This week's story about the guy from the US carrying a particularly nasty strain of tuberculosis has reminded me of an old bugbear of mine.

There have been regular updates given by the US Centers for Disease Control. As long as I've been visiting Atlanta I've been wanting to visit CDC and take the tour. Maybe you can blame a morbid curiosity in the all-conquering nature of bacteria and viruses, or possibly just a rose-tinted glamour resulting from having seen Outbreak one too many times.

There would be guided tours of galleries overlooking labs; a "Know your virus" interactive exhibit; a "Beat the Pathogen" game (which I'd have to give a little more thought to but would definitely involve dressing up in a biohazard suit); and a gift shop selling all sorts of stuff from disease-themed movies (Outbreak, 28 Days Later) and music (Anthrax, anyone?) to t-shirts saying "I went on the CDC tour and all I got was this lousy rhinovirus", "Herpes is for life, not just for Christmas", "TB or not TB? That is the question" and other such vaguely witty slogans.

But Jen swore that they didn't have a visitor's centre. Why, she asked, would they want to open that kind of thing up to the public? And anyway, what kind of sicko would actually want to go?

So for the past few years I've been banging on occasionally at anyone who'll listen about how the CDC's missing a trick.

Except it turns out they're not.

I know it won't live up to my expectations, but I'm all the happier just to know it exists.


Panda pops

It's just after four in the morning. Technical difficulties at work mean I'm flicking through the channels in search of something to watch.

Did I really just see a bearded man in spectacles giving manual relief to a talking giant panda? Apparently, yes.

It's not a real panda, of course, but a person in a suit playing one. But I'm not sure that that isn't even more disturbing.

Now I know what they mean when they say it's always darkest before the dawn.


Turning Japanese

More on my swiftly developing career as the BBC News website's voice of east Asia. In much demand (or possibly just available) following the critically acclaimed performances of "Thai lorry driver" and the classic "Second Japanese panda fan", as well as a misguided turn as "Filipino karaoke enthusiast" I'm in danger of becoming typecast, having just completed the role of "Japanese paramedic". This is my second son of Nippon in a row. I suppose it's a problem all successful artistes face, yet there are so many more countries to which I have still to lend my voice.

This time the links should work.

Oh, and happy birthday Busta, Bronson and Cher...


Dysfunction keys

So I'm in the elevator at work, wearing this t-shirt with an Escape key on the front. It's an item of clothing which, like many in my wardrobe, often raises a smile or some similarly friendly response.

The lift stops before my floor and a few other people get in, including one bloke I recognise as a techy type having seen him crawl around under various desks and shouting down phones over the course of several years. I don't think he recognises me. To say we know each other would be a lie.

But this doesn't stop him from bellowing, "Ah, does this one work?" and, quite uninvited, firmly plants his pudgy little finger on the button in the middle of my chest chest. "Oh no. We're still here. Just as useless as all the others," he grins.

No one's quite sure what to make of it. Embarrassed faces all round. Still, despite this unexpected incursion into my personal space, I attempt to make the best of an awkward situation.

But the witty comeback isn't there. In the short trip down another couple of floors I mutter something about buttons, hopelessness and escape. But the door opens at my floor, I walk out, turn round, flash a smile and say, "There's no escape."

And as the door slides closed, he looks at me like I'm the one who needs his head checked...

Happy Birthday Alan

66 days and still missing. Ten years and three days my senior. What a way to spend any day, let alone your birthday.

Please sign the petition, get the blog button, tell your friends, keep him in your thoughts.


Am I a man or a mouse?

Surely one of the most exciting, magical and dramatic online quizzes I've ever seen, tied into the forthcoming His Dark materials movies.

I'm happy with a mouse, but is it accurate? Take a visit please and help me find my true daemon.


Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out

Ding, dong, the witch is, well, if not exactly dead, then certainly ordering four dozen baps for the mourners and making sure his affairs are in order.

What once felt so fresh, shiny and new, now just leaves a taste so bitter that it pervades every cell of one's body.

I won't deny that the Blair government did much for the country's benefit, and I'd hate to think what the UK would be like now had the Tories stayed in power.

Yet, without retreading too much of the same old ground, the contemptuous way in which Blair and his minions treated the public in the lead-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq and the horrific debacle that followed sent his healthy balance of good will well into the red. No one's pretending that Saddam was a saint, but surely there must have been another way.

On a more personal level resentment over the royal shafting the government gave the BBC over the Kelly affair (something for which Auntie seemingly continues to pay, given that the compromising licence fee settlement awarded earlier this year looks set to cause yet more years of job cuts) still burns deeply within the hearts of many inside the Corporation. The country should hope that the malice of Blair and Campbell has not tarnished a global jewel beyond repair.

And for the people of Iraq, there is no end in sight for the tragic results of Blair's collusion in the crimes perpetrated against them. Tomorrow will bring more bombs, more murders, more misery.

I'll likely come back to this once things have sunk in and played out. Because while I'm glad to see the back of him, Tony Blair deserves a proper goodbye.

While once upon a time I'd have welcomed Gordon Brown taking power I have a horrible, nagging doubt that this may be false hope. The sense of renewal that accompanied Blair's election is not apparent today. Yet while I have no desire to see the nation seduced by David Cameron, Gordo has much work to do to prove that he and Blair are not, as George Galloway puts it, "two cheeks of the same backside".

And I can't shake the image of the closing shot of Flash Gordon: tyrant Ming the Merciless has been killed, the ring that holds his power has slipped from his finger, and a happy ending seems in store for all the peoples of both Earth and Mongo. But as the ring lies in the rubble of Ming's palace a hand comes from out of shot to claim it, and the sound of maniacal laughter rings afresh in our ears...


Who's the daddy?

Okay, so based on the evidence of these photographs alone I can just about figure how it found some similarity between me and Matt Perry and I take it as a compliment (although I forget - was this photo from his pre-narcotic dependency, self-satisfied, height of Friends' success phase, or his recovering addict, put on a bit of weight, pressure-of-being-in-world's-biggest-sitcom-all- gone later years?) and maybe Gandolfini (although Danny Fantastic's a better match for Big Tony).

But Ralph Lauren? Don Adams? Travolta? And Peter Sellers? Since when has wearing spectacles been a key indicator of a genetic match?

Either this face-recognition system still needs plenty of work or my mum's got some serious explaining to do.