and whistles you could want (including the coveted YouTube app that I've been abusing (when it works)). So I've arranged a one for one swap with a guy who wants rid of his Palm. It comes with a fairly nifty little charger that allows you to simply place the phone on the charging 'block' without actually plugging it in. Sounds pretty cool. I should have it by the end of the week, so I'll post my views as and when.

Speaking of that swapz website, I got my Nintendo DS. To say it's addictive is an understatement, especially since it came with a thing called an R4 cartridge that is in effect a device that allows you to put roms on an Micro SD card and then play them on the DS. Since I acquired the DS, I msut have played nearly every major DS games there is...and I'm impressed. I used to have a PSP and granted, whilst the visuals of most of the games are far superior to any on the DS, I have to admit that having the touch screen adds an extra dimension to a lot of them. Most impressive for me is the way that a lot of the first person shooters use the d-pad and touch screen as a mouse and keyboard substitute. So you use your left thumb to move around and your left index finger to fire (via the left shoulder button), whilst you control the view with the stylus and touch screen. Intuitive - especially in Metroid Prime: Hunters. Furthermore, the range of different games available for the DS is staggering. From games where you have to survive on a desert island (Lost in Blue), beat em ups (Viewtiful Joe), racers (Mario Kart) and crime sims (Crime Scene) to slightly more bizarre things like a game called Scribblenauts where you get to solve puzzles by 'drawing' items - every gamer is catered for. Seriously though, the sheer number of genres represented is amazing - I for one never thought I'd be playing an air traffic control game on a handheld console before I got my DS. It's a brilliant console, and even has wifi capabilities...not that I've been able to use the wifi, or access any of the multi-player modes in any of the games. See paragraph 1 for details.