Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tips for adding magic and mystery to your life

Want to make your house look like the steaming forests of Samarkand or Ind to add a little magic and mystery to your life? How about

Yes, the carboniferous fumes floating poetically upwards from the toaster in the morning sunbeams will make your house seem full of enchantment and wonder - exactly the sort of enchantment and wonder that tourists will be looking for in Samarkand and Ind at this time of the year!

As an added touch, try and have some chickens poking around through the smoky atmosphere and stabbing at random things with their beaks, making your steaming forest seem positively Jurassic.

Right to the top. Not only will it create a crapload of steam, but if it overflows, it'll be as if you're wading through the sort of swamp that, in a slightly different context (that context being the actual forests of Samarkand and Ind) extremely rich tourists would pay extremely large amounts of money for the partaking thereof. Try and have a banana palm sitting in a pot next to the bath, too. It'll add that little extra touch of authenticity.

I seem to remember in all the movies about the forests of Samarkand and Ind, they always seem to have a kookaburra laughing in the background too, so you could try getting a kookaburra. On second thoughts, that might be a little impractical in a bathroom context.

How your kitchen could look with the simple addition of a little burnt toast!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The intellectual capacity of chickens

Chickens have very intellectual capacities. Right now, our three chooks are out in the garden, sorting and scratching, digging and delving, furrowing and ferreting for ideas. What they generally find are worms, not ideas, but this suits them pretty well. Worms usually do taste better than ideas, unless the idea in question is pink and wriggling and eats dirt. This, however, is not the kind of idea that you generally find in orthodox publications of the sciences or humanities.

Chickens have been, quite unfairly, maligned by some people as being mindless. This is not true: chickens are extremely thoughtful, some might even say philosophical. Barely a moment goes by when they are not pondering and puzzling over the most obvious questions. Actually they have no time to get on to the more complicated questions as they put so much energy into the obvious ones. Should I eat this? Can I eat that? What is there to eat? These are the grand cerebral conundra that perplex the cogitations of your average backyard chicken as it makes its way through the empyrean on its humble question for knowledge. The answer to all these questions is, of course, yes, and the chicken sets out to find this out in an empirical fashion, pecking away at the problem with its beak. Eventually the problem disappears, although the chicken may not feel quite satisfied that it has found the answer yet, so it will set about at another problem straightaway. It is probably a good thing no chicken has as yet decided to unriddle the enigmas of Einsteinian relativity, as there is no telling what a little pecking could do to them.

The basic phoneme of discourse amongst chickens is the cluck. Actually it is the only unit of discourse amongst chickens, pretty much, so as you can imagine they work hard on each of their clucks, so that they end up with a wide variety suitable for all situations and walks of life. There are at least two:

THE CURIOUS CLUCK: Uttered by a chicken in the garden as they contemplate whether they should eat something.

THE FURTIVE CLUCK: Same as a curious cluck, except coming from the kitchen as the chicken contemplates what they should eat first.

Diligent scholars of the chicken-mind should take any and every opportunity of scrutinising your average chicken (don't worry, they're all pretty average) as it meditates its way hither and reasons its way thither. It is an instructive and edifying experience to see the chicken-mind at work, and indeed, as they think about this and that you can virtually script their thoughts.
Two chickens stand in front of an open door. They look at each other. They look at the door. They utter several curious clucks.

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) That open! In go?

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) That open! In go?

FIRST CHICKEN: (Going in) Can I eat this? (Utters furtive cluck)

SECOND CHICKEN: (Going in) What should I eat? (Utters furtive cluck)

A PERSON moves in the way of the chickens as they are coming in. The chickens look at one another in panic.

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) Big thing in way! What do?

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) Can I eat this? (Pecks at human foot experimentally)

PERSON: (Jiggles foot about to get chickens to move out)

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) I eat concrete slab out instead? (Curious cluck)

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) Yum, concrete slab. (Both move outside)

PERSON, who has meanwhile been uttering all kinds of different incomprehensible words closes the door and retires inside so it can utter incomprehensible words in peace.
Here is a picture the Baron took a little while ago of two of our chickens searching for the reason to life, the universe, and everything. What they have found is a piano instead, which is not very worm like at all. So I guess they're a little disappointed.

Although, of course, you can never tell with chickens. There's always something they're not telling you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Magical modern miracle!

IN WHAT IS SEEN BY MANY AS A MODERN-DAY MIRACLE, a smiley face believed to represent the face of the Virgin Mary has appeared on a sheet of paper in a Melbourne home.

The Holy Emoticon, which is believed to consist of a colon, an en dash, and a close parenthesis, was found in the home of the Splutch family, in Epping, in Melbourne's outer north. "It stopped me right in my tracks," says Mrs Splutch. "I had to pull my husband over and ask, 'is that what I think it is'?"

Crude artistic representation of what the smiley face of Our Lady of the Parenthesis looked like.

However, this amazing Smiley Face miracle was soon to create a storm of controversy around the world, with papers in several countries soon claiming that the Sacred Smiley represented Buddha, Moses, or even Mary's little sister, Priscillina.

"These people are trying to discredit this modern-day miracle, and it's just not on," complains Father Grump, at the local Catholic Church. "They'd better be careful, or one day they'll see a Frowny Face of the Holy Mother appear on their toast, and then they'll be sorry!"

The miraculous smiley face has been sold to a Las Vegas casino for an undisclosed sum of money, believed to be in the tens of thousands.

Related: the European newspaper that published a smiley face representation of the Prophet Mohamed - and the protests that followed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Slightly amusing and half interesting things that happen around our house that may kind of unamuse and sort of disinterest you

Bea was walking carefully along the fence when the little plastic frog thing on it FELL DOWN! She straightaway became SO excited that - SHE JUMPED DOWN AFTER IT!

And then, when she came inside to get food, she ran in so fast that SHE THUMPED THE SIDE OF MY SHOE and even then SHE DIDN'T STOP!

Meanwhile, Agatha the chicken was sitting in the corner of the garden ruffling the dust through her feathers. Then it started raining and the dust turned to mud - BUT SHE KEPT ON DOING IT ANYWAY!

Harriet was sitting on one side of the tree. Then Bea crept round the other side and JUMPED on her when she WASN'T LOOKING!

Plus, once, I swept up a whole pile of dust and cat hair from the living room. BUT HARRIET CAME ALONG AND SAT DOWN ON IT!

Another time, I went to sit down at the table. But I couldn't pull the chair out - it was too heavy - because BEA WAS SITTING ON IT!

This morning all three chickens laid eggs, and the eggs were ALL SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER!


Public transport poetry: the perils of genre

I tried to read the
Haiku at the station, but
My train was leav

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meaningless domestic scene

Having put the puddings in the oven last night, I retired to bed to do pointless things on the computer for a bit. The following conversation ensued:

BARON: Are you in bed?

TIM: Yes.

BARON: Have you made it?

TIM: No, it's still in the oven.

BARON: ...?!???!?

Now, having told you that meaningless snippet of information, I need to go out onto the oval so I can run the bath.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hey, let's have a talk about intranational geopolitical relations!

A common theme on this blog is other people talking about things they have no idea about, me talking about those things too, and me realising that I have no idea what those people were talking about either. Therefore, my usual conclusion is that I have no idea what I'm talking about most of the time; and most other people probably don't either. This is going to be another one of those posts.

The theme for today's post, which I will progressively obscure, confuse, and get befuddled about, is ASEAN. I know what that is: it's the Association of South East Asian Nations, duh. I can't say I've ever paid much attention to it, which is why until quite recently I had no idea that there was ever such a thing as an AADCP, let alone an AADCP2, an AANZFTA, an AANZFTA JCC, or for that matter


and so on down to


Now the big list where I found all those is over here, but I can't say I care to read it, so I don't have any idea what any of those things are.* Probably most of the members of ASEAN don't have any idea most of the time what those things are, either. In fact, I have to wonder just how, exactly, any of these things can be said to exist either. Just what, exactly, distinguishes AIJV (the ASEAN Industrial Joint Venture) from a bunch of random people in a room together scoffing a bunch of scones? And what is the point of having a JAGEF, a NECTEC, or a SEAFDEC? Does ASEAN just keep these things in the back of the shed to roll out ever 57 years or so when they see a need for them? They seem very much to be possible organisations defined on the basis of other notional entities which exist as a side effect of other hypothetical enterprises which arise due to further speculative groupings: I feel much more certain about the existence of Higgs Boson particles than I do about these things.

At the same time I kind of love the grand bureaucratic flourishes of this language. I love the fact that Joint Consultative Committees, and related sub-committees, can be conjured into existence, complete with chairpersons and secretaries and assistant secretaries. It seems redolent of grandly aristocratic societies, the sort where people go about talking in the following manner:

ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Hail to thee, August Chairperson. May blessings rain down upon thee and all thy targets for the following quarter be exceeded. I bring thee greetings from the far west of this inter-regional nexus within which we reside, and observe thy benevolent presence with all due OHIM protocols.

CHAIRPERSON: It is well said, Assistant Secretary.

Both take a ritual sip from the ritual cup of ritual chamomile tea, and take a ritual bite out of the very-ritual-indeed lamington.

CHAIRPERSON: Pray, what news do you bring from your region?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Chairperson, it is grave: the efficiency in cross-border trade objectives that we set in the first quarter are in danger of not being met, and the Elder Career Representative from the Senior Persons Sub Committee - that worthy valetudinarian who hath her offices in the Far East - has similar tidings, I fear.

CHAIRPERSON: And what counsel hast thou?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Chairperson, we must act now... etc etc

It is, indeed, a great pity that people do not go around talking in this fashion most of the time; it would make a great deal more sense than what they do say. Maybe that's what all those bureaucrats have been practicing for, talking the way they do. Well it's about time they finished practicing and started doing, ASAP PDQ, that's all I can say, or people will start WTFing all over the place.

*And I don't think I'd be any more enlightened if I spent time reading the whole list either.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rupert and the case of the protogynous diurnally synchronous dichogamy

Not that I particularly like the pile-on on all the Murdoch papers and Rupert Murdoch at the moment - not that I'm paying much attention to it apart from seeing it in all the blogs, through all the papers, and on all the television screens - not that I suppose it matters - not that I suppose you care (unless you do) - but this quote, originally by Bolt, though I got it from you, Steve, is a bit bizarre:
The incident [the pie in the face] was a reminder to the committee that bad things can happen - like lax security - to the most august of institutions.
I just looked up 'august' to double-check its meaning. 'Dignified and imposing', says Macquarie, 'calling forth the utmost respect, majestic' (well, I wouldn't go that far), and 'venerable'. Yep, you've got that right - Rupert's an old codger all right, virtually doddering. But hang on, I thought, when reading this: he's an 'institution'? I wouldn't go that far, but if he is, oughtn't we to float him on the share market, organise a Rupert committee, paint him up a bit, set him in stone and perhaps laminate some of his parts so that they don't cause us any trouble?

But then again, it just occurred to me before doing this post, they probably meant the British Parliament. Oh. Right then. Not much reason for what I've just written then.

This just in from the Baron, then: did you know the flowering pattern of avocados is an example of protogynous diurnally synchronous dichogamy? No, I didn't, and you certainly didn't either.

Implementing productivity goals

Normally in the morning I like to potter around for a bit, writing up a little something on the computer, make some coffee, prepare a sandwich, and get in a chapter or two of the book I'm reading before going off to work. If I don't fit in one or two activities into the morning then it really doesn't feel that productive.

This morning, after a few perfunctory attempts at doing, you know, stuff, I completely gave up on it and flopped back into bed, and was shortly joined by a cat. Bea stalked up and down over a couple of stomachs, and popped herself neatly onto the pillow next to my head. Consequently, the last half hour before I betook myself off to work filled itself up quite easily and nicely with activities consisting of

- Patting Bea.
- Stroking Bea.
- Tickling Bea behind the ears.
- Opening up the blankets to let Bea in and out.

It was an amazingly productive morning. It felt far more productive than my usual morning activities, and I think I'll take it as instruction for my future ways. Tomorrow, I might focus on growing my beard a little. The day after, I'll compare Harriet's eyelashes with Bea's eyelashes to see whose is longer. Now that's the way to get things done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The epitome of epicurianism

tuna, marinated in a sweet sauce, on a rich bed of flavoursome croutons, swirled together with a delectable compote.

Minced steak, rare, tenderly soaking on a platter of local mini-puddings - a popular favourite!

A five grain muesli, delicately mixed in other crunchy seeds, lightly flavoured with seasonal spices for an intensely satisfying gastronomic experience.

Though as a matter of fact, the entree was cat food dumped onto a bunch of other cat food that had previously been mixed in with another bunch of cat food; the main was cat food plopped on top of more cat food; and the third was chook food, chook food, and even more chook food. So in each of these cases the animals just gobbled up the bits they liked and left the rest. Oh, and the chooks did a couple of turds in their five-grain muesli just to make everything quite clear.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An open letter to the Universe

Dear Universe, just a little request. Would you be able to stop holding other events on Saturday afternoons, 2-5? That's when I have the Dan O'Connell poetry readings to go to, you see.

Universe, I know you can do this. Saturdays being on the weekend, naturally, they're quite popular, but there are lots of other times on the weekend, apart from Saturday afternoons, 2-5! There's the Saturday evening, for instance, a very nice and excellent time to be holding other events in general. Saturday morning is pretty good too; I personally recommend it - a fine time, full of a feeling of adventure and heartiness, and it would seem to be a perfectly splendid candidate for a couple of events.

Or, how about this, Universe: you could hold more events in the evenings of the week as well! I'm sure you could space them out nicely. Tuesday nights seem pretty good. Wednesday evenings, well, for some reason that seems to be pretty full up already, but I think you could slot a few more events in there already. Why slot events in that Saturday afternoon timeslot, after all, when you've got 6 other lovely days to consider?

Universe, you've done a lot for us to be grateful for in the eternity of past and future time and the vast endlessness of space. You've bought us wonderful things, such as pi to an infinite number of decimal spaces, the beauty of mountain ranges as the soft evening sunset falls upon them, the sublimity of stars, the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and stories about unicorns. They're great, really.

But if you could avoid holding events on a Saturday afternoon that are not the Dan O'Connell Poetry readings I'd be most grateful.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday scandal!

People have been outsourcing the job of receiving calls from outsourced call centres to outsourced reception centres, studies reveal.

The outsourced call receivers specialise in saying, 'no, not interested', and hanging up the phone which immediately rings with a call from another outsourced call centre, and these reception centres have been springing up all over India, the Phillipines, and China. However, concerns have been raised that some outsourced call centres also operate underground outsourced reception centres, in order to call through to themselves and meet their quotas.

Facts about this clandestine call-reception business are difficult to find, but it is believed that call centres full of people calling through to themselves merely in order to hang up on themselves so they can call themselves again are springing up all over China, the Phillipines, and India.

A helpful diagram.

However, concerns about the outsourcing of call reception jobs have sprung up amongst a number of unions representing call reception workers that have themselves sprung up since the breaking of this story five minutes ago.

"Isn't it high time we kept call reception jobs in Australia? This five minutes has been going for too long" says one union representative.

"If anyone is going to call themselves and receive calls from themselves merely in order to hang up on themselves so they can call themselves again, it should be Australian workers," says another representative of the representative union which began representing Australian workers five minutes ago.

Outsourced Call-Reception Centres could not be contacted for this story as they were too busy receiving outsourced calls from themselves and hanging up on themselves.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Things to do, no. 10,111

Start up a band making music for, by, and about little furry animals that live in holes in the ground. Call it The Ol' Time Brock'n'Mole Band.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ocular observations on my peregrinations around the city

On the train going through the city loop the other day I noticed what appeared to be gigantic gleaming golden flies crawling all over a tall building on the other side of the Yarra. They were still there, yesterday: a whole family of them.

Now, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a company, exactly, would approve of this project. Were they fooled into it, perhaps? And if they agreed to an infestation of gigantic gleaming golden flies, would they next, perhaps, sign up to an opulent elephant turd carved out of pure ruby? This, or other disturbing possibilities, gave me further pause for thought.

But most of all I wondered just what the hell it was doing there in the first place. Because, you know, as much as I enjoy looking at surrealist paintings, I don't exactly want to live in them.

The Sultry Vixen of Temptation in the Stately Pleasure Dome

Most mornings I take a couple of pieces of fruit (say an apple and mandarin) and a bit of lunch into work, whence I proceed to the ergonomically-designed chair (which shall henceforth be known as the Stately Pleasure Dome). At this point we all sit down and eye one another warily.

The mandarin is quickly demolished. The apple is summarily dismissed. At this point in the proceedings it is, maybe, thirty minutes into my day at work. Then, a subtle battle of wills begins with the Sultry Vixen of Temptation (the lunch) sitting on the desk. I look at it. It looks at me. I say to myself, 'no, wait for a while, or you'll have nothing to eat for the next four hours'. The Sultry Vixen of Temptation lasciviously licks its lips, winks its eyes, sways its hips, and before I know it, I have eaten it.

Last week the Sultry Vixen of Temptation was a peanut butter and currant sandwich. Yesterday it was a plastic container of grey mushroomy-sauce and cold pasta. Today, well, who knows what it will be? All I can say is, it's getting a little annoying having to face up to a Sultry Vixen of Temptation like a peanut butter and currant sandwich, because the inevitable moment in which they win me over and I stuff them into my gob seems a little ignominious.

So maybe I'll start taking some chocolate cake into work instead. That would seem to lead to a much more satisfying outcome.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Conversation 2.0

The Ambassadorial Delegation is visiting from Sydney. You know that word, 'conversation'? Well we don't worry about any of that stuff. Instead, we just sit around the table, with all our laptops out, typing busily away.

True, mistakes are made sometimes, such as when I went to poke D. on the facebook wall and I accidentally poked him in real life, or when I meant to tell everyone that we should eat breakfast now, but I just ended up sending them a group email instead. But in general, everyone seems to be getting along very well indeed. I suppose if I really want to emphasise an argument I'm making at any point, I can type REALLY LOUDLY, but there doesn't seem to be much call for that at the moment.

The communications revolution, what with all these mobile phones, and iPads, and dingles, and dongles, and computers, and internet, is really marvellous, isn't it? True, it may all end up in tears - I'll be on facebook chat with the Baron, but she'll be playing Scrabble with K., who will be concentrating on Skyping with someone else entirely, while D. pokes me repeatedly in the eye - I mean, Facebook wall - in the meantime.

In conclusion, here is a digitalised computerised whizz bang picture of a buttered crumpet, which I suppose I should eat at some point. The crumpet, I mean, not the digitalised computerised whizz bang picture.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Headlines I'd like to see


Ethical dilemma

Scientists invent genetically-modified solar-powered cigarette in order to assist people who are giving up smoking with taxpayer money.

a) Should we be paying for this?

b) What if it was a racist lesbian nuclear-powered chocolate cake instead of a genetically-modified solar-powered cigarette?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Beneath the sink sits a bag full of scrabble tiles

There are some who would ask, what is the use of having a bag full of scrabble tiles beneath the sink, next to the washing detergent, steel wool, brushes, and sinkly paraphernalia. But I would ask those people in return: what is the use of not having a bag full of scrabble tiles beneath the sink, hey? Hmmmn? Tell me that!

Monday, July 04, 2011

O thou that tellest good tidings of Zine

'Zine' or 'zeen'? I've recently seen both spellings of the word used to signify 'a magazine, especially one about an alternative subculture' or 'a low-tech magazine... reproduced on the computer, often with a very personal style' (thanks, Macquarie), and my feelings on the matter have gone from utter ignorance to complete ambiguity. Sounds like the perfect subject for a blog post, then - so long as I mention the fact that I have a new zine out, the latest edition of Badger's Dozen, and you can get a copy off me for not very much.

As you of course know, the term 'zine', short for 'fanzine' dates back to 1965, and that's all that Etymology Online, I mean, you, have to say on the matter. Then again, apparently the alternative spelling 'zeen' has been around since the '90s, and is preferred by some parties because it more closely reflects the way the word is pronounced. Then again, what's that got to do with it? Some of my favourite words have nothing to do with the way they're pronounced. By the way, you can get my bright and shiny new zine off me at pay-pal - I'm at timhtrain at, and $3 can get a copy of the zine mailed to your door. Ahem.

In the end, does it really matter which way it's spelled? Hell, yes. And possibly, no. As you are probably aware, I'm fascinated with the grammar and syntactical rules associated with words that don't exist except in books, or may never even have existed in books, words that are made up on the spot - and, of course, words that have been around for a few decades but never really been known by a large amount of people, and so consequently have never been formalised and listed in dictionaries until fairly recently. Is 'Bilbo Baggins' really the correct way of spelling that name in English? And what do Hobbits have to do with my little zine about badgers anyway, which has lots of nice poetry and lovely pictures and a new Nottlesby article and you can get off me for, etc etc, providing your address. Good point. Me neither.

So, lastly, and also in conclusion, 'zine', or 'zeen'? Good question. How about option c) - 'feuilleton'?

PS Buy my zine!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A very festive festival to you all

Hey, it's End of the Financial Year, everyone! (Or at least it was a few days ago, which is as close to timely as you're likely to get on this blog.) End of Financial Year is basically one of the most important dates in the year, a time of joy and happiness and love and Powerpoint presentations. It's like Christmas, except with less present-giving and being with families, and more taxes and tax penalties for people who don't pay up.

Everyone celebrates the End of the Financial Year in their own special way, of course, but all over the country, the grand event will be marked with parties, celebratory dinners (without food, of course), and boardroom meetings in which everyone looks at a pie chart for an hour and makes incomprehensible noises at one another. You may or may not be familiar with this old End of Financial Year carol:

(To the tune of Good King Wenceslas)
Dividends, E-O-F-Y,
Targets, growth, EBITDA!
Fiscal outlook for next year
Looking good, blah-blah-blah!
Charts equations Powerpoint,
Bar graphs excel spreadsheets
Something something something something
Something something so-oooooo-ooooome-thing!

At Christmas there's generally an attitude that everyone has to at least try for a little time to be good to one another - 'peace on earth, good will to men', and all that stuff - but we can't be expected to live up to those standards the rest of the time, I mean, come on. At the End of Financial Year, however, the motto is very different: 'peace on earth, good will to me', and the jovial and happy spirit of the season is well expressed in that favourite (and very singable) old carol:

We wish you a productive first quarter
We wish you a productive first quarter
We wish you a productive first quarter
And death to your competitors!

Along with the general feelings of misanthropy and helplessness the season is often associated with a robust sense of paranoia, as we find in the following carol:

You'd better watch out
You'd better not shout
You'd better not cry
I'm telling you why
The taxman is coming to town.
He knows when you've been sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you have paid or not

The origins of End of Financial Year are shrouded in the mists of time, of course, and no-one knows when or how it started. It has been speculated that primitive accountants in the stone age first celebrated the event every year with the ritual sacrifice of taxpayers to the Sun God. Or something. (The science of accountancy was in a very primitive state back then, you understand). Now, we just sacrifice the taxpayers money to the Sun God, so you can see how much we've advanced.

What a nice and carefree time of year it is!
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