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Saturday, July 30, 2005

All over (well almost).

So, Friday was the date of my official leaving do. Twenty of us traipsed to our local for a long lunch, and very nice it was to. It wasn't as emotional as I thought it would be -in part because I am going to be floating around the lab for the next few weeks writing a paper and finishing a few last experiments to tie up loose ends. Then there is the process of cataloguing the myriad of strains, genetic constructs and data sets that I have accumulated over the past few years (and tidying my bench - shudder). Despite the short notice (I only sent an email on monday) my workmates (old and new) had arranged a very generous whip-round. Knowing me as well as they do, they didn't even bother asking what I wanted - because they knew that I would have no idea. So instead I received a couple of very lovely souvenirs and mementoes that will adorn whatever desk I eventually end up occupying and then they gave me the rest as a chunk of cash - probably far more useful to me at the moment.

In time-honoured fashion, I was required to give a speech. After initially demuring, I produced 4 sheets of densely typed A4 paper to a chorus of groans and shouts of "right I'm off" - just as well really, it was actually a printout of a paper I was reading that I had slipped into my pocket before leaving the lab. Always start with a gag I say! In the end all I simply had to say was that as I look to the future, my biggest worry is that I won't find a group of workmates with whom I am so happy.

And that's the truth. Despite the stresses caused by SWMNBN and her poorly thought out project, with almost no exceptions this group are wonderful to work with. Over the years we have had literally dozens of visitors from across the planet. All of them, without exception, have commented on the positive and friendly atmosphere in the lab. The group email list is inundated with best wishes at christmas from people who may have only spent 3 weeks with us, 5 years previously. More than a few emailed in the aftermath of the London attacks to say that they were thinking and praying that our city wouldn't be next - particularly touching coming from colleagues who's own countries are wracked with far worse terrorist atrocities on a regular basis. And I now officially have offers of accomodation from every continent on earth, bar Antarctica, should I ever plan a world tour.

There will be a few more unofficial leaving dos over the next couple of weeks, as workmates who were on holiday or at a conference have insisted that I let them take me for a pint... oh well, if you insist...

I suspect however, that the day I finally hand in my security card for the last time, I may have slightly blurred vision...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A week of ups and downs

Wow, what a week!

It kicked off with the shock news that contrary to my belief, my contract at work expired at the beginning of July, rather than the end. Aggghhhhh! Oh my god! No pay cheque at the end of the month! Panic ensued...

It got even worse. I opened my mailbox to find an envelope headed with the logo from the university that I was interviewed at the previous week. It was suspiciously thin.
"We'd like to thank you for attending the interview last week. Unfortunately, we have decided to offer the position to a candidate." Blah, blah, blah, "We wish you all the best for the future. However, we would urge you to contact us for feedback regarding the interview."

I was pretty depressed as you can imagine.

From then on, things started to look up slowly. Firstly, I was able to get both of my credit card late-payment charges waived. A small victory, but grab them while you can I say. The mailbox also contained two cheques for travel expenses that I had been waiting for. Good, I may be needing that cash, now I am unemployed.

Anyways, there was no point moping around at home, when I still had 2 weeks worth of experiments planned. My first instinct had been to raise my middle finger and fuck off, never to be seen again. But commonsense prevailed - these experiments are the bow that tie up my project and are essential for the paper I am writing. Plus, I need the boss to write me favourable references.

So with some trepidation, I phoned my interviewer. What am I doing wrong? I was confident that the interview had gone really well and the thought that there is something fundamentally wrong with my interview technique is pretty daunting.

"I'm glad you called! First of all, I am really sorry that I couldn't give you the job. Truly. You may not want to hear this, but the panel had all but decided to give you the job since you were head and shoulders above the other candidates - but then the final candidate came in, with a whole load of experience in a key technique - and we had to go with them."

Well that was a relief! I asked if there was anything at all that I could do to improve my performance in other interviews and the interviewer was adamant "Do not change a single thing. All of your interviews and your presentation were perfect. The other candidate was simply better qualified."

Well that was a much needed ego boost.

It got better though. Firstly the interviewer asked that I consider them in future when applying for grants, they would be very interested in co-writing one. Not terribly useful in the short term as I need a job, but definitely something to bear in mind in a couple of years. Then they called my attention to another job going at another institute. Somehow this had slipped beneath my radar when I was searching Even better, they know the person offering the job personally and promised to phone them up and sing my praises! That is well beyond the call of duty and I am very touched by their kindness. I've missed the application deadline (by about 2 days), but I applied anyway and I am waiting to hear if I get an interview.

Overall, I am obviously very disapointed that I didn't get the job. However, I am strangely comforted by the fact that the "best man won". And of course that individual is outof the running now... I have heard on the grapevine that the previous job I was interviewed for was already a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately, it is a requirement that publically-funded institutes advertise all of their jobs externally, even if you have already decided to give it to a loyal and highly-qualified PhD student. I see nothing wrong with that sort of "nepotism" - but it is annoying that the hopes are raised of other candidates.

Regarding, my current employment situation. My boss was as surprised as I was that my contract ended, and managed to find me some new funding to see me to the end of the month. I also get redundancy pay, so my rent is paid for.

However, I am unemployed from friday. So today was my last "progress" meeting with SWMNBN. It went surprisingly well. With nothing else to occupy my time over the next few weeks I will be writing papers for free - so SWMNBN was all sweetness and light - well she was hardly going to piss me off was she?

So that's it. My leaving do is Friday, and I have already been told (in the nicest possible way) to "piss off" so I know that my workmates are planning something. I'll blog about it when my hangover is over at the weekend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to delay this message and have it as a Wednesday Wanker - but hey, I'm stuck in the lab all night, so what's a man to do?

No. 27. Users of phone sex and porno text services.

I am a passionate believer that what one or more consenting adults do with their genitals in private is their business and no one elses. Nevertheless I reserve the right to laugh and poke fun at them if I find it weird or amusing. Hypocritical? So sue me.

What sort of a sad twat actually uses these services? After about midnight on Channel 5 or shitty Freeview crap like Men and Motors, pretty much every advert is for phone sex. Typically, the advert will feature a blonde bimbo (almost invariably - equal opportunity doesn't appear to have reached phone sex yet. Brunettes appear to be rare, red-heads rarer still and women wearing Burqhas are scandalously under-represented), lying on the sofa in a short skirt. She is flirting on the phone. How do we know this? Because she is twirling the phone cable between her fingers and stroking her thighs casually, whilst repeatedly throwing her head back and laughing. We don't know what she is actually saying (if there are any lip-readers out there, please - I'd love to know!), because an asthmatic sounding woman is breahlessly informing us that one of these lovely girls is just waiting to take your call.


Who the fuck actually believes that those implausibly attractive models are actually employed by the company to talk to sad fucks (sorry) customers? People complain about call centres out-sourcing jobs to India. I strongly suspect that these companies out-source their jobs to bored 50-something women with moustaches and varicose veins, or fat hairy men called Kevin with a voice-modulator and halitosis.

I mean don't get me wrong - a bit of dirty talking down the phone can be fun. But it's a lot more fun when you know what the smooth thighs that she is sliding her panties down actually look like. Ahem.

Even more weird are the new porno services. For several quid a month they will text you pictures of naked women (and presumably naked men if that floats your boat) on a semi-regular basis. What the fuck? Are people mad? Quite aside from the fact that I am told that there is tons of free porn on the internet (I wouldn't know, obviously) - who in god's name wants to strangle the one-eyed-trouser-snake over their mobile phone? Further, not only do you have to perform one or other operation with your left hand, I've just measured the (average-sized) screen on my phone and it is 3.5 by 4.5 centimetres (about 1.4 by 1.8 inches for the metrically challenged). God help you if your tastes run toward Pamela Anderson or Jordan - you'd have to scroll or zoom out.

The adverts were amusing the first time I saw them, but pretty soon they become irritating. What's worse, they play that music only found in seventies porno-flicks. That sort of slow saxophone crap, that makes you turn the volume down for fear that the neighbours will think that you've been perusing the top shelves in Blockbuster Video again.

However, like spammers, these services would not exist unless people actually paid for them. So the Twat award goes to the sad bastards that actually pay for them. You know who you are - as does your mobile phone service provider.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Beamed up, one last time...

RIP James Montgomery Doohan.

The one and only Scotty.

Another one gone.

It wasn't unexpected - ill men of 85 tend to die sadly - but Star Trek fans around the world will feel a twinge of sadness today. And it is a stark reminder that even the biggest of characters are mortal in the end.

The dream of seeing the original crew together again for one last adventure died along with Deforest Kelley (Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy), back in 1999. Neverthless, we still harboured the hope that individual stars of the original Star Trek might reprise their legendary roles one last time. George Takei (Sulu) took command of the USS Excelsior in a special ST: Voyager episode in 2001; Leonard Nimoy (Spock) appeared in a 2 part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And Scotty himself worked a last miracle in the ST: TNG episode "Relics", the series that Bones helped launch way back in 1987.

As recently as last year, negotiations were under way for Bill Shatner to reprise the role of Kirk in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, but the series was cancelled before it happened. Walter Koenig (Chekov) has just finished filming an amateur fan-based production.

Sadly however, time marches on. Bones and Scotty are now gone. Kirk, Spock and Sulu are now over 70. Chekov is chasing them and Uhura - well one doesn't ask a lady her age. The golden-era of Star Trek is all but over. Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, but with Star Trek "resting", I can't help but feel that we've said our goodbyes to these wonderfull friends.

But they will still live on in our imaginations. It is said that at any time of the day on any day of the year, somewhere in the world, Star Trek is showing. Somewhere in the world, Scotty will be breaking the laws of physics and warning that "She canna take much more".

As for me - I think I'll dust off the DVD of Star Trek IV tonight - the one with the whales - and see Jimmy Doohan at his best, one last time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 26. People that answer spam.

Spam and other unsolicited forms of advertising are a microcosm of the free-market ideal. The law of supply and demand in action. Supply enough gullible twats and the demand created by their stupidity will be fulfilled by a plethora of get-rich quick schemes, miracle cures and un-entered lotteries. Economics 101.

Spam exists because it works. It exists because there are enough twats, who through their crass stupidity or their greed (or even better, an ungodly combination of the 2), that answer the emails or the unwanted mailshots that it is still an effective way of advertising.

What gets me, is the sheer twattery required to answer some of these emails. Take the infamous "I need help getting money out of Africa" scams. Basically, some person that you have never heard of emails you out of the blue, "because you have been recommended as trustworthy". They then proceed to tell you a sob story about some terrible tragedy that has befallen them. Then it's the crunch. Somehow the sum of $42 million has fallen into their hands! However, they are unable to steal it - sorry reclaim it - without your assistance. Could you please email them back, and not tell anyone else.

To some people this does not raise alarm bells. Nor does it strike them as a touch unethical that millions of the pounds that Mr Geldoff has worked so hard to get into Africa, is now being taken back out of Africa - with their help!

Of course, none of these emails are legitimate. Whether it is a lotto or a Nigerian money laundering scam, at some point you will be asked for either cold hard cash (usually in the form of an "administration fee" - which is actually illegal under UK gaming laws) or, even better - your bank details!

And what is more, some people fall for this! What pisses me off most about the Nigerian scams, is that when these stupid fuckers lose their life savings, they get a 5 minute spot on local news talking about how these nasty men took all of their money. At no point does any one have the courage to say "why should we feel sympathy? You were quite willing to aid and abet what appeared to be a means of laundering then stealing money from the poorest people on earth. You got what you deserved."

Repeatedly, time and time again we are told "Do not answer unsolicited email". Yet people still do, in the hope of winning a lottey they never entered, making millions money laundering or finally acheiving that low-cost, all night long, 12 inch throbbing erection.

Fuck 'em. Twats.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Cautiously optimistic...

Well, wednesday was my job interview daan sarf. It all went pretty well I'd say. For the previous 3 days I worked around the clock "power-napping" when I could - but it was the right decision. I obtained data after an all-nighter on tuesday that finally clinched the argument that I was going to make during my presentation.

I arrived, surprisingly full of energy, an hour early for my 12:30 interview - and was rather surprised to see SWMNBN's only other postdoc awaiting their interview! Somewhat awkward as you could imagine - but let the best person win I say (as long as that's me!).

I gave my presentation to the interviewer and 3 other faculty members, plus the 2 existing postdocs in the lab. My talk had moved on somewhat since my presentation at conference, and all of the PhD student's work was summarised quickly in the first 2 slides. I had rejigged it enough that it felt fresh, as I was conscious of the fact that this was the second time that my principal interviewer had seen it. My last two slides however made him sit up straight and there was a flurry of questions from everyone in the room, which I was able to answer with ease.

Afer the talk, the postdocs excused themselves and we got down to the actually nitty gritty of the interview. It went pretty well. The atmosphere was relaxed, with all of the interviewers friendly and humorous. I managed to get across the handful of "must say" phrases such as "this is the sort of project I am really looking for". When they got on to the topics of science in general, I was able to show my enthusiasm, which I feel went down well. We even had a little philosophical debate! They also seemed pleased that I am flexible and able to start pretty much immediately. Most encouraging was that when the interviewer was describing the project, he stopped mid-sentence and said "mind you - in light of what you have just been talking about, we might have some more ideas". How cool is that?

After the "technical" interview, I was interviewed by Human Resources. I realised within the first 2 minutes that this is at least as important as the technical interview. I had been led to believe that this would be a discussion of practicalities, such as relocation, pensions housing etc. In actuality it was far more in depth. I was peppered with questions about how I resolve conflict, what sort of working environment I prefer as well as being posed various scenarios. All the while the interviewer scribbled notes. In the end, I rather enjoyed it. I realised that was she was doing a psycholgical evaluation of me, but decided just to be honest. She was very pleasant to talk to, and had a good sense of humour so I figured there was no point in trying too hard - it would come across in my body language. I just tried not to swear.

Finally, it was time for a lab tour. The labs are in a pretty old building and it is something of a change from what I am used to (I have been fortunate enough to work in gleaming metal and glass purpose built facilities in recent years), however the labs are well equipped with a reasonable amount of space and it looks like I get a my own designated office space. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite it being over 30C outside with blazing sunshine, the aircon kept it at a pleasant 20ish.

All in all, it's a good project and I'll learn a lot. The salary range (although obviously not discussed at interview) is fairly generous and the people and equipment are first rate. My sole reservations are that it will require me to commute every day - something that I have never had to do before, and buying a car is a necessity. I hope that I will get offered an interview at the other place I've applied, just to do a compare and contrast - but won't risk losing this job through indecision if it is offered.

Now I just have to eliminate the competition - maybe I'll offer to cook dinner for the other postdoc...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

Oooopsie - it's become a Wednesday Wanker again, sorry. However, I had a job interview today (I'll do a post later in the week) and between practising (i.e. writing) my presentation andtrying to get some final data to talk about, I just didn't have the time. On the plus side, writing this on the train is the perfect antidote to a tiring and stressfull day.

No. 25 Gillette - the best a man can't get.

Mosher has blogged on this in the past I believe, but I think that it is definitely worthy of a Tuesday Twat award.
My father and I are both fine specimens of masculinity. The downside of this is that we have iron-like stubble. I don't have to wear a shirt and collar to work thank god, my father on the other hand has to replace his shirts about twice a year, as he tends to fray the neck.
A perhaps unexpected downside of our excessive virility is that we also wear through razors at an astonishing rate. Being a scruffy lab rat, I can get away with shaving 2 or 3 times a week now, in part to save money. Back when I shaved daily, I would blunt blades every few days. So I started using an electric razor. I soon averaged one a year, eventually the rotating blades would become blunt and I would have to replace them.

So imagine our excitement when Gillette released it's Mach3! My old man and I both received pomotional packs through the post. Mine went straight into the corner of the bathroom where I keep such oddities as the bog brush and the overnight washkit my gran bought me for christmas. Bless her, I don't think she quite knows what the makers of the small bag and mini toiletries meant by "everything a man needs for a dirty stop out". And she certainly didn't know it contained 3 condoms and a silk thong.

Anyway, a week later my old man answered my Sunday phone call with, "Wow have you tried that new gillette razor - it's amazing! I've used it all week and it's still sharp! And you can shave against the grain as well if you use oil".

Fuckin A! He was right. Sure, a pack of 8 blades costs enough to fund 3 African dictators for a month, but I can get them to last 2 weeks before they simply start tearing hair out at the roots.
All was happy in the world of Sanescientist - until this week when I have a job interview, no blades left, look like a homeless person and neither of my local supermarkets or corner shops are able to get them because Gillette are having "supply problems".

Aaaagh. Twats!


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Think before you open your mouth...

If anyone spots a large hole on their travels - do let me know so that I can crawl into it...

We have a very friendly lab, mostly populated by women. So when one gets a new haircut or wears a nice dress, it's commented on. This morning one of my female colleagues came in. I glanced up out of the corner of my eye to see that her head looked different. A very nice new haircut that suits her.
"ooh, new haircut?" I enquired, thus proving that men can occasionaly notice these things.
She scowled and ignored me.
As well she might, since she has very obviously been suffering from worsening alopecia for as long as I have known her, and it was plainly a wig...

Oh god, I feel like such a tosser...

Monday, July 11, 2005

In arrears...

Oh buggery bollocks! Just what I need days away from my final paycheque and with no guarantee as yet where the next one will come from. I have failed to pay the minimum balance on 2 credit cards and incurred a total of £44 in fines.

This is pretty galling, as I have always been a sensible user of credit cards. Eight years as a student has made me extremely wary of borrowing money. My main credit card is used almost exclusively for online purchases, since it has fraud protection (unlike a standard switch or delta debit card). I almost invariably pay the balance off within a month and have never paid interest once.

My second credit card was a Barclaycard. I opened it to take advantage of the 9 months interest free period so that I could spread the payment of my laptop. To my disgust, after weeks of to-ing and fro-ing, they granted me the generous credit limit of £300. This was because I am the first occupant of my apartment and for the previous 18 months had been using the wrong sodding postcode (supplied to me by my letting agent). Mail gets there no problem, but the address doesn't officially exist, so no credit record was built. Bugger. Anyways, they refused to take into account my unblemished 10 year credit history, so in a fit of pique I decided that the card was going in the shredder the moment I pay off the £300 owed on my laptop (My mate, still a student, has £5000 - I might not need £5000, but it pisses me off nonetheless).

Well, I put my hands up to the first fine. The last month has been extremely hectic, with weddings, job applications and recalcitrant experiments. For the first time in my life I simply forgot to pay. Ooopsie. I'm not thrilled about paying £20, but it's my fault, no one elses.

The second fine is a bit more irritating though, and may be worth a pleading phone call. I have been paying off the £300 balance at a rate of £50/month since I got it. Along the way though I lost track slightly. I knew that I owed either £50 or £100 to clear the debt. So I paid £50 on pay day 2 months ago, figuring that I would be able to tell when the statement arrived. It arrived 4 days after I clicked Pay on my online banking. The balance was £50. However, had I just paid that £50 or was that what was left after the £50 was subtracted? The time taken for funds to be cleared and to be subtracted from statements is an entirely random event, dictated by how much interest Large Bank Plc thinks it can make on the overnight currency exchanges investing this "dead" money as it shuttles between institutions.

Well, it would be easy enough to tell - just wait for the next statement. It never came. Seriously, I'm the only person with access to my mailbox so it hasn't be taken out by someone else and stuck on a shelf somewhere. This was when I made an extremely naive mistake - I figured "my balance is obviously zero - they haven't bothered to send a statement". So I celebrated the fact that I officially own my laptop and forgot all about it. Imagine my shock when I opened my mailbox today. I still owed £50 and now owed a further £24 and the card has been suspended. The other bank simply asked "have you forgotten to pay your card?" (and still fined me £20 obviously).

So do you think my boyish charm and apology will save me £24? Well, it can't hurt to try can it?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Poisoned potatoes!

Well, first the good news. I have a job interview next week! WooHoo! Another Daan Sarf, and possibly one that will require me to give up my car-free status and buy a money pit. Oh well, couldn't last for ever I suppose. I celebrated the good news by submitting another job application - well it wouldn't do to get too excited would it - that's not very British.

The interviewer for the upcoming interview saw me speak at the conference I attended a few months ago, and insisted that I come and see the poster displaying his research group's work - which I feel bodes well. Unfortunately, he is one of four on the interview panel - and they want me to give a short presentation. Since there will be an expectation that there is some progress in my work since then, I am in a mad dash for results - but then, when am I not?

So the last thing I needed was to be ill last week. I had been developing a cough and tickly chest all of the previous week, something I attribute to my mate's coughing girlfriend at the wedding we attended that weekend. Perhaps standing outside all of Saturday watching Live8 wasn't to clever then - but as they say in Canada, meh. Anyways I manfully struggled into work at the beginning of this week - I was like a toy with a flat battery. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever and could barely check my email. I did a few odds and sods before throwing in the towel and going back to bed. Finally, the coughing subsided enough on Thursday for me to go in Friday morning for lab meeting. I rolled in at 0945 (it would have been earlier but the swipecard computer had crashed and wiped half of the staff's details meaning I had to queue to get in). With the clock ticking I had to do three simultaneous experiments (and come in all weekend to to make up lost time), but funnily enough I was full of energy and all jazzed up - it's a lot easier to work like a dog when the results will immediately benefit you.

Lunchtime, just a quick one. A jacket potato with cottage cheese and some garlic bread at the student refectory. Very nice but hardly exotic I 'm sure you will agree, then back to the lab.

Ninety minutes later, I started to feel rough. I was now in the middle of a procedure that couldn't be put down. I worked fast, hoping for a communal coffee at 3pm to perk me up. Three pm arrived and I took my lab coat off, following everyone to the kettle. My stomach felt like I had swallowed a football.
"Back in a moment" I called sprinting for the loo.
Just in time as it happened. I'll spare you the details but it wasn't pretty and amazingly, my stomach seemed to be even worse now, cramping big time.

Finally it was dilemma time - the sink is beside the throne. Dare I? Or is that just too gross for words? Too gross I decided and there is no way to clean up after myself. So I stood up, pulled my trousers back on, flushed the toilet twice, then got down on my hands an knees and said "hello !" to my jacket potato again. Charming. Then of course I flushed again - and sat back down again quickly.

What the fuck was all that about I asked myself, wiping the tears from my eyes? The potato tasted fine, and seemed to be cooked. The cottage cheese appeared OK. It's unlikely to have simply been dirty hands from the server, that would transfer bugs which usually take several hours to incubate - symptoms after 90 minutes suggests acute poisoning from food that has been incubating bugs for some time - thus you get a direct dose of the toxin rather than having to wait for the bacteria to produce the toxin.

The problem was that all three experiments that I had started had to be finished that day. and I still had about 9 hours to go... Joy.

Still could be worse - the nearest bathroom is approximately 17 seconds from my bench at full sprint and late at night there isn't usually a queue...

PS - I know you'll ask MadDog, but unfortunately I didn't think to save a sample to post you. I will remember next time I promise.

PPS - All back to normal Saturday, and no major incidents for the rest of Friday - I finished up at about 1 am.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fuck you

Just a few words on behalf of the British people to Al Quaeda Camel fuckers.

Thank you for your attention.

Barely 12 hours after the attacks, most train services and bus services in and to London are running again.


Britain never knelt before the IRA, we certainly aren't going to kneel before these cunts. Londoners will be returning to work tomorrow, nervous - perhaps. Defiant and proud - undoubtedly.

And here is a prediction - London 2012 will be the biggest and best Olympics in history. And we are proud and unbowed.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 24. Jaques Chirac.

Apparently, Jaques Chirac, the French president, is reported to have cracked jokes about British food at a meeting with Russia and Germany. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of the Russians (national dish, under-cooked potato) and the Germans (national dish, over-cooked sausage) laughing about British cuisine - you really have to question the diplomatic credentials of Monsieur Chirac. Does this man have no idea how to win friends and influence people? He further commented that Britain's sole contribution to agriculture is mad cow disease. Chirac could perhaps take the moral high ground on this issue if France responded any better to the crisis - but of course they didn't, with French farmers refusing to test their cows or learn from Britain's hard won experience. That's why we now have the safest beef in the world, sir.

Imagine the diplomatic repercussions if Blair had been heard joking that Mr Chirac had invited him to a barbecue - on the menu, roast British lamb, still in their lorries.

Whilst this sort of boorish comment is to be expected from el mafiosa Sr Belusconni, who last week insulted Finland's national dish of smoked reindeer, Chirac usually tries to give the impression that he is above that sort of thing. Of course he isn't, the stuck up snob.

One thing that has always irked me is the axiom that French cuisine is the best in the world. Where exactly did that myth arise? - from France one assumes. I've always been singularly unimpressed with French cooking, the many times that I have visited France. It always looks very pretty, for sure. But I've generally found it rather bland and tasteless and very unsatisfying. The fact that the last time I went to France I had a monster case of the shits also calls in to question their hygiene somewhat.

It would be easy to make jokes about the French national dishes - so why not? They eat fucking snails. I mean, seriously. Their signature dish is a slug carrying it's own house, that moves around by smearing snot on the ground and sliding on it. And frog legs - yet another slimy creature that only the French would consider popping in their mouth. Not only that, their self-imposed role as cheese and wine afficianados is also a joke. Sure, I like a bit of Brie as much as the next man, but what soon becomes very evident when perusing the cheese counter in France is the sheer number of differently named yet almost identical cheeses. Camembert is just Brie with flavour (and a weak Camembert is indistinguishable from a strong Brie), whilst they have very few hard cheeses that can compete with Cheddar. And what do they have to compete with Stilton or the Austrian/German smoked cheeses? As far as wine is concerned, appelation controle sounds great in theory but really it can't compete with new world wines. Buy a bottle of Aussie and you are guaranteed a quality wine. Buy a bottle of French and you may get a masterpiece but more likely, if it rained the day before the appointed grape picking date, you get a watery unsatisfying concoction.

The fact is, Chirac is on dodgy ground criticising other nation's food. He simply reveals himself to be a boorish, snobby twat and doesn't do himself any favours at all.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunday Star

For one week only, a special entry - The Sunday Star.

Sir Bob.

Yesterday, I travelled to Manchester. Whilst there, I figured that I would maybe drop in and watch a wee bit of Live8 on the Big screen. I turned up at about 3pm, figuring that I'd stay for an hour or 2, before wandering off and catching a film at the cinema. I left at 10:30, my feet aching and my bladder bursting. 7 1/2 hours, no sitting down, nothing to drink and no "comfort" breaks. I'd have stayed longer if my bladder was bigger and I didn't have a long bus ride home.

Scruffy, foul-mouthed and bloody-minded he may be - but there is a damn good reason that this man is called "Sir" Bob, by the British people, despite not being a British citizen.

He is a legend and we love him. BandAid, Live Aid, BandAid20 and now Live8. He has begged, lied, cajoled, demanded and shouted on behalf of the world's poorest people. Despite an alcohol ban in Manchester city centre, I ended up in conversation with a drunk. Amongst the incoherent ramblings about how much he wanted to shag Annie Lennox when he was a teenager, profundity eventually emerged.
"You can't argue with Geldoff. 'cos he's always fucking right. Everything that man says is the truth and you can't argue a single point. It isn't just a shame that these people are dying - it's a fucking embarrassment. And if I weren't so macho, I'd fucking cry."

He's absolutely right. You can't argue with Geldoff (Maggie tried once and came off second best - a rare accomplishment to be sure). For the past two months, critics have sneered at Geldoff's vision. Yesterday he answered his critics spectacularly.

Remember that little girl 20 years ago - so emaciated her head seemed bigger than her body? She was within minutes of certain death when she was caught on BBC cameras and helped. That's her with Madonna. She's just finished a course in Agriculture in Ethiopia. Tell us it doesn't work now critics!

This year's Live8 is about raising awareness. Look in the top left hand corner of my blog - that's the number of African children who have died of poverty since this page was loaded. Needlessly. My drunken friend was correct:
IT'S FUCKING EMBARRASSING. Over ten 9/11's every single day.

Africa needs Aid. It needs Free Trade so it can sell it's goods and support itself. It needs it's debts cancelled. And it needs proper leadership.

If it was right to invade Iraq and depose Saddam - why do we do no more than mildly chastise fuckers like Mugabe or the genocidal leaders of Sudan? Why don't we press the other African leaders to actually criticise these bastards?

Mr Blair, Mr Bush, Mr Chirac, Herr Schroeder, Mr Martin, Sr Berlusconni, Mr Koizumi and Mr Putin - we are watching.

Don't you dare let us down.



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