Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Market Research Consumer Survey Type Thing 2

So here’s the dilemma… my employer, Scotland’s largest selling daily newspaper The Daily Record, have only gone and given their website a right good overhaul and as a result are now publishing my weekly column on-line. You can see it if you click here on these red words that are underlined but please feel free to ignore the ridiculous photograph – I was young(er) and I needed the money.

So, should I bother taking up space on this blog by reproducing the columns here in all their unedited glory (i.e. with sweary words and everything) as I’ve been doing these past few weeks? Or should I just direct you to the Daily Record website every Tuesday to read it for yourselves? I can’t decide so I’m throwing it over to you, the much valued reader(s) to let you have your say.

To ensure the most effective use of your precious time, all you have to do is simply choose a number from the options below and type it into a comment box. I thank you in advance.

1. Oh please Neil, continue to post your majestic column (snigger) on this blog because it means I only have to visit one site to satisfy all my comedy and information needs.

2. I am big and clever enough to find the Daily Record website all on my own if I so wish and anyway, you’re only posting the column on this blog to fill up space because you can’t think of anything original to write. Please desist from this practice immediately. Oh, and bring back National Service. And birching.

3. I couldn’t give a flying f#ck either way what you do because I stumbled across this site while searching for “large white baps” and I won’t be passing this way ever again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

When You Hear, The Tootin' Of The Whistle...

After last week’s Woodward and Bernstein-esque investigation of teenagers and their menacing ways, I thought it apt to continue to fight the good fight and uncover scandal and injustice, wherever they may cower. So this week I turned my laser beam attention to the world of commuter transport and stumbled across a web of half-truths and conspiracies that extended all the way up to the highest level of office… the station master’s. Today’s Daily Record takes up the story…

“Will you remember this day forever?” inquired the poster above the luggage rack on my train home last Friday night. It was an advert encouraging commuters to give up the daily grind and undertake volunteer service overseas. “Yes,” I replied with a sneer. “It’s the day that’s never going to end.” Cue Scooby Doo-like flashback music...

4.55pm I clear my desk in the office and make my way stealthily through the throng of industrious people towards the front door. I always make sure and carry a piece of paper or two when I’m sneaking out of the office early so it looks like I’m late for a five o’clock crisis meeting. Either that or I shout something vaguely officious into my switched off mobile phone. “NO Sharon. Those papers have to be in Milan TONIGHT! Och stay there, I’m on my way.”

5.07pm Arrive at Haymarket Station just in time to hop on to my train. As usual, there are no free seats but it’s only a 17 minute journey so I’m happy to stand near the driver’s cab and pretend I’m Casey Jones. Remember him? Steamin’ and a-rollin’?

5.10pm My phone rings. It’s my pal Andy from the office. “Hey Neil, meant to call you earlier. Dave and I are off to the pub. Fancy it?” For a moment I thought about saying I was tied up in a crisis meeting but the Scotrail tannoy system blows my cover. “Sorry mate, I’m on my way home.”

5.13pm The train grinds to a complete halt in the middle of nowhere; or Winchburgh as it’s known to the locals. The driver emerges from the cab and climbs down to the trackside presumably to sweep away some troublesome leaves from the line.

5.30pm The conductor makes a second apologetic announcement saying there’s some signal trouble ahead.

5.45pm The driver returns to the train and reveals that we’re being sent back to Haymarket due to a “major hindrance” on the line ahead. Must be a hell of a lot of leaves.

5.55pm The train arrives back at Haymarket, now overflowing with restless commuters waiting for cancelled services. Some are planning to split a £40 taxi ride five ways while others are planning to split open the forehead of the station master. I stroll casually through the baying mob whistling a happy tune and head for the pub.

6.08pm There’s no sign of Andy or Dave in the pub. Bastards. For the first time in recorded history they really must have had “just a couple” and then disappeared. I step back out of the pub heading for the station just as the heavens decide to open. Bastard.

6.19pm It’s bedlam at Haymarket. The “information” screens are displaying messages saying that all Glasgow trains are cancelled and a temporary bus service will be introduced. An angry passenger is berating the poor girl at the ticket counter with hysterical declarations of “It’s just not good enough” and “let me speak to your supervisor.” I’m sure he also screamed something about bringing back National Service but by this time I was following the hordes outside to queue for the fabled buses. Almost immediately a shout goes up that the Glasgow service has resumed and the masses sprint back to the platform.

6.41pm Sure enough, a train turns up but it’s packed to bursting. The Waverley commuters can barely contain their smug smiles and waves as the train continues on after a token, 30 second stop.

6.49pm A weary Scotrail voice announces that another service will arrive at 7.04.

7.10pm Another service does arrive and this time there’s room for everyone. Standing of course.

7.16pm The train grinds to a halt at, you’ve guessed it, Winchburgh.

7.23pm The conductor announces we should be on our way momentarily.

7.36pm Many moments later, the train lurches forward and for the first time I notice an attractive woman beside me reading a John Irving novel. “Have you read his new one?” is exactly the kind of smooth and devastating chat up line I’d have delivered had I been a suave, trilby-wearing Trevor Howard in “Brief Encounter”. Instead, I spy the VSO poster and suddenly the prospect of ploughing fields in war torn, famine-ravaged countries becomes overwhelming.

8.05pm Finally arrive home and immediately log on to From the looks of things, this volunteering malarky is demanding. Maybe I’ll just take the bus next week.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Question Of The Week

If someone with a split personality threatens to commit suicide, is it a hostage situation?*

*©Peter Kay

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Truth (Or The Girl At Least) Is Out There

“There’s something wrong with my heart,” I pleaded to the telephone operator last Saturday after dialing 999. “It’s racing uncontrollably.”

“Really sir?” she replied calmly. “Are you sure you haven’t just been reading the story in the Daily Record, Scotland’s best selling newspaper by the way, that X-Files actress Gillian Anderson is in Glasgow shooting her latest movie?”

“Well yeah, I suppose so. But that’s all the more reason for you to locate Very Special Agent Dana Scully and her extensive medical knowledge and dispatch her to my door immediately. Don’t you realise this is an emergency?”

“Thank you for your call sir. Have a nice day.”


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Menace To Society

A guy asked me last week, “So are you a freelance journalist?” When I’d finally stopped laughing at the notion of me doing hard work like research, interviews, and fact checking, I thought it was about time I actually delivered a hard hitting, exposé. So check out this quality, investigative “journalism” from yesterday’s Daily Record – it’s a shock sensation exclusive!!!

If you ask me, (although frankly, no-one ever does) teenagers get a bad rap these days. They may have questionable taste in music, fashion and each other but listening to some commentators, you’d think they’re solely responsible for all of the world’s ills.

“Decimation of the English language? It’s those hoodies and their infernal text messaging.”
“Instability in the financial markets? Surely down to the fickle spending habits of the young."
“Decline of the monarchy? Must be those binge drinking youths and their irresponsible parents. (Actually, that last one might well be true.)

What these commentators fail to recall from their own shady pasts is that the teenage years are ones of great change and confusion. Don’t they remember how exhausting it can be moaning about the unfairness of, well, everything and wishing they’d never been born? Don’t they appreciate the physical effort it takes to adopt a permanent slouch whilst still maintaining a running performance of farting gags. Now that my friends, is true multi-tasking.

No, the teenage nuisance element comes in an altogether more subtle package and none is more intimidating and frightening than the specimen I encountered last Thursday evening. I’d been picked to play in a league match for my golf club (there were a lot of call-offs) and was standing on the first tee sizing up my opponent. Tall, articulate and well dressed, he shook my hand with a vice-like grip and said, “Hi, my name’s Fraser. How do you do?” (I swear he almost added the word “sir” on to the end of that sentence but stopped himself in time in case I keeled over in shock.)

As I watched him prepare to send his opening drive into the next county, a teammate sidled up to me and whispered, “Eh, you realise that guy’s only 14? Oh, and he plays off a handicap of 1. Good luck mate.”

“Cheers pal,” I gulped as my shaking, forty-something hands wiped the beads of cold sweat from my deeply furrowed brow.

The match started steadily enough as I quickly adopted my hanging-on-for-dear-life strategy – an unhealthy combination of chain smoking and sadistic prayer, willing every one of Fraser’s crisply struck shots into the trees. The grand plan seemed to be working as I found myself only one hole down at the halfway stage.

Summoning depths of courage and adventure not seen in a Sutherland since my Viking ancestors landed in Shetland, I managed to battle back and square the match with only two holes left to play.

By this time however, all the other matches had finished and a restless crowd of some 20 or 30 players and officials had gathered to watch our tee shots at the par 3 17th. Fearless and unphased, Fraser sent a majestic 8 iron to within ten feet of the pin. Fearful and very phased, I managed to miss the green entirely and found myself one down with one to play.

The bowed and shaking heads of my colleagues told me I had to win the last hole to secure victory for the team. A miracle was needed and it arrived on cue as Fraser’s booming tee shot ran a bit too far and toppled into a burn. Knowing a par four would probably be good enough, I reached for the Imodium and ended up with an eight foot putt for team glory. I shut my eyes, swung the putter and heard the ball drop in the hole and was promptly carried shoulder high to the clubhouse by my teammates for large tankards of ale served by buxom wenches. Okay, so that last bit probably didn’t happen but that’s how I remember it.

As for the teenage menace, he was gracious throughout and when he wins the Open in 2014 I’ll be able to say, “You know, once upon a time…”

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Any Excuse For A List

According to the counter thingmyjig on Blogger’s complicated ‘dashboard’ page after I log on, 99 posts have been made to this site since it erupted, Alien-like, from the belly of it’s host last January. This then, by my rough calculations, is the 100th post and time, I think, for a list.

I’ve noticed quite a few bloggers have a penchant for compiling “100 things about me” lists; stuff like “I love cats” and “I hate injustice” or even “I despise people who use words like ‘penchant’” but I’ve decided on a slightly different tack.

So, presented below, in no particular order, are my nominations for the 100 coolest things in the world. Ever. I’ll probably think of another 100 cooler things next week but what the hell.

1. Blue Brazil football strip.
2. Breakfast tacos and bloody marys.
3. Kenny Dalglish.
4. “Cheers”
5. Being an uncle.
6. Playing in a cool, rockin’ rock ‘n roll band.
7. The West Sands in St. Andrews. In winter.
8. Football cards in the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
9. Denim jackets.
10. The Ryder Cup.
11. Thai cuisine.
12. The Spiderman ride at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure.
13. The lightsaber.
14. Mix tapes.
15. Making a child smile.
16. The road to Skye.
17. (Very) Special Agent Dana Scully.
18. “Northern Exposure”
19. The spy kit from Warlord comic.
20. Tetris.
21. Adidas Samba training shoes.
22. Highland Park malt whisky.
23. The Grand Canyon at sunrise.
24. Pizza.
25. Indiana Jones.
26. Rope swings.
27. Deserted, dew covered golf courses.
28. Top Cat.
29. Irish accents.
30. Writing songs.
31. Riding (on top of) an elephant.
32. Mistletoe at the school Christmas disco.
33. Winching.
34. Angel Delight.
35. Jenny Agutter.
36. Kilts.
37. Super Sudoku.
38. The Apollo Theatre, Glasgow. (R.I.P.)
39. The Inca Trail(s).
40. BB Camps.
41. Volkswagen Scirocco. (Coulda been a flux capacitor contender.)
42. Afternoon naps.
43. Tim & Dawn in “The Office”.
44. Heinz Salad Cream.
45. Kingsbarns.
46. Scoring a goal from outside the box.
47. Drinking shirts. (Shirts to wear to go drinking.)
48. A-cappella singing in the underpass after WAY too many beers.
49. Tendon-ripping hopping contests after WAY too many beers.
50. Stella Artois.
51. The Beatles.
52. Blue jeans, black t-shirt.
53. Monument Valley at sunset.
54. “The Flashing Blade” (Dubbed, school holiday tv classic)
55. Ice cream vans.
56. Black & white photographs.
57. Billy’s Boots from Tiger comic… or was it Scorcher?
58. Jack Nicklaus.
59. New Zealand pies.
60. The Very Best of The Signals
61. Lucky Bags filled with sherbet, licorice and lollipops. (My granny used to somehow magically insert a threepenny bit in the ones she gave us. Amazing!)
61. Christmas carols.
62. The “shooey” (80s dance phenomenon)
63. The Wheatsheaf (Best pub in Falkirk.)
64. Driving across America.
65. Bungee jumping.
66. Aragon.
67. Three point swish from ‘downtown’.
68. Making a woman laugh.
69. Making a woman miaow. (©Billy Crystal)
70. The Anstruther Fish Bar.
71. Nicknames.
72. Seeing Charlie Nicholas in his prime score two at Ibrox.
73. Cadbury’s chocolate buttons.
74. “The Banana Splits”
75. Late afternoon drinking and bullshit on a Greek island beach with your mates.
76. The Golden Boot award.
77. Eddie Shoestring.
78. The Haymarket Bar.
79. Meeting Sting.
80. Meeting Tigger.
81. “The Sopranos”
82. Spectacular lightning storms.
83. Wooly hats.
84. The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles/Albums.
85. Sequels which are better than the original. (see Buzz & Woody)
86. The Carnegie Deli.
87. Connect 4.
88. Getting a tattoo in Greenwich Village.
89. Black and red digital watches.
90. Steve McQueen.
91. “The Jungle Book”
92. My nephews and nieces.
93. The Northern Lights.
94. Seeing the Space Shuttle take off.
95. A fireplace with a real fire.
96. Lists.
97. Trivial Pursuit.
98. Texas barbeque.
99. The Millennium Falcon.
100. Holing the winning putt to secure victory for your pals on your 40th birthday - priceless.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Who Needs A Flux Capacitor?

I know what you’re thinking… Monday’s are bad enough without the realisation that you still have to wait another 24 hours before you can get your hands on a copy of your favourite, Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record, to see what the scallywag columnists have been up to this week.

Well suffer no more because presented below is a glimpse into the future, a journalistic miracle no less as, in association with Big Boyz Pizzas and some burd called Stella, bring you tomorrow’s “news” today.

The internet really is a wonderful thing. This week alone I’ve managed to pay a credit card bill on-line (using another credit card to do so) and purchased a bunch of nostalgic records from Ebay that I neither need nor can play - my turntable’s in pieces in the loft somewhere. I’ve also found the answers to questions that have troubled me for many a year; questions like “what IS the way to Amarillo?”, “who DID let the dogs out?” and “when will I, will I be famous?”

All of this e-activity doesn’t, of course, include the time spent in my in-box, wading through and deleting the special deals on Viagra and the guarantees of gaining “that extra few vital inches”, in the hope of finding an e-mail from someone I actually know.

Increasingly though, I’ve noticed that the internet now provides all manner of fascinating and practical lifestyle tips. With just a couple of clicks, you can peruse some stellar guidance on subjects such as “50 ways to live longer” or “top 10 signs of work related stress”. Attitude problems can quickly be addressed with “11 ways to lighten up” (one of which, undoubtedly, is to ensure that all such lists are even-numbered) and household disputes can be settled in seconds with “curtains or blinds? – the experts give their verdict!”

This week however, one subject area in particular grabbed my attention. I’d just completed a quick browse of “the reality of breastfeeding” (there were no pictures) and was about to move on to “10 paths to becoming a Jedi”, when I noticed a feature promising “7 ways to woo her by email”. Ignoring the fact I hadn’t “wooed” a woman since a previous life sometime in the 18th century, I dived into the article excited at the prospect of some serious courting from the comfort of my own computer chair.

Step number 1, “Introduce Yourself”, seemed like a sensible starting point and far less dubious than the anonymous stalker approach I’d considered in the past. “Tell her a little about yourself,” continued the article, “but keep this initial message brief.” Too early then, I suppose, to bombard her with vital statistics and Star Wars trivia.

After this straightforward beginning, things became more complicated with step number 2, “Match Her Tone.” Assuming she’d actually sent a reply I was now expected to answer her questions and ask a few of my own, all the while remembering that “it’s important to make her laugh but maintain your mystique.” So be open, inquisitive, funny AND mysterious? Sounds tiring. Next.

“Don’t Flood Her In-Box,”* warned step number 3, presumably because she too has a devil of a job sifting through all those Viagra offers. And just when I thought step number 4 was turning up the heat by proposing “Flirt A Little”, step number 5 brought me back to my senses with a timely reminder to “Punctuate Appropriately.” One can only imagine the emotional carnage and embarrassment caused by a misplaced comma or a premature semi colon.

Step number 6, “Sassy Sign Offs”, suggested discarding the formal “sincerely” and “faithfully” and choosing something altogether more snappy. I decided to resist the urge to use “desperately yours” and plumped instead for the sure-fire winner “may the force be with you.”

Feeling pleased with my progress so far, I moved on to the final step and came to an abrupt halt. “Ask Her Out” urged step number 7. “Plan something fun and take the plunge.”

This seemed like a step too far. How would I cope without the safety net of a spell checker and ten hours to find the right words? From now on I’ll stick to Ebay. Perhaps someone’s auctioning a date there.

*I really, REALLY wanted to “insert” a different joke for step number 3 but I don’t think it would have made it past the censors.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Eternal Question, SNAG Or RAMM?

Guys – Clutching the remote too tight? Not mastered the art of that whole toilet seat up/toilet seat down debacle? Been suckered by the “shopping for shoes will only take an hour” fiasco? Don’t know whether to moisturise or meditate? Fear not, help is at hand. You just need to find out what type of man you are; apparently. Follow the fascinating case study below, as told in today’s Daily Record, or alternatively have a right good scratch and belch yourself back to sleep.

Summer should be a relaxing and peaceful affair for men. Invariably, we’ve endured a long, dark winter stressing about the football season or whether the car can survive without anti-freeze so now should be the time for pleasurable diversions. The long days and mild weather create a wealth of leisure opportunities, whether in the garden or on the golf course, so the last thing we need is to expend energy pondering taxing, sociological conundrums.

But in the past few months, barely a week has gone by without some media survey or newspaper headline berating us with questions like, “Are you in touch with your feminine side?” or “What kind of man ARE you?” I’ve even come across a question that enquired “What exactly is the point of men?”, although admittedly this was said directly to my face during a disagreement about acceptable levels of daily flatulence.

After asking the probing questions, the surveys usually go on to describe various groupings and subsets of men, a list that seems to grow longer and more bewildering by the week. For example, Tony Blair is now considered to be a RAMM (Resurgent Angry Macho Man) despite admitting recently to an annual cosmetics bill topping £300. I seemed to correspond with only one of the RAMM characteristics so I moved on swiftly to the next category.

Initially, the thought of being a “metrosexual man” was appealing since I’ve recently begun a daily commute on the train and am completely open-minded to all the possibilities that such a journey may bring. But apparently my current level of personal grooming (not to mention my disdain for shopping) falls way short of the standard set by Beckham, Lampard and the like.

No matter because according to one article, “metrosexual no longer cuts the mustard” (flatulence problems perhaps?) and I should now be aspiring to the advanced model of “ubersexual”. The early signs were good.

“Are you committed to uncompromising quality in all areas of your life?” asked the writer.

“Sure,” I replied smugly. “When I buy chocolate buttons, it’s got to be Cadbury’s.”

“Then all you need are the attractive, dynamic, compelling, stylish and supremely confident qualities of a Jude Law or a Colin Farrell,” he continued.

“Really?” I gasped in wonder. “That’s ALL I need? No problem Obi Wan.”

Disheartened at not yet finding a suitable pigeon hole, I decided to take the on-line, what-sort-of-man-are-you test to get a definitive answer.

“Who best embodies the masculine ideal? John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Orlando Bloom or Ben Affleck?”
“McQueen, definitely, any day of the week.”
“How many times a day do you moisturise?”
“Well, I usually have a couple of beers with dinner so I guess that would be 2.”
“How many days a week do you go to the gym?”
“Now if by ‘go’ you mean ‘pass on my way to work’ then that would be 10.”
“What was the last book you picked up?”
“I tried picking up the latest Harry Potter but it was a bit too heavy to hold.”

The test continued for what seemed like several days and on completion, I waited for the computer to dispense its verdict. “Congratulations Neil. You are a SNAG!”

My premature celebrations at the thought of being the ideal catch were only slightly subdued by the explanation that a SNAG is a “Sensitive New Age Guy”; someone who’s in touch with his feminine side but has lost a little backbone.

I shrugged my spineless shoulders and slouched off to the garden, happy at least to have found an answer to the conundrum. Now if only I could get in touch with someone else’s feminine side.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Somewhere In The City Where The Air Is Still...

If you only go and see one show at the Edinburgh Festival, then you really aren’t getting out enough. The official opening of the festival is today but I’m sorry to have to tell you that the best show has already come and gone.

Last night in a small, sweaty, fire hazard of a venue, Roddy Frame, legendary Scottish singer songwriter and one time leader of (even more) legendary Scottish band Aztec Camera, played a storming set of old songs and new. It’s difficult to imagine any other solo artist producing such a powerful performance with just his songs, voice and an acoustic guitar for company.

I’ve said it before, here in fact, but there’s no such thing as an average Roddy Frame song. If you don’t have any of his work in your collection, then you really aren’t getting out to the record store often enough. Start with this one and then move on to here. I guarantee you musical pleasure. And if you don’t like it, then you can always go to the festival and see a couple of Australian guys recreate the Mona Lisa with their dicks. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Running With Scissors... And Other Fun Stuff

Some Tuesday soon, hopefully, this space will contain a nice, fancy, colourful, link to the Daily Record website where humourous stories will have you laughing so much during breakfast that corn flakes will shoot, unrestrained, from your nostrils. And then you can turn the page and read my column. Until then, the main weekly article will appear here in all it’s unedited glory.

There’s only so much time you can spend gallivanting round the world or watching daytime television. Sooner or later a hefty credit card bill or an even heftier clip round the ear from your mother is going to make you realise you can’t avoid the real world forever.

So last week, after a month of cooking up CVs, submitting applications, enduring interviews, fielding offers and signing contracts, I got myself one of those “proper job” thingys. It comes with a desk and a chair and a fancy mobile phone I barely know how to switch on and by next week I’ll be a regular at the water cooler with the girls talking about Big Brother or moisturiser or some such thing.

But my high-flying corporate career almost came to a swift and shuddering halt when I received a disturbing piece of correspondence from my new employers just before commencing. In amongst the welcome letter and the staff guidance notes was a frightening little booklet entitled “Care In The Office” produced by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. By the time my sweaty, shaking hands reached the final page, I was yearning to return to the delightful comforts of the Cambodian jungle or the palatial refuge of the Australian outback.

Did you know, for example, that every year over 5,000 serious injuries are sustained by office staff? And that’s only the injuries which keep people off work for more than three days. Minor ailments such as putting a staple through your thumb (an act which, in the past, I’ve often considered doing for fun in the middle of long, pointless meetings) don’t count.

Having grabbed my attention with the terrifying statistics, the booklet proceeded to break down the likely areas of mortal peril to be avoided in the office. Furniture and fittings seem to be a particularly lethal combination. Overloaded and sharp edged filing cabinets lurk round every corner just waiting to pounce. Badly placed electrical appliances result in trailing cables poised to reach out and grab your ankles like some deadly, creeping ivy.

Unsurprisingly, falls and collisions are the most common form of office accident. More surprising is the fact that those occurring on a level surface are almost as numerous as those on stairs.

“Untidiness can contribute to a great many accidents,” warns the booklet in a scowling school teacher accent. “Put waste paper in the bin; don’t throw it – you are sure to miss!”

“Not if you were a member of the 1980 high school basketball team that reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup,” I growled under my breath so the booklet wouldn’t hear.

Helpful advice and warnings comes thick and fast. “Reading whilst using the stairs is dangerous,” says the booklet in a matter-of-fact kind of way. “Knives, scissors and guillotines are all capable of inflicting painful injuries,” it continues and goes on to caution that “razor blades and pins are not suitable for office use.” It even alerts you to the fact that in this age of casual business dress “loose fitting items could be hazardous near office machines” immediately rendering useless my spanking new wardrobe of pinstriped kaftans.

The booklet’s most serious tone is saved for the final chapter though where it berates that “horseplay” and “skylarking” are dangerous activities as well as being offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.” It didn’t go on to illuminate whether running, shouting, dive bombing and heavy petting are also included in this list of shenanigans but I think it best to refrain for now.

Meantime, I’m all stocked up with plasters and bandages and if I make it through the gauntlet of hazards to the water cooler, I’ll relay all the Big Brother gossip next week.