EDitorial ± 29-Jan-2001

Amazon And On And On

In September 1998 I took the plunge and bought a computer for use at home, about which more another time. On 17 October 1998 I took a further plunge and made my first online purchase, daring to type my credit card details into a web page. None too surprisingly, this was at the recently opened UK site of Amazon, which at that time sold only books. A few days later a Royal Mail man knocked at the door and there was my brown amazon.co.uk parcel, containing:
  1. Open Me I'm A Dog, by Art Spiegelman
  2. Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson
  3. Curious George's Are You Curious?, by H. A. Rey
  4. Close To The Machine, by Ellen Ullman
  5. UNIX Power Tools, by Jerry D. Peek, et al
If, like George, you are curious, the above list contains one computing handbook, two children's books, an eco-thriller, and a non-fiction work about life as a programmer. An eclectic selection.

Earth's Biggest Selection

I was hooked. Since that first package arrived I've become an Amazon devotee. It's not just the discounted prices (which are often eaten up by the delivery charge anyway), but the little things, such as:

  • customer reviews: see what other "real" people think about a potential purchase
  • front covers: if I can't see what the book looks like, I'm not interested
  • alerts: when a new book is published from an author I've bought before, they drop me an unsolicited email
  • freebies: for being a regular customer I got a thermal coffee cup in 1999, then a Jenga-type wooden puzzle in 2000
  • customers who bought this also bought: what an inspired idea
Lastly, if you've tried the UK site, try the original & best US site. Admire the way it constructs pages for you based on those you've already visited. See list-mania in action as you flick through other people's top tens. Wonder at the sheer number of categories, from lawn & patio to new cars! Sigh as you read the sad sentence, "Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S."

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 22-Jan-2001

That Darn Cat

Last week we got rid of the cat. Cue Monty Python:
(Mrs Conclusion) I just spent four hours burying the cat.
(Mrs Premise) Four hours to bury a cat?
(Mrs Conclusion) Yes - it wouldn't keep still.
Let me attempt to explain. We acquired Cosmo (like the name?) some 7 or 8 years ago from the Blue Cross home down at Trimley when he was a mere babe. And an incredibly cute kitten he was. Lovely looking thing, perhaps a Russian Blue, who willingly did everything you'd expect: pawing bits of string, chasing bouncy balls, and having the odd mad five minutes running up & down the stairs. There might be the odd nip, but surely that goes with the territory. Then along came the children.

Cosmo has left the building

All at once, the amount of attention lavished on our furball went from one end of the scale, the top, right the way to the other end, the bottom. And if my memory's any good, I believe he even disappeared for a few days. He became an antisocial animal, and we didn't do a lot to make him feel wanted, I'm sorry to say. It didn't help that as he was beginning to thaw, along came another child.

Wouldn't have been so bad if we'd all learned to get along under the same roof, but Cosmo and the kids never learned to mix. An unfortunate situation that resulted in both girls getting scratched on a handful of occasions, once around the eye, which added to the rather tense co-habitation. Recently I was the only one willing to pick him up, and that was done gingerly for fear of claws and teeth.

So with (yet) another child now starting to crawl, we decided it was time for some drastic action. And one phone call and car trip later, he'd been returned to the Blue Cross with few questions asked. May he find a happier home.

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 15-Jan-2001

I Want Candy

It's fair to say I've got a sweet tooth. Had one as a kid, and I suppose I expected it to lessen as I got older, but cakes & sweets still hold a huge appeal. Maybe I should redeem myself by telling you about my incredibly refined palate, describing my fondness for the finest fruit sorbets and super rich chocolate mousse. But that would be a monster fib. Especially as I've just tidied off a 2-day old Tesco large sugar doughnut. Yum.

What I like are cheap sugary thrills. For instance: one Christmas present I was lucky enough to receive exactly three weeks ago (thank you, Bentleys) was a cash-and-carry box of pink shrimps, a selection of which are pictured. Yep, those ones you've most likely not had since you were at junior school. Confectionery doesn't get much more artificial, or tasty, than a Barratt candy shrimp, in my view. Must have had about 20p worth the other night while I was washing up. Only stopped when my teeth started furring up. Truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Assorted decapods of Crangon or kindred genus
A random selection of other calorie-and-additive filled favourites:

Marshmallow (any shape or form, provided it's in quantity):
My birthday present from the Bentleys was a box of Flumps, the unmistakable yellow and pink double helix, long since eaten up
Arctic roll:
Take a sheet of swiss roll, coat it with jam, then wrap it around a block of vanilla ice cream; tremendous
The Belgian bun:
Walloping Chelsea bun-type-thing covered with white icing; hugely popular in Ghent
If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Fruit salad, blackjack, bazooka joe:
  1. those Haribo bags: even I draw the line at sweet fried eggs
  2. always floss after cleaning
  3. you did go to the dentist in 2000, didn't you?
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 8-Jan-2001

How To Get One Across

I'm sure it was my dad who got me into crosswords, about twenty years ago. Can't rightly remember which one we used to attempt (worringly, I think it might have been my mum's copy of Woman's Realm), though I suppose we must have somehow jumped the chasm that exists between straight clues, i.e. synonyms, to cryptic. I know that when I was in sixth-form, with a Saturday job in Debenham's, I'd buy a copy of the Telegraph at lunchtime simply so I could try that day's prize crossword when I got home. Never won, needless to say. Not even sure if I actually finished too many of them.

Like any number of things, I tend to go through phases of doing crosswords. I got the bug again most recently at Christmas, which is always a prime time for the so-called jumbo, a cryptic crossword three or four times the size of your typical daily effort. Although me and my father-in-law made good progress with the Guardian biggie (which had a J.S.Bach theme), we ran out of time, but I managed to complete the one in the Times. Even ran down the road to catch the post to send it off. Didn't win.

Times Jumbo Crossword 324
Here's some rather nice cryptic clues from this weekend's Times crossword:

Broadcast for the crew at sea (7,8)
Overlapping signs showing where books are (9)
Dream on till a don produces this sherry (11)
I solved these (brain the size of a planet): mail me if you can work them out.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Down, across, but rarely diagonally:

  1. remember that old Reader's Digest column, Increase Your Word Power?
  2. treat yourself to a shiny new dictionary for 2001
  3. use plain English: eschew obfuscation
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 1-Jan-2001

One Way To Spend New Year's Eve

Over the Christmas period, Theo, aged 6 months, caught a cold from one of his older sisters. So far, so snuffly. But as the new year neared, he didn't appear to be improving, becoming irritable and not keeping his food down. Ick.

Then, early evening on Saturday 30th, his condition dipped as his temperature spiked and his breathing got more laboured. Gail rushed him off to see the doctor at Ipswich's indispensable 24 hour Riverside clinic up on Landseer Road, who promptly advised her to take him straight to Heath Road hospital without passing go. And there he (and she) stayed, overnight, while he had a couple of nebulisers, to aid his breathing, plus a chest X-ray.

When I was with him on Sunday afternoon, with one eye on Murder On The Orient Express on the box, one of the tests came back positive: he'd got bronchiolitis, most commonly caused by something called RSV. As such, due to the risk of the infection spreading, he had to be placed in isolation...with the half-dozen other infected babies on the ward.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus
And this was home for the next two nights, during which time his oxygen level was checked using the dreaded saturation monitor (which beeps if this falls below a certain level). So that's where you'd have found us as 2000, with Dale Winton's assistance, turned into 2001. Certain unfortunate babes, and their long-suffering mums, had been in isolation when we arrived, and were still there when we got the all-clear Tuesday lunchtime.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else (We Took Theo)
Tons of thanks to:

  1. everyone on Bergholt Ward at Ipswich Hospital
  2. family & friends for help, especially with the girls
Since we got him back home, he's slowly returning to his usual jolly self. He's still a little husky at times, not unlike Mariella Frostrup or the young White Fang, but he's eating more (and holding on to it), and sleeping well.

Be seeing you! And hoorah for the NHS!