The Faint Whiff Of Desperation

The term is over, I have some time on my hands and I don’t really meet many girls that I’d like to date (none, truth be told) at my college.

[Before you suggest I look inwards: Ruskin girls are, broadly speaking, a bit too much of the roll-ups, ill-considered radicalism and the generally overly hirsute variety for my liking.]

Whilst sitting at my desk I was conscious of hearing a Match.com ad on Spotify, whilst into a heavy Def Leppard session. Why not, I thought? After all, all you are paying for is someone else to use a technology platform to aggregate a bunch of folks in the same boat. Sounds very logical in the cold light of day and it reduces the chance aspect somewhat as it is merely an aggregation and basic sorting service. But oh no, it isn’t that. It is a way of collecting all the people we don’t even realise are out there into a seething mass of weirdness. That and a few of us fringe normals. Like moths to a lightbulb the weirdoes seem to have flocked here.

But before I explain about what makes them weird, the Match.com people need a mention for their callous exploitation of the eagerness of their customer base. They must coin it in so monetising their service is not hard when you charge people looking for love. After all, I paid up but now keep hearing this in my head – “I’d buy that for a dollar“. Visions of the Match team laughing at yet another hopeful.

The platform feels about five years out of date – a lifetime in Internet terms –  and little thought or investment in the GUI has been made. It is clunky, inconsistent across platforms and a pigging nightmare to use. It remembers little, refreshes in an untimely manner and shows a general contemptuous towards customers. If Twitter, Facebook , iTunes or Google were even half as bad they would have tanked by now.

I want to up my chances of finding a similar person to me. One that I gel with, have fun with etc etc. I am, however, pragmatic. This is reducing the randomness and increasing the odds, sure, but expecting something different because a bit of tech has been involved? Many of the people on this seem to think that the magic of the silicone chip is either to be feared or it gets invested with power it doesn’t actually have. Let me e x p l a i n … computers are just really really really fast calculators that handle Ones and Zeros at speeds you can’t imagine.  This means we can give them more complex tasks like removing the non-sport participants from my search, calculating BIG sums fast etc, that’s it.  They cannot match you with The One. The whole vibe feels pre-scientific revolution when belief in magic was a big thing.

But back to the weirdoes though. I have emailed with and met a few of the normal ones and they have shocking stories to tell regarding the guy to girl requests. From total strangers; please could you post me some tights that you have worn and haven’t washed? Please can you send me a picture of your arse, just your arse? Please can you send a photo of you naked and smoking? And so on and so forth. I didn’t think I was particularly shy or repressed. However, I am sadly lacking in a decent brass neck so I can’t imagine treating a woman in such a degrading manner. I cringe. I guess that is what comes from being raised largely by my mother or perhaps it is just manners?

I have yet to meet someone face to face that I have really hit it off with. I have made a couple more like-minded girlfriends, which is nice. I do not go into an encounter expecting the magic of the silicon chip to have sprinkled the Internet fairy dust around ensuring that if the computer says we are compatible, then there will be sparks, fireworks, swooning, tumbling into bed locked in a sweaty embrace etc etc. (I think I may need to go and lie down for a moment. Do excuse me)

I can’t speak for other chaps but allow me to dispense a little advice regarding some of the pitfalls when creating profiles. This is not exhaustive but just my own simple observations from one week of using the site:

  • If you are on Match to find a partner then how about making an effort with your profile?
    • Pictures – decent full length ones. We are all judges of others by appearance first. We all have a type. This is science speaking.
    • Put several up. No picture = no look. Simples.
    • Not grainy selfies that have been screwed with in Instagram. What are you trying to hide and why?
    • More than three pictures. Really, lack of openness starts alarm bells ringing.
    • Focus – obviously a novel and elusive camera feature for many. Blurry = hiding stuff.
    • Fill out the entire profile. it’s what it’s there for. I am an atheist. If you are a devout Catholic then lets both smile and move on. I do not appreciate being hooked in to find out you are, in my opinion, a lunatic.
    • Use the phase, “to be honest”. I’d fucking hope so. Now I am left wondering what you may not be being honest about.
    • Curvy is not how I’d describe clinically obese. Athletic and toned does not count if you think seeing a piece of exercise equipment from afar occasionally means you are an athlete and Very Attractive? Not vain at all are we?

 

  • Here is selection of a few of the astonishing remarks on some profiles:
    • I basically work to live – hmm, illiterate AND boring. Goody.
    • Curling up in front of a log fire – if suburbia had this many log fires then I’d expect to see much more smoke belching from suburban chimneys of an evening. Just to be clear this is in the top five most overused clichés.
    • I don’t like reading books – goes well with the next one…
    • I love watching soap operas. KMN for both.
    • I’m possessive – this reads, “and in my spare time I refine my bunny boiling apparatus”
    • My friends say etc etc – possibly my all time pet peeve. If you lack the ability at 40 to be self-aware enough to write about yourself and instead have to rely on a biased audience for comment then shame on you.
    • Basic grammar mistakes. They and they’re etc etc… If you are wondering what the others may be, then it’s you.
    • Eating out – who doesn’t enjoy a nice meal out? Do you mean Nando’s or Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons.
    • And travel – oh my god, trying to sound so very cosmopolitan by levering travel in. Travel is good and it broadens the mind but nearly every profile has it and most read like a list of places to go before you kark it. Just sounds a bit contrived.

At the risk of sounding even more like Mr. Angry – and I had to work myself into a proper froth to write this – do fill out your profile, don’t lie, don’t obfuscate, don’t try to pretend to be someone you are not, put some decent informative pictures up. What do you expect if you are crockfulla shite? Similar respect is likely to be accorded in return. It’s just a pre-selection service. Get over it. And when I make the effort to send you an email after trawling through the scammers (oh yes, you are very obvious), sparsely written, and grasping ones then at least have the decency to send a one-liner saying thank you for making the effort but no. Back to manners I guess.

 

PS: Some good comments – read on.

Revolutionary Secrets Revealed

It’s not often that I’ll throw food away that I have bought, especially cake. However,  I think I may have unwittingly stumbled on the secret weapon that the Ukrainian people have used to prosecute their revolution.

To explain; today there was a food fair put on by the various Oxford International Societies so as a loyal member of IRSoc I scooted up there to show solidarity, by eating their food. Having done a lap of the hall to see what was on offer I decided to eat from stalls representing places I have never been. I settled on a Jamaican Lamb Patty that was gorgeous but lacked authentic hot sauce (wtf?) to drown it in.

Having a bit of spare space in my tummy I sidled over to the Ukrainian stall and partook of a delicious herring and beetroot w. potatoes concoction.  I was then further seduced by the sight and sound of a Sour Cream Cake that had an impressive layered construction, so I parted with a further two quid. I didn’t realize that it is actually intended for disabling armoured vehicles, such was its density. Initially I thought it was a rather parsimonious portion for my £2. How wrong I was as the plate sagged in my hand and the plastic fork splintered when I tried to cut a piece off. However, I wasn’t going to let a mere mechanical failure deter me from eating my cake so with some effort I hoicked the piece up and after several mouthfuls conceded defeat and binned it. It made a rather disturbing thump when it bottomed out in the bin.

As I left the last thing I saw as I glanced over my shoulder was the sight of some poor chap trying to lift out the bin-liner to replace it with an empty one. Poor chap, it looks like several people before me had had the same idea. His back, my tummy.

Classroom Madness

It is hardly original taking to print (kind of) to bitch and moan about ones teachers, but then it is rare that I have ever been accused of being original. I’ll get over it. I am a few days from 45, divorced, had my mid-life crisis (despite my legitimate reasons nothing screams mid-life crisis quite like a Porsche, apparently) so am quite used to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

We have this one lecturer that is v. old skool regards method. One gets the feeling that the methods they employ today are the same as when they started teaching 20 odd years ago. I am reminded of the question, “how many years experience do you have?” and the reply being, “twenty years”. What is not explained is that it is really one years experience repeated twenty times.

With this tutor it is very reminiscent of O Level history again.  All very  surreal as there are six hours a week of mostly being talked at and being given a rainforests worth of handouts. The handouts are all on different coloured paper and have the same typos that were there from the day they were labouriously re-typed from chosen texts.

I think they were told at some point to be more interactive. However, this clearly doesn’t sit well with them and discussion is never allowed to deviate from the strict parameters they have set  for the day. Conversations are abruptly terminated citing an unacceptable deviation from the topic . This new-fangled interactivity piece just had to be shoehorned into their old schedule thus reducing time for breaks, lunch and boring things like that. On top of all this they spend half the class looking like they are on the edge of a nervous breakdown, pacing up and down, jingling their change and doing unspeakable things with their prosthetics.

I can never decide whether I am sympathetic  to their inner-turmoil or am just going to enjoy watching them slide over the edge and wobble off their perch in some faintly macabre but compelling spectacle where they start humming loudly, shaking and bleeding from the ears before their head explodes in a gory mess.

As it is a university, I think we should be learning through exploration, discussion, disagreement and consensus. Much like our other tutor does, to great effect. What makes this wildly odd and eccentric behaviour tolerable is that underneath the seething surface madness they are really really very smart. The advice they can give has been very helpful. So when the nutty professor behaviour  gets me down I force myself to think of this…

God Hates Atheists

The onset of winter brings the inevitable start of perennial rounds of man-flu. Usually it times itself to coincide w. the start of a holiday, a fact that can be explained by my atheism. It’s a well known fact that God hates us and he/she/it has singled me out to be a particular bastard to. I mean, why wouldn’t he/she/it? Us Atheists are easy targets because there are relatively few of us amongst the population, so it must be a target-rich environment for a vengeful deity.

To ensure I am being totally accurate in my assertion I must check with my favourite Atheist – a Northern farm boy – if he feels similarly picked on. Possibly just a persecution complex of mine but two of us ought to constitute a scientific fact. Any fule knos that.

Let me demonstrate what I mean about bad science: I was asked for a hot-toddy by a colleague the other day and was then upbraided for making it w. boiling water because, and I quote here, “you’ll kill the all the vitamins in the lemon juice”. When I tried to explain that vitamins are a chemical entity and not living things I was met w. a pitying look, a resigned headshake and the pronouncement that it was a well known fact, go look on the internet. That’s me corrected then. I started to protest by invoking boring things like science etc and was then struck by the saying, “Never argue with an idiot as they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” I was going to point out that it is possible to remove the vit-C w. boiling water, but providing one drank said water you’d still get it. The facts are just so boring when they contradict folklore.

Right-ho. Cancelled my tutorial and now need whisky, honey and lemons for hot-toddy. Am off to Google some facts, pray for good health and murder some vitamins.

Something For Nothing?

Today at the Tory party conference the Chancellor, George Osbourne, is announcing a policy whereby long term unemployed benefit claimants will be expected to engage with the hand that feeds them (the State) in order to receive their handout.

Why should a person receive taxpayer’s money for doing nothing? I am no scientist and don’t back my remarks with robust empirical data. This is a gut reaction based on common-sense.

For the record I am not a Tory fan, anymore that I am a Liberal or Labour fan.

Read the very liberal BBC’s analysis here.

handout

Fish Fingers

I was eating fish fingers and couldn’t think of a title ok? FYI they are best eaten in large quantities (6+) with a nice pinkish swirling of ketchup and mayo. *Burp*

Moving on; I was in quiet repose with a cup of coffee this morning when I had a sudden wave of guilt for not posting for a while. This usually passes as this one nearly did. That is until I sat down with a stack of the aforementioned and went through my email to find that a friend had sensibly upgraded her domain to direct to her blog, when I see that Idleness is listed as a suggested read.  Interestingly I reside beside my ex’s blog. She is a far more accomplished writer IMHO so if you have stumbled here from Moon Landings (another ex from long long ago and a very sound lady. Employ her, you won’t regret it) then I suggest you read some proper decent English and go to Musings From The Sofa.

Still here? Right then, a small catch-up. Car sold to Harold and Albert. Heard of dirty money? This lad paid nearly ten grand in the dampest, stinkiest twenty pound notes. You know how the bank counts notes by weighing them? No chance as these were too damp. And smelly. Really really smelly. The cashier was not thrilled at having to hand count the entire lot.

Uni starts in less than a week and I am apprehensive and anticipatory in equal measure. Like most things I have imagined they rarely turn out to be as elaborate as that which I have designed and constructed in my mind. I am expecting to be surrounded by a load of Marxists who think that the Labour Party is a load of centre ground sell-outs. This view has been based upon one meeting I attended where there was a proper swivel-eyed loon who was too easy to goad (I resisted). Good value in small doses as he firmly believed that PR companies, whatever their size, existed solely to put a glossy spin on the exploitation of a firm’s workers. All points were made with much finger jabbing, bulging eyes and a final, if repetitive, verbal flourish of advocating revolution as the only credible answer. To everything. I then got a reading list, which contained some *ahem* interestingly presented arguments. Finally, the list for societies to join during Freshers week has a certain bent. I have no truck with the People of Palestine yet nor do I wish to overtly show friendship by enrolling with the Friends of Palestine. I can only imagine the meetings; The People’s Front For The Liberation of Judea anyone? Still, Freshers Week proper is the following week. I’ll see if there is a bourgeois socialists Porsche driving wine appreciation society, or similar. Additionally I can’t wait for my Bod Card as it means 1yr of swimming is £80. Bargain. All that aside I am looking forward to it immensely and wondering about the right time to deploy red trousers and moleskin jacket.

Living life in reverse is what I have dubbed my existence now. I am a bicycle only student with a bar job where I am surrounded by beautiful people half my age that seem to live a work, drug and alcohol fuelled existence. It’s a funny mix as I refuse to live in the typical student hovel, my girlfriend is a grown-up with a proper job and a dog, I look at drugs and think “yeah, been there, not anymore,  thanks for your kind offer” in a genuinely polite way as offering ones stash to strangers is nothing if not generous and costly.

Am five days away from another juddering change of direction. To put it all in perspective Heloise casually asked me during breakfast the other day, “Daddy, where is the edge of the universe?” We jointly decided that our entire universe was but a single atom in the universe of another little girl.

Cowboy Up, Cupcake

It’s the heat. And I’ll carry on blaming that for my lack of activity, despite being largely unemployed and marking time until Uni in Sept. I am half British and have lived here three quarters of my life so have a pretty keenly developed sense of “blame it on the aberrant weather”. It’s that horrible feeling of having an evening shower, going to bed under a light sheet and just sitting there leaking. Most unpleasant.

Just to warn you and give you the opportunity to disengage now, this is likely to be a stuck on transmit post (well it is me writing at you, can hardly be otherwise) and a random collection of some of the things that have happened in the last month or so. This post is driven out of the never shut WordPress tab eyeing me from the top of Chrome relentlessly reminding me that I have been ever so idle as of late.

Lately I decided that being a cyclist and having a v. nice bike and beautifully shaved guns (contain yourself , ladies) I really ought to formalise my riding into some sort of focused activity. So I joined the Cowley Road Condors as they are a nice bunch of peeps. It had nothing to do with the fetching pink and black kit. Oh no.  The other Tues (for that is the anointed Day of Pain) the rides were arranging themselves into fast and slow when instead of firmly announcing that I will ride in the slow group the speed junkies looked me up and down and saw that I am clearly a wannabe (I used to be) with the Ti bike and shaved guns (again ladies, I urge calm) as per Rule #33 with matching lycra, that I should ride with them. I make feeble enquiries as to avg speeds and am assured that it is generally around 19 mph. Ahh, I think, I can manage that so fer why not? In the first 6 miles the avg doesn’t seem to drop below  22 mph. It turns out the 19 mph figure is not an “on the flat” speed but an overall ride with all the bastard hills included. Idiot. I just about manage on the flat but when there is any significant upturn then the group I am with, to a man and a woman, all fly past me and seem to dispatch the hill in question at the same blistering pace as the flat warrants. To add insult to injury when I do make it to the top the entire cohort is patiently waiting for me. They have all rested and I am absolutely hanging at this point, sweating like a condemned man, sucking in apparently useless lungfuls or air(note to self: hobby smoking Ryan’s roll-ups probably isn’t helping) and generally looking redder in the face than is healthy for a 44y old MAMIL, when the ride leader announces with a cheery exhortation that we are all closed up and can set off again. Whilst I am the least fit and the weakest one – the fellow that would have been picked off by bandits in days of yore and quickly dispatched – I am now forced to maintain the breakneck speed of the group with no rest. I must reflect more on Rule #5 and Rule #10. It is a social at the pub tonight and hopefully less intense. I have wangled it to be my local so intend to peel off, swerve the serious drinkers and sneak home.

And now for a complete change of pace: Trousers/Trews. It turns out that, according to The Sun so it must be true, red trousers are reviled by c. 50% of the population. I happen to like them and have a pair that are fading and wearing in v. nicely. As this country (the UK) is just striated with various class divisions then red trousers are apparently upper middle or aspirant thereof dress. I don’t care and like the look. Having a twinge to my accent (the other half is Canadian) I can’t immediately be pigeon-holed into a class category so this often confounds folks when you are wearing said red. The best thing about them I have decided is this website. I like the pic of one subject described as looking “insane, but not the stabby type “. Hilarious. It gets better though as Picture #2 on aforementioned site reminds me of an Army ball I attended last week where the theme was tartan. Having spent a day traipsing around Oxford for tartan socks and coming up empty-handed I idly remarked to an ex-army mate. He ordered me to wait-one as he disappeared. He then promptly reappeared brandishing the most awesome regimental tartan trews.

Check ’em out…

Dom trews

Whilst on the army theme I stayed at the house of a couple of other army bods. In the downstairs loo there was a framed stores chitty and it made no sense. When I enquired it turns out that regimental tradition for the chap dictated that his signaller signed him over to his new handler, the intended. Nice touch.

I finally got a reading list for my pending Uni course. One glance makes me think that I am going to be brainwashed into becoming a right little Trot at the end of my three years. Revolution, comrades. Revolution. The word revolution just makes my mind hark to cycling so I think they’ll have their work cut out.

To ensure I form solid comradely bonds with my fellow classmates I will appear in my red trousers and I’ll tell ’em I thought red was the approved colour of the left.

Things You Pick-Up

When possible I like to jot down interesting things I hear as the aim is to give myself an aide-memoir for times like these. My four favourites that I have jotted into Evernote recently are:

  • Mental furniture
  • Running away from yourself
  • Dinner party invitees
  • Getting in references dictated by others

This isn’t really a post designed to weave a clever narrative through these idea but rather to expand on them a bit and explain why I thought they were worthy of record. They made me smile so perhaps they’ll give you a fleeting smirk.

To get an idea of my mental furniture picture an apparently disorganised room with various boxes dotted around it. The boxes are not waiting to be unpacked, quite the opposite. They are where I store various not so great memories. They are still in the room as on occasion I may need to rummage through one, drag out a less than pleasant memory and remind myself what it taught me. Perhaps nothing at the time but now running it through the mental mill might throw up lessons. For me it is important to acknowledge these as they are many and varied. What is life if you can’t learn from your mistakes, or at least understand that you are repeating the same, and the likely outcome? The rest of the clutter is all the stuff I need to run my life on a daily basis. Usually fine and at times stupidly self-inflicted chaos. Generally, I like to hang out in it. You’re welcome to join me there for a chat.

Running away from oneself is a hard concept to explain if you haven’t, or don’t realise that you are doing it. Being a reflective type at times I have looked at what I do, the way I act and the choices I make. Many of the structural decisions I make strike me as just this. The moment to moment interactions with friends and customers are quite different. They are not life shaping choices and I try to enjoy them for what they are. Then you meet a girl, your heart flip-flops and you feel all seventeen, impulsive, irrational and stupid. That’s happened before. The difference with age is that you have better tools (past experiences) to try and weave a credible narrative around the knee-jerk choices that accompany such emotional turmoil. When it passes it is easier to let go, not fun but easier than it was.

Dinner party invitees is just like it sounds and is the well worn concept of who you’d seat next to whom in a room at a dinner party to learn, smile, watch the sparks fly and generally get a kick out of the vibe. I have met many people from all disparate walks of life and classes so have a wide list of choices. The man advocating revolution that I mentioned in the last post was bright, quite nutty to me, but very bright so he made the list. Little does he know that he will be seated between a couple of Tories. Did I mention sparks? There will be at least one policeman who can also help calm people if required. It’s dinner after all.

Radio presenters, police officers, judges, priests, in fact anyone who needs to be heard speaking can play this game. If you sneer at it then you lack creativity and chutzpah, IMO. The trick is to be given a very random word by your contemporaries before speaking. Whether it is broadcasting on Radio 4, interviewing a suspect, passing judgement or giving a sermon the idea is to drop it into the conversation in a way that is not questioned. The fun part is that everyone else chooses. Snozzcumber is a favourite of mine, unless the topic is Dahl.

It would be interesting to know what you think. In the words of the Grauniad, for it is they, Comment Is Free.

Who Are “The Left”?

I went to a very interesting discussion the other night. It was held at Ruskin College, where I start a history degree in September and there were some very interesting people there as well as ordinary members of the public like me. The topic was, “What Happened To The Working Class?” Apparently they didn’t disappear upon purchase of their council houses under The Great Handbag.

What really struck me was the strongly held belief amongst some of the, admittedly self selecting, audience about some sort of non-specific and ill-defined conspiracy against the Working Class/Left. Apparently PR firms are all and only engaged in the suppression of the Working Class. All PR firms. This doesn’t really tie with my first hand experiences of PR firms, but the individual that held this belief was adamant. There is a Right Wing conspiracy and PR firms exists to help make the evil more palatable. Then again; his solution for most of the ills of society, which are visited upon society by the evil capitalist Right Wing establishment, can be fixed if we were to all man-up (should that be person-up in a modern enlightened institution?) and revolt. Revolution is the cure, end of discussion.

As there wasn’t even agreement in the room as to what constituted the working class it was a rather pointless circular discussion IMHO. When the Marxist philosopher explained a Marxist definition as “those that don’t control the means of production”  as the definition there was further debate as that didn’t really do when you try and equate a surgeon with a dustman. There was a quiet discomfort at the suggestion, which made me wonder if this wasn’t a social and wealth based distinction as much as a technical one about who controls the means of production.

The Right don’t need to conspire and hide behind PR firms, they just need to sit back and keep their powder dry. The Left seem perfectly able at suppressing themselves by engaging in endless internal bickering and that makes a revolution very hard to organise.

Perhaps the right are just as bad? In fact, I am sure there are constituents of the Right that bicker endlessly over the minutiae.

Chuck the promise of influencing personal wealth, the ability to choose how to spend ones own resources, responsibility for your own decisions, low taxes, a light touch state into the mix and that sure focuses people’s minds enough to organise themselves into action. I think it’s called Capitalism. After all, the Soviet Union worked out well for the working classes, didn’t it?

Israel ’s New ‘Cutting Edge’ Airport Security

TEL AVIV, Israel :—

The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners. It’s an armoured booth you step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on your person.

Israel sees this as a win-win situation for everyone, with none of this crap about racial profiling. It will also eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials.

Imagine that you’re in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter, an announcement: “Attention to all standby passengers, El Al is pleased to announce a seat available on flight 670 to London. Shalom!”