Saturday, April 26, 2008

The mangler with the plan

Moving house is a strange process - putting things in boxes, then putting those boxes in other boxes, then putting those boxed boxes in still more boxes. I've also been going through my disordered papers, and disordering them in a different disorder while hurling them willy-nilly into my boxing of boxed boxes for later unboxing and re-disordering.

Last night, as I packed away just about the last of my books and papers, I came across an interesting little booklet that I got for Christmas:

Procrastinators SOS 2008 Planner

*Snorts* Well - at least I lived up to the first word of the title...!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Summat summit about nowt

It's been interesting to read the responses of the 2020 summit participants following the event. The general consensus seems to be that the event was confused and disorganised, that certain views weren't heard, that other views were given unfair emphasis, that the agenda was manipulated by politicians and bureaucrats, that many ideas were ignored in favour of bland meaningless political statements, that many ideas weren't new, that too many celebrities were invited and that Kevin Rudd and Labor politicians deliberately tried to ingratiate themselves with the media. But still, respondents and attendants seem determined to be positive. Michael Gow writes: "... everyone subverted the white board tyranny and started having their own conversations." Alison Croggon: "... it was an inspiring invitation to a participatory democracy, and it resulted in some valuable and stimulating discussions and ideas." Andrew Norton: "Outside the sessions, I had some useful conversations."* Most baffling of all was Cate Blanchett's response:
Blanchett set the audience nodding in approval when she stated her belief in 'a long and meaningful relationship between arts and government' and that 'much can simply be done by imagining the arts where they rightly belong - at the very heart of our society.'
I always thought it was a positive virtue of our society that artists typically wanted greater independence of government. Observing this, Tim Blair noted sardonically: " Dissent is so 1996-2007."

And I really don't know why there has been such a positive response to the summit. Sure, conversations were had, but conversations can be had anytime. More than anything else, the optimistic response by Croggon, Blanchett, et al, seems to indicate that they were flattered to be invited to the summit. It reminded me of an observation C S Lewis made about a radical socialist acquaintance of his, 'a young man I once knew':
He had been a strict socialist at Oxford. Everything ought to be run by the state; private enterprise and independent professions for him were the great evil. He then went away and became a schoolmaster. After about ten years of that he came to see me. He said his political views had been wholly reversed. You never heard a fuller recantation. He now saw that State interference was fatal. What had converted him was his experience as a schoolmaster of the Ministry of Education - a set of ignorant meddlers armed with insufferable power to pester, hamper, and interrupt the work of real, practical teachers who knew the subjects they taught, who knew boys, parents, and all the real conditions of their work. It makes no difference to the point of the story whether you agree with his view of the Ministry; the important thing is he held that view. For the real point of the story, and of his visit, when it came, nearly took my breath away. Thinking thus, he had come to see whether I had any influence which might help him to get a job in the Ministry of Education.
Here is the perfect band-wagoner. Immediately on the decision 'This is a revolting tyranny', follows the question, 'How can I as quickly as possible cease to be one of the victims and become one of the tyrants?' If I had been able to introduce the young man to someone in the Ministry, I think we may be sure that his manners to that hated 'Meddler' would have been genial and friendly in the extreme. Thus someone who had heard his previous invective against the meddling and then witnessed his actual behaviour towards the meddler, might possibly (for charity 'believeth all things') have concluded that this young man was full of the purest Christianity and loved one he thought a sinner while hating what he thought his sin.
Just so. It's far easier to seek to be one of the 'elite', to have the ear of those in power, than to seek real independence from the powerful.

PS Please read Jack Marx.

*Though it's true, the tone of his blog post is far more cynical.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In which the author surveys the cutlery, and prophesies doom

Reposting a comment, because I can.

Dies Irae! Dies Illa! This next space is used for filler!
(An ode to the spork)

In rev’rent tones we used to talk
Of ‘Ladle - spoon', of 'knife - and fork’.
Now prophets of all nations hawk
The FOON - the SPLADE - the SPORK.

Lo! In yesteryear, our meals were made
And then in ‘plates and dishes’ laid;
But now I eat in ‘Plish’ and ‘Dates’
With SPORK - and FOON - and SPLADE.

The End of World approaches soon!
Seas run with blood! Red turns the moon!
Plague stalks abroad- no-one's immune! -
Not even simple ‘Knife - fork - spoon!’
For now I eat my greens and meat -
With SPORK - with SPLADE - with FOON!

Monday, April 21, 2008

More pressing questions of intergalactic import

Okay. Right then.

"Bold-faced lie."

"Bare-faced lie."

"Bald-faced lie."

What is the correct expression? For some reason I thought it was 'bald-faced lie' at first, but that doesn't make any sense. Heads can be bald, but faces aren't ever really described as bald. I thought maybe it was 'bare-faced lie', which the Urban Dictionary describes as

A bearded lie that remembered to shave this morning.

Then again, there's a website here that defines a 'bald-faced lie' as an erroneous version of 'bold-faced lie'. As far as I can make out, 'bold' refers to the typeface. And I suppose 'bold-faced' could also refer to the lack of fear on the face of the person who is delivering the lie. Then again, it would also seem to iimply that the lie has a bold face, which makes you wonder what the rest of the lie's body is like.

And yet again, I wonder if I really am living in a parallel universe. Maybe the phrase really is something like -

"Bald-headed lie."

"Bare-bodied lie."

Bolt-faced lie."

"Lye-faced bell."

"Fast-belled loo."

Heck, it could be anything, really!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fully-grown bunny likes to look at pictures of other fully-grown bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits

"So it's true," says Daffodil Bunny. "I like to look at pictures of other fully-grown bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits. And what of it?"

Daffodil Bunny: confesses to looking at pictures of other bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits.

The fully-grown white bunny with brown spots has sparked controversy when admitting to his habit of watching other fully-grown bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits.

"Sometimes I like to look at videos," continues Daffodil. "I like to look at videos of fully-grown bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits hopping around, eating grass, going into burroughs, or twitching their cute little noses. In Hugh Hefner suits. But sometimes, just pictures will do."

Amid widespread political outrage, Daffodil Bunny has agreed to show us his collection of pictures of other bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits. His collection ranges from "Playbunny" magazines, which feature a wide range of bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits; videos of bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits; framed pictures of bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits; and even trading cards of fully-grown bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits.

However, there are concerns that Daffodil Bunny's habit could eventually lead him to a life of crime.

POLL: Do you think bunnies looking at other bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits could lead them to a life of crime?
Not sure
Free polls from

Daffodil Bunny rejects all claims that he is objectifying Hugh Hefner. "I am not ashamed about my habit, not at all," he claims. "I do it because I really, really respect Hugh Hefner. Really. My habit of looking at pictures of other bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits is my way of expressing that respect. Also, I think he's cute."

The controversy caused by the confession of Daffodil Bunny and other users of "Playbunny" magazine looks set to continue. However, as Patch Bunny, professor of Sociology at the Bunny University, says, "Live and let live. Some bunnies like to nibble carrots, or hop around a bit, or be scratched behind the ears. Others like to look at pictures of their fellow bunnies in Hugh Hefner suits. And surely the world is big enough for both of us?"

Woof! Woof!

The beast next door,
He pounds the floor
With savage paw;
Tears at the door
With fearsome claw.
He dines at four
On bones and gore
And sweet ichor
Of visitors,
The beast next door.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A country town is like picking your nose: discuss

Fun times in Western Australian country town of Geraldton recently, when members of their local tourism association read an article in a West Australian newspaper publication. The article compares staying in the town to picking your nose, 'something you just don't admit to in public'. Horror! Members of tourism association suggest a boycott of WAN products; a Geraldton local and publicist goes on air for an interview and suggests inviting the offending WAN journalist to the town for a weekend - and then we'll see how she feels about it!*

Comparisons may be odious, but not everything that is odious may be a comparison. The way the ABC presenter described it - 'comparing Geraldton to picking your nose' - certainly was odd, if not odious. I'm tempted to draw up a table in order to determine once and for all if Geraldton is like picking your nose. And why? What do the experts have to say on this comparison? Perhaps this is a question the Australian tourism hasn't considered before, something that could be causing the drop in tourist numbers across the board. "Nine out of ten international experts agree: Australian country towns are like picking your nose."

I'm also tempted to write into the WAN with the following letter:

It has come to my attention that in a recent story you compared the country town of Geraldton to nose picking, as something 'you just don't admit to in public'.

Speaking as an out and proud member of the National Proboscis Probers Association, I am absolutely shocked and horrified by this comparison. At the NPPA, we are united in the belief that picking your nose is not only of hygienic and medical benefit, but that it is a pleasurable and enjoyable activity that can be enjoyed by all members of the family. I have never been to Geraldton and bear the town no grudge - (it is, in all probability, a lovely place to live); but I have picked my nose: and I would like to say, for once and for all, that there is no shame in it. (Picking your nose, that is.) Everyone does it!

Isn't it time that these archaic and outdated stereotypes about nose picking were thrown out the window? I mean, you don't publish articles in support of creationism, do you? Well, then, why do you persist in perpetuating preposterous prejudice against personalised probosci probing? Hmmm?

As we always say in the NPPA,
"Over and snout!"

Yrs, & co. & co.,
Colonel Charles Forthwilliams-Snudge, Littlebottom, Victoria

*No links to any of these stories, sorry. They're all off line. Don't ask me how I came across them. It's a mystery of space time, man! (And something to do with who I work for).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Efficient time-management skills

I logged on to my computer. My computer takes quite a while to log on, so I went into the kitchen and spilled half a carton of milk. By the time I had cleaned it all up, my computer had logged on.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I have no idea what this means

Said a quoo to a quaigh
"Is it harder to quee,
Or to quaggle two quiddlies to quab?"

Said the quaigh to the quoo,
"Not at all, my dear sir,
It's just like a door and a knob!"

"But what if your quiddlies don't quabble?"
Continued the querulous quoo.
"Or even - Great Quidnunc! - they quaggle?"

"Your quibbles are welcome, dear quoo,"
Orated the orgulous quaigh.
"'Twould be like tails teaching doggies to waggle!"

Said the quaigh to the quoo
As they went on their way
"And why must we query the quist?"

"Because," quoth the quoo, with an elegant mew
"It concerns me and you,
As a vale concerns mist,
As a mill concerns grist,
And exactly as Franz concerns Lizst."


(It kept me entertained at lunch, at least. )

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our parapraxis will make you send for the paramedic

Strange day at work today. First, the spell check decided to throw a fit at the anagram 'FaHCIA', and I have no idea why. It kept on throwing up suggestions like 'Fuchsia' or 'Facial'. Then it tried to change 'Aboriginal activist Murrando Yanner' into 'Aboriginal activist Murrando Yawner.'

I didn't even want to run it past 'Oompa-Loompa', which is a word that R. uncovered in a transcript of hers. What word is this, she asked in the tone of someone who has somehow missed out on seeing a movie that traumatised generations of children. What does it mean? How do you even spell it?

Ever being the one to pursue tiny matters such as this with a ferocious pedanticism (the stakes are so low!), I leapt onto the computer to pursue this matter. Just how do you spell 'Oompa-Loompa'?

Wikipedia gives 'Oompa-Loompa', a hyphenated word. It explains that 'They come from Loompaland, which is a region of Loompa, a small isolated island situated in the Pacific Ocean.' (Wikipedia sources this information, presumably, from Roald Dahl's books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.)

The website Roald Dahl Fans uses the spelling 'Oompa-Loompa' consistently. However, one source linked on the Wikipedia page (on Oompa-Loompa economics) omits the hyphen from the name. It also says -

Wonka answers... the Oompa Loompas, he explains,
come from a far off place called “Lumpaland”, where, because of their diminutive size, they were in constant danger of being gobbled up by assorted “fierce creatures.” And so, in what he would have us believe was an altruistic gesture, he “freed” them from their native land and had them brought to his factory in the “greatest of secrecy,” where they could live in “peace and safety”...and become his new source of labor.

Most other websites seem to conform to the spelling 'Oompa-Loompa', including the IMDB page for the latest film. But I still wonder... considering their origin in 'Loompaland' or 'Lumpaland', why are they not simply called 'Loompalanders', 'Loompalians', or 'Loompans'? Where did the 'Oompa' come from? Is the whole a native Loompaland name or pronoun? The hyphen implies that they are two unrelated words that have been brought into relationship with one another, and while the origin of 'Loompa' is fairly clear, the beginnings of 'Oompa' are less so. If the Oompa-Loompas are indeed non-English speaking, then they certainly have adapted marvellously to the English language.)

Also: should Oompa-Loompa be capitalised? I think this depends on whether the Oompa-Loompas are a nationality or simply a community, a race of men, or a separate species altogether. In all but the last example the name would be capitalised (ie, we capitalise 'Welsh', 'British', or 'Anglo-Saxon', but don't always capitalise 'human' or 'dog').

I suppose I should just open a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I don't have it handy - and I don't think Mum would take kindly to me calling her on the abstruse matter of the correct spelling of fictional creatures' names. The Roald Dahl website, also, seems to be no help. Besides, it's not clear why we should trust Roald Dahl anyway: he made the Oompa-Loompas up, true, but why does this mean that he got the spelling right? Their history and geography and origins of the Oompa-Loompas may have been entirely fictional, but that's no excuse. The spelling of made up words about fictional characters is a problem that is so specific precisely because it is so abstract, and so abstract precisely because it is so specific. Or, to put it another way: maybe Dahl made a mistake when he first wrote the name down, and just consistently followed the mistake thereafter. You don't have any way of telling!

NEXT WEEK: "Just what the hell should my being a fictional creation have anything to do with my entry into politics?" An exclusive interview with the Jabberwock on his joining the Socialist Alliance.

(Cross-posted here.)

Plumbing the depths

Three poems for The Baron, who is currently dealing with the dicey problem of buying a toilet...

On the difficulties in buying a non-white toilet
A loo with a lavender livery
Makes some squirm while others go shivery.
Whilst the market condones
A white porcelain throne,
Does it really aid one in delivery?

On piping
The piping in your water closet
A small but vital detail is.
It directs your small deposit,
The piping in your water closet.
When you go to toilet retailers,
A small but vital detail is
The piping in your water closet.

When purchasing your toilet, the direction of the drainage can be an important factor in your decision
Left or right or high or low -
Whither goes the plumb?
Hither! Thither! It doth go!

Hear the visitor cry - 'Oh!'
Hear the farting of the bum!
Left and high or right and low?

Thro' mazelike plumbing it doth flow -
Hear its rumble - grumble - hum!
Whither, whither, doth it go?

Where will it end? What man can know?
The body and the mind grow numb,
Thinking, fearing - 'high or low?'

Will the package sink below,
Sink into the sewerage scum?
Who can tell where it will go?

Is the toilet friend or foe?
Sellers, buyers, both cry - 'UM!'
Right or high or left or low!
Hither! Thither! It doth go!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Arghhhh! I'm dying, man! I'm dying!

I have an irritating cold, and it struck me as I had coffee up the street this morning with my flatmate that it's almost exactly like having a hangover. I mean, there I was, having coffee, tired, slightly nauseous, unable to function properly - what's the difference? If you subtract all the laughter and joy and sometimes vomit that you get along with the alcohol, that is.

Anyone for a cough cocktail seasoned with sore throat, a dash of snot, and a serving of insomnia? On the house.

Et in Nostalgia ego

Nostalgia for the thing that happened fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds ago

Well, now I'm nearing the end of the hour, and as the gloom draws in, I've finally got time to set my feet up, relax, and cast my thoughts back over the long, golden vista of seconds, minutes, and quarter hours. So many seconds! It hardly seems likely that I have lived through them all. My mind moves with tenderness over those delightful seconds that passed some half-an-hour ago now. There was the time when ... and then the time when we... and then the time when I... oh, MERCY!

My mind affixes upon one moment, one golden instance, those long minutes ago. I see myself, now, sitting in the work kitchen with my coffee, laughing and chatting... well, it wasn't so much golden as black - that's how I like my coffee. And it actually wasn't that pleasant: full of gossip and bitching. But still: I was so much more carefree and innocent then! Well, forty-seven minutes and thirty-three point two seconds more carefree and innocent. But!

Oh, to have the idle joy of those lost microseconds back! Life is not so simple now: I am caught, here, at work. Verily, life is a vale of tears! Never more will I experience the like of that lost coffee again. Well, not until lunch, of course, if I survive for another two hours and thirty-nine seconds. That's seven thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine long seconds, leaden seconds heavy, despair-laden seconds. What? Yes. I'm counting.

But life is filled with these precious seconds, I remind myself. Even now, I long for that time, thirty-two seconds ago now, when I shifted my posterior from a slightly less comfortable position to a slightly more comfortable position. Oh, to return to those simple, happy times of yestersecond! Even that time, some five and a bit seconds ago, when I was growing slightly less comfortable but still a bit of the old comfort remained, seems sanctified now in the roseate glow of memory. But oh, life is a passing thing! Doubtless, in another few seconds I will be longing for the longing I experience now for the seconds that passed only a few seconds ago, but will then be the seconds that passed a few seconds before the seconds that are now passing me by!

To be as young as I then was! Why are the first things so precious to us? The first time I tasted coffee (for the day); the first time I sat down in my relatively comfortable but not-too-comfortable work-chair (for the hour); the first time I logged onto Facebook (to distract myself) and threw a cow at a friend! However, soon the innocence passes to experience and memories become stained. The second coffee (for the day); the second time I sat in my relatively comfortable but growing-more-uncomfortable work-chair (for the half-hour); the second time I logged on to Facebook and threw two more cows at friends... Granted, they were still fun. But no longer - oh, never! - done with the happiness and childish glee they once had for me! Well, okay. They were still pretty good.

All in all, when I consider my life (for the day) so far, I can not help but long after things as they were some fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds ago. Fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds later, I am burdened down with woe and travails and tears. It hardly seems like that I am to live another fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds, does it? I am an old man now: well, a slightly older man, anyway. And I guess I will live that long. But for another day? Really? Oh, I suppose I will. But still...

I mourn for the world as it was fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds ago! I weep for the person I was fifty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds ago! Nevermore will they come again! It was a lost Neverland, a Utopia of dreams! Oh, mercy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kids today!

Conversation at work today

R.B. :
I'm going to a friend's wedding on the weekend. The first wedding I've been to in 10 years. And before that, I don't think I'd been to a wedding for 30 years.

Tim: Kids today! Always in such a hurry to get married!

Should homosexuality be compulsory for Anglican clergy? An open letter

An open letter to the Reverend Richard Lane

Dear Reverend Richard Lane,

Should homosexuality be compulsory for all Anglican clergy? It's a difficult question. What do you think? There is of course the matter of personally-expressed sexual preference. However, as you must know, personally-expressed sexual preference has very little to do with the choice to become a member of the clergy.

I myself am a moderate. I think you should listen to your own heart. Conscience must be your guide, as it is the guide for thousands of other members of the Anglican clergy around the world. I trust you will come to the right decision. However, if you find yourself wavering, there are several groups which may help you with the difficulties you are personally experiencing. With a little help, I am sure the healing process can begin within the church.

May the all-encompassing love of God be with you always - not to mention the hot-and-sweaty love of man,


Some recent Freudian slippers

I churn out thousands of words a day as part of my job, so it's only natural that I should make a few slip ups. It's amazing how easy it is to slip into saying something quite different by the addition of one or two letters - note how 'appealing', if you change two letters, becomes 'appalling'. Even the most innocuous of words is prone to disaster. Thus yesterday, while typing -


I repeatedly made an accidental slip, omitting the e, causing me to type


Because the transcripts I work with are often about slightly dull but worthwhile subjects like plumbing and roads, I wasn't too surprised to be finding myself working away on a transcript about dams. Or, in the uncommon parlance,


Here, I continually slipped up and started typing


I think I weeded out all the 'weirds' in the end, but you can't be sure; these are the sort of thing a spell check will not weed out, and the human eye may just glance over them. But then, maybe there is just something infernal about the whole subject of human-made bodies of water, anyway. Add one letter to 'dam', and you get 'damn'. Coincidence? I think not! (Oh, all right then, it probably is.)

And then, there was a transcript with a former Army member who kept on using the word


Jointery, I should explain, is an innovation in defence circles. It doesn't appear to have made it into the dictionaries yet, but it means something like 'Joint operations', but there's a formal definition here, and a slightly less formal definition here. The spell check at work didn't recognise it either. It kept on thinking the word was


Which probably wouldn't have made a lot of sense in that transcript.

Of course, it's not too often that you come across a real zinger, a blooper that you'd love to have made. I'm not sure whether I've mentioned it before, but it was a modern transcript of an old ABC news reel about the flooding of the inimitable Adaminaby. (The whole population of the town was effectively moved so they didn't go down with the houses.) Where the original newsreader said,

And these are the men who are drowning Adaminaby...

The final transcript reads

And these are the men who are drowning admirably...

I guess it's just another case of those damned dams. So maybe I should just quit? Quite.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I am absolutely thrilled, 26 hours from now!

There was an interesting bit on Media Watch about Fairfax's coverage of Earth hour.
And now to Saturday March the 29th, at 8pm…the beginning of Earth Hour.

No, on second thoughts, let's go back a day further - to Friday, March the 28th, at 6.09 pm - when this article popped up on Fairfax Media's online paper, the Brisbane Times.
Lights Go Out Over Bris Vegas For Earth Hour
Andrew Wight

Brisbane made history this evening with the city’s first official Earth Hour going off without a hitch.

Kellie Caught, of Earth Hour organiser World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said she was thrilled with the response.
You've been caught out, Kellie - being thrilled 26 hours in advance.
I for one am absolutely thrilled by the ability of activists to be thrilled about the outcome of an event, over a day before the event has actually eventuated! It certainly bespeaks great thrift and economy on their part, to offer their thoughts and emotions on unhappened happenings as if they had already happened: by the time these happenings have actually happened, they'll have moved on to something else entirely!

However, I can't help but feel that, 26 hours before this hasty Earth Hour story was published, they must have been feeling anxious and humiliated at the outcome of their forthcoming publishing mistake. And who knows what they must have been feeling, 26 hours before the exposure of their humiliating mistake on Media Watch? That must have been an absolutely horrible thing to have not occurred yet - really terrible!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Vote the bastards back!

(A retroreactionary hymn for the times)

We voted the bastards out!
We gave Little Johnny the sack!
But now that he's gone with our spite and our scorn -
We feel a definite lack!
(So vote - vote - vote the bastards,
Vote the bastards back!)

Though we've won what we wanted to win,
We all feel oddly bereft:
Though some hate to love John, we all love to hate John -
What else has the Left-wing got left?
(Yes, vote - vote - vote the bastards,
Vote the bastards back!)

O Johnny! All is forgiven!
We forgive you the tears and the pain!
With love and affection, we'll vote JOHN next election -
So we can hate you all over again!
(Let's vote - vote - vote the bastards,
Vote the bastards back!)

We look forward with hope to a future
That will be just as it was in the past:
We'll vote to ensure things are just as before -
And we can finally hate you at last!
(So we'll vote - vote - vote the bastards,
Vote the bastards back!)

Monday, April 07, 2008

It's freaking me out, man!

Nuns come from nunneries and cats frequently come from catteries; hats made by hatters can be found in a hattery. Simple, right? However: bats don't come from batteries, flatmates almost never come from a flattery, and you don't get a knack from a knackery, no matter how hard you might try. And when was the last time you tried to get a mat from a mattery? Do you know how hard it is?

Also: a pimp can be a pimper, but never a pimple; a wimp may whimper, but usually not in a wimple; a simple may simper, but not all simperers are simples.

It gets more complicated. Kipling may have eaten kippers, but what did kippers think about Kipling? You may coddle someone by feeding them cods, but not all who eat cods may feel coddled. Paradoxically, the cods may often not feel coddled at all about the whole affair. And while some adults commit adultery, not all heiresses commit heresy.

This whole post may seem to you to be a minor quibble. But did it, or did it not, come from a quibbly? Think about that, before you're so quick to dismiss!

Or, as Hillaire Belloc might say:

O! Let no-one ever, ever doubt
What nobody is sure about!

UPDATE! - People who earn interest are often uninteresting. I think we may be onto something here...

Mere earthly dogs

The Commissioners arrived at Woodstock on 13 October 1649, determined to wipe away the memory of all that connected itself with the recollection of monarchy in England. But in the course of their progress they were encountered by obstacles which apparently came from the next world. Their bedchambers were infested with visits of a thing resembling a dog, but which came and passed as mere earthly dogs cannot do...
- Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

Sunday, April 06, 2008

An encounter with a disorganisation

As you might know, I've been looking for an apartment, which basically means I've been logging on to Domain late at night (if I'm not too tired after work), turning up at apartment inspections (if they're not too far away, and if I can make it), and lodging my application for those apartments that I did turn up to (if I can remember, in my disorganised fashion.) After a month and a half of this on-again off-again process of looking I finally found a place. A real estate agent would describe it as 'cosy', 'cost effective', and 'close to train, tram, and bus'. Of course, if you translate this into convention English, you get 'shabby, tiny, and noisy from early morning through to late at night'.

I attribute my success in this whole process to finding a real estate agent who is even more disorganised than I am. Let me tell you about it: at the inspection for the apartment, the real estate agent didn't turn up until half-an-hour after he was supposed to. (He was apparently 'caught in a traffic jam'). That thinned the numbers at the inspection a bit. The day after, I tried to fax my application through, and the receptionist on the other end kept on picking up the phone and breaking the connection (the postal worker eventually had to call them and tell them to not pick up the phone). The day after this, my boss got a call at work from an agent, and somehow the agent walked away with the impression that I only earned two hundred dollars a week (even though I'd faxed through a copy of my weekly pay slip that showed I worked full time. I had to explain it to them on the phone when they called me later).

And the list of mistakes doesn't stop there, either. The reactions of others when told about this real estate agency? "Worrying". And this from my mother: "That's good news, I suppose. Thanks for telling me that, I think." (I replied to this: "I am sort of reassured by your half-hearted congratulations.")

I looked forward to telling you further tales of mismanagement and bungling by my soon-to-be real estate disorganisation! It is, indeed, a good flat that will suit my needs very well.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Kingsley and I

The Kingsley and I, at the Windsor Castle, today: chips, beer, and good company. Kind of reminds me of the old rhyme:

I'm the Kingsley of the Castle
And you're the dirty rascal.

The out of context game!

Well, you could have floored me with a feather, decapitated me with a daisy, skewered me with a seaweed, and walloped me with a scallop. Some politician in the good old UK had these wise words to say about rape:

"To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting that force feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence."

This politician, one Nick Eriksen, predictably represents the BNP. Presumably he and his colleagues are force-fed chocolate cake on a regular basis as part of the insensitivity training under taken by all BNP politicians. Anyway, the BNP claims, with gleeful abandon, that Eriksen is taken out of context. Taken out of context? It makes you wonder in what context the sentence DID appear originally...

a) Hello! How are you? I'm well, thanks! Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake!

b) I am very concerned about the increasing gap between rich and poor. Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake!

c) Speaking of chocolate, and speaking of cake, don't you think rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake?

d) Aren't puppies nice? Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake!

e) Hey, look behind you! Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake!

f) Purple monkey dishwasher! Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake!

If you answered a, b, c, d, e, or f, nope. They're all wrong. If, however, you thought the answer would something more like the following -

Rape is simply sex (I am talking about 'husband-rape' here, for those who deliberately seek to misunderstand me). Women enjoy sex, so this type of 'rape' cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal. To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting that force feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence. A woman would be more inconvenienced by having her handbag snatched ... Again, for those who are seeking to cause trouble by deliberately misunderstanding me: yes, violent rape by a stranger in the street is a terrible crime, but I am not talking about that -- I am talking about 'husband-rape'.

You'd be right.

Freudian traumas about wimples

A brief review of the film 'The Other Boleyn Girl'.

Sex. Violence. Extra-marital affairs with the king of England. Exile. Treason. Rape. Power lust. Incest. Decapitation. Also, wimples, people having sex in wimples, people having sex while committing violence in wimples, people having incest in wimples, people having Freudian traumas about wimples, and horses.

Add these things together, and you've pretty much got The Other Boleyn Girl in a nutshell. Or a wimple, as the case may be.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Possible names for future fables

The tale of the three matchsticks and the improvident beagle

The wily little shamrock artisan and the case of the missing bodily organ

When the seven graces met up with the twelve virtues, and not to discuss the merits of the Biblical injunctions, either

The loquacious canary and the gobsmacked wallaby

The problem with beards

When the voracious piano player, the whimsical kitten and the two-headed demigorgon went for a holiday

How the turkey, elephant, wombat, viral infection, oligopololist, and cat lost their gobble, nose, ability to burrow, host, will to live, and bowl of milk, and how they got them back again

Why oligopolists shouldn't live in burrows

The horse that could clip and clap, but couldn't clop

The audience member that could clop and clip, but couldn't clap

The staple that felt vaguely sad

The case of the honest politician

Town anarcho-syndicalist, country anarcho-syndicalist

The tale of the lackadaisical goblin and the statistical improbability

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Driving, it's a hit and hit affair

Maria has a perfectly fine post up about driving lessons with her mother. She chose wisely; I remember driving lessons with my father, mostly consisting of him saying to me "Go. Good. Now stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stoooop!" (Somehow, I usually contrived to follow his instructions without being assisted by an outside object, like a tree. I can't imagine why I don't do much driving anymore.)

Anyway, it's not people who have the worst of driving lessons, it's crash test dummies. By chance, I happen to have recently been in correspondence with a family of crash test dummies about their driving experiences, and I present to you now the results of this correspondence. I have made some minor amendments to make it more readable. I hope you like it.


The sun was shining brightly as Julia Dummy made her way from her house to the car where her father was waiting in the driver's seat. Julia had just taken her Crash Test Dummy Driver's Licence Learner's test the other day, with only one answer wrong. But as her father drove off, she couldn't help but feel a little nervous.

Finally, they reached a wide an empty block, where her father pulled up and stopped. He got out and walked to the other side of the vehicle while Julia Dummy slid over to the driver's seat. Her hands gripped tightly on the wheel and trembled slightly as she turned the engine on, just as her father had shown her. The engine revved with frightening force.

"Now," said her father, hopping in the other side, "For starters, drive into that wall over there."
Julia Dummy placed the car in first gear, and began to drive forward, staring determinedly at the wall. The car crept forward for a few steps, then suddenly -

"Wait! WAIT! Stop!" cried her father. "What are you doing?"
"Driving into the wall," said Julia, puzzled.
"At that speed? You might hit the wall, but even if you do, you won't do any damage at all!"
Her father banged his plastic hand on the dashboard to make a point. "You're not a HOON, Julia Dummy!"

Julia thought immediately of those hoon crash test dummies who drove late at night in the parking lots. She saw them sometimes when she helped her parents out with late-night shopping. They would drive at incredibly slow speeds, shouting and hollering like maniacs, exhilarated by the lack of danger. Sometimes they would even drive their cars away from one another for distances, like humans, only to turn aside at the last moment so as to make the smallest of crashes. She bit her plastic lips together as she thought about it. No. She didn't want to be like that. She didn't ever want to be like them.

Julia Dummy ignited the engine and the car started rolling forward. She turned the car up to first, second and then third gear, coasting along towards the wall now at a rapid pace. Then, kicking the engine into fourth, she sped along, and was about to change into fifth gear, when -


- the car crunched to a halt and parts of the window screen fell about the Dummies as the car slammed with extraordinary force into the wall. Mr Dummy was thrown right out of his seat, and Julia flopped forwards and back and forwards again before remembering to turn the engine off.

"Hmm," said her father after a few moments, picking up his head from the floor, dusting a few shards of glass off, and screwing it back on, "Nice hit. Almost dead on centre!"
"I was so afraid I'd miss!" said Julia, trying not to sound a little triumphant.
"Now," said her father, turning his head this way and that to make sure it was in place, "How about backing up and to the right and into that tree behind us?"
Julia craned her head out the window and looked in the rear view mirror, and then looked back to see where the tree was. Reverse gear was complicated, but she knew she had to try to get this right. She put the car into reverse, began to turn to the right, and accelerated, keeping her eye on the mirror. A wave of fear hit her and she thought, "Oh, my God! I've missed the tree, I've missed the tree!" But -


There was a sudden grinding of gears, and the engine roared terribly. The car suddenly wasn't going anywhere any more. Julia shut off the engine as her father got out. In a moment, she walked around to the back of the car, too.
She had hit the tree, but not in the centre. It grazed the far left of the car, denting it slightly, and once branch just managing to take out a light. But if she had turned any further, she might have missed it!

"I think you probably need a bit more practice in driving into things in reverse," said her father. "But that's okay. We can do some more later."

As they walked back to the car, Julia Dummy wondered fearfully what might have happened if she had missed the tree. It was horrible; maybe she would have gone on and on and not hit anything! She wished she didn't get so worried about driving.

"There are some big rocks and a public toilet over there," said her father. "Let's practice hitting them for a bit! This time we'll try a few turns - but not at slow speeds, you're not experienced enough for that. Fifth gear!"

Over the next half-hour, Julia Dummy and her father turned at high speeds into rocks and trees, sped into public monuments and facilities, slammed into walls and houses, and collided with horrifying force into hills. Then they decided to wind things up with a bit of parking, and for the next ten minutes, Julia Dummy worked on her skills in bumping into cars behind her and in front of her. ("It's a bit tricky, but you'll learn soon enough," said Mr Dummy consolingly.) Then, just when it looked like things were done, they saw in the distance Mr and Mrs Jones - a family of crash test dummies who were neighbours, obviously out for a little morning smash.

"Hmm," said Mr Dummy. "Why don't we drive into them and say hello?"

Feeling that she could handle this quite easily, Julia Dummy kicked the car into fifth gear, and accelerated at two hundred kilometres an hour towards the Joneses! Her confidence was growing now. She thought she was getting the hang of this driving business. After all, there was always something to run into, wasn't there?
As they drew nearer, the Joneses car continued to putt putt along at the same pace. Julia was puzzled. It was almost as if they didn't want a collision to happen, and were just out for a Sunday drive. Closer they came, and a small anxiety grew in Julia's mind. She had been counting on them swerving towards her. She had driven in a wide arc to allow this sort of thing to happen.

"OH MY GOD!" shouted Julia Dummy, the truth dawning on her. "THEY'RE LOOKING THE OTHER WAY! THEY'RE GOING TO MISS US, DAD!"
"TURN, TURN!" shouted her father, frightened now. "YOU CAN STILL HIT THEM!"

They weren't far away now. Julia saw that old Mr Jones - he had been a crash test dummy for the army at one time, so he could be forgiven for being a little forgetful now - turn his head and spy the Dummies speeding towards him. He joyfully kicked his car into high gear, and sped towards them and an inevitable -


It was certainly one of the best crashes Julia Dummy had been in for a long time. Not only did her father fly out of his seat, allowing him to shout, "Fancy bumping into YOU!" at old Mr and Mrs Jones, but both cars immediately exploded nicely. The four of them - Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Dummy and Julia - looked at the smouldering wrecks of the cars in satisfaction.
"Wonderful hit, Julia!" shouted Mr Dummy. "You've written our cars both off! You're a natural driver!"
"Come on, dears," said Mrs Jones. "There's a train leaving soon that's due to be derailed at our street. Let's catch that..."


That night, Mr Dummy brought ice-cream for the whole family to celebrate Julia Dummy's wonderful crash. Driving was a funny business, thought Julia as she ate her ice cream. But not that hard, once you learned how to hit things. Not that hard at all...
Email: timhtrain - at -

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