Friday, November 28, 2014

Cleaning up the language, one letter at a time

At the pub the other day a thought suddenly struck me, which was surprising for all concerned (I'm never going to suddenly think again). I realised with a shock what a lot of wasted letters there were in the English language these days, letters just sort of floating around, maybe as a flailing linguistic attempt at an acronym, sometimes not even that. What? Allow me to demonstrate: observe the ever-present egotism of the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPod. Without the 'i', you'd just be left with a 'phone' (for phoning people), a 'pad', (for writing stuff on), and a 'pod' (for..... whatever the hell it is that pods do).

Is that all? As the smelly hippy said to the corporate suit offering him a job, no way, man! I haven't even started! Anyway, there's the S-Bend, which is, I presume, a bend in a street, and you probably shouldn't try J-walking over it, though I do wonder whether you'd find S Club 7 trying to do a U-turn at the corner? While we're on the road, you'll also find E Street meeting Avenue Q at the T Intersection of the L bend (or, to put it bluntly, a street, an avenue, an intersection, and another bend). Hey, maybe there's even someone standing around with an e-cigarette, because you're not allowed to e-smoke one of those things inside because of the dangers of e-passive smoking from all those e-fumes.

While we're on the 'e's, there's a few items to get through. There's the e-toothbrush, the e-book, and the e-chair - a toothbrush, a book, and a chair (that you wouldn't want to be sitting in, obviously). Scientologists use an e-meter, though funnily enough, if you take the 'e' away, you're not even left with a proper meter. Maybe it only works in e-space. What else? I suppose some people are in the habit of dropping pills of 'e' - though it would seem rather cruel to take the letter away from them, since they wouldn't be left with much either.

T-shirts, m-theory, x-rays, and Charles Dickens' charming Aged P next come to mind, though it should be noted that P G Wodehouse had the good grace to come up with a character called 'Psmith', with a silent 'P'. (But then, all the best 'p's are silent). One question that occurs at this point is, does Mr T from the A Force prefer Special K or Cheeri-Os or Cheezy-Os? Then again, subtracting the superfluous letters we end up with something Cheezy, something Cheeri, and something Special, so it doesn't sound so bad. Vitamins A, B, and C without the A, B, or C are still vitamins, and I still have no idea why they're supposed to be good for us.

You can have straight A students, they can be A1, of A quality and then the next minute you'll find them hanging around in Y fronts listening to ZZ Top while reading X-rated literature. I suppose they did say that X marks the spot, although all of a sudden you find that they're actually reading about the G-spot. Talk about g-force! It's enough to make you want to say the f-word or the f-bomb, the c-word or the c-bomb, the s-word or the s-bomb, though not (thankfully) drop the h-bomb or the a-bomb.

Bringing up the end of my catalogue, we have v-day, d-day, o-rings, c-cups, O Magazine, and someone called K Dog. Which makes you wonder what it's all about, really. Take the 'O' away from 'Magazine', and you still have a magazine, though not necessarily a very good one. A 'dog' somehow seems preferable without the 'K'. But, you know, once all the frivolous letters have been removed from all these words, you end up with a 'C, A, T', a 'H, A, T', a 'P, U, G', a 'J, A, F, F, A' and a 'Q, U, I, L, T'. I'm sure there's more, but let's throw those in the room with the dog, the bomb, the vitamins, the strange nameless man called Mister, and the students standing about in their y-less fronts reading good clean ordinary literature and see how they get along, shall we?

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Ode to Sloth

An Ode to Sloth
How wonderful is Sloth,
The vice that's nice! 
To lounge about the house all day,
A coffee icecream debauchee, 
Eat all the chocolate from the box 
Replete in dressing gown and socks,
And then to dream in comfy slouch - 
A couch! A kingdom for a couch!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees!

I type this (CLUNK!) with a heavy (CLUNK!) every few words as my (CLUNK!) pinkie hits the key-(CLUNK!)-board, having swollen (CLUNK!) up today after being the chosen spot (CLUNK!) for receipt of a bee-(CLUNK!)-sting.

From this you may fairly adduce that we did some work on the hive today. Things were never meant to happen this way; we had done a fairly standard job on the hive on Friday - we whisked off the top box, which is usually where the bees tend to put their honey, whacked an escape board on top of that, closed the hive up again, and waited for evening to collect the frames. Coming back in the evening, we found they were full of (bugger!) larvae, not (blast!) honey. We put some back into the hive though, unfortunately, in the process of extraction some of the combs had got broken anyway. We had been unprepared for this operation, too, so in doing so we had initially left a lot of extra space in the hive, no combs, etc; so we knew we'd be coming back soon to do more work.

So this Sunday morning we found ourselves preparing for another biggish job on the hive - rather reluctantly, because the bees, as you can imagine, rather begrudge our occasional incursions onto their sanctum, which I can quite understand why. We collected the hive tool (it's like a.... tool.... for the hive) and the bee brush (it's just a big arse brush) and cleaned and prepared several frames and collected our smoker and had half struggled our way into our suits, we heard a familiar whine from out the back door - our next door neighbour had decided Sunday afternoon was an excellent time to start whippersnippering the edges of their garden (they're weird that way).

It need hardly be said that bees and lawnmowing don't mix. Bees and neighbours don't mix very well either (we, er, may not have forgotten to mention our beekeeping habits to them somehow). And as for bees and lawnmowing neighbours*.... well, we decided to sit it out. We struggled out of our suits and flopped about on the couch as the whippersnipping whipped and snipped, on and off, for an hour or so. Eventually it stopped. Of course by this time we were doing another vital activity, ie, checking the internet, so we weren't able to struggle back into our bee suits for another few minutes.... by which time another familiar growl started up from the same place. The neighbour, apparently so satisfied with their whipping and snipping, had decided to upgrade to a proper lawnmower (they are very strange).

Eventually we got to it. The usual drill: bees everywhere. Bees climbing out of the sides of the hives to get at the interlopers. Bees zooming around our heads looking for something to sting. Bees generally pissed off. They were even more eager to do it this time, of course, having been set off on the previous two occasions that we were likely to try something like this. And, amongst all this, a lot of heavy moving and grunting and shifting as we rearranged the hive to our satisfaction, if not theirs.

It was only in removing my suit again that I got stung, on the end of my pinkie. I never even saw the bee that did it (which would, at any rate, have dropped dead soon after).

So, anyway, once again, great story old man, and can't I even muster up enough courage to admit to our neighbours that we have bees? But no, actually, apparently I can't. Though I can tell you. And the other hundred odd readers that drop by this website from time to time. So, as they say in the classics, it's just between me and you, alright?

*Not to mention lawnmowing bees and neighbours, which induce in me a state of utmost fear and paranoia.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Concrete, a love song

It was while watching a big concrete mixer pull up outside a nearby house the other day and wondering if they were going to get their backyard neatly concreted over that I first thought of writing this. Lalor, Epping, the whole vast expanse of outer northern suburbs out here are largely exercises in concrete. Days after we moved here we learned that P. and M., a couple of doors up from us on this street, had recently got their backyard jacketed in a neat grey coat of concrete. We are a concrete suburb, a suburb that would provide joy to grey and stony hearts of developers and town planners and politicians everywhere. There may even be someone out there now, in some remote street of this obscure suburb, that is getting their whole yard neatly paved over with the good grey stuff, rubbing their hands with pleasure at the thought of what it will look like once they are done.

Many and plentiful are the charms of concrete. It is hard, it is neat, it is grey, it is.... I can't think of any more of its many and plentiful charms right at the moment. But one thing I do like about it is the way this neat and useful substance neatly and usefully records its past. I walked over a footpath the other day that had the form of a leaf finely imprinted within it; other footpaths around here have purposeful lines of cat- or dog-paws printed in them. These sights, like that car I may have mentioned that has been parked for so long in someone's front yard in Preston that is now encrusted with several layers of lichen, or that astroturf lawn down the road from us that has Oxalis poking up through it, bring me an inordinate amount of pleasure.

Does it ever end, this gradual concreting-over that is happening to Lalor? Are we tending to a final end point where the entire suburb will be a uniform grey stretch of this landscaping material, a calming horizontal surface useful for parking cars on, or driving cars over, or otherwise levelling out land that would otherwise be rough and stony and otherwise dirty? Perhaps, though sometimes the process goes in the opposite direction, like that time when my brother came round here with a mallet and cheerfully pounded up several flagstones of concrete in our back garden, yielding us several more feet of rough, stony and otherwise dirty soil for doing gardening in. I know, we're perverse that way. My brother got so excited that when we ran out of flagstones for him to pound, he took out an axe and started chopping up the parts of a tree that had been felled previously. He went off, originally presumably to find more flagstones with his mallet back home.

And that, surprisingly, is the last thing I have to say about concrete for the moment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

To boldly go where no feminist has gone before

Feminists successfully land remote-controlled probe on Matt Taylor's bowling shirt

IN A WORLD FIRST, feminists today have successfully guided a remote-controlled probe from a rocket to land on Matt Taylor's bowling shirt.

"This groundbreaking work will allow us to answer many of the mysteries of the universe," said Boadicea Hilbertum of the European Feminist Agency. "Where did Matt Taylor's bowling shirt come from? What is its chemical composition? Why does it contain pictures that demean and objectify women who as we all know are able to do anything men do, including landing remote-controlled probes on Matt Taylor's bowling shirt?"

This is not the first time such a daring mission has been attempted. Previously, men's rights activists have made several failed attempts to land a remote-controlled probe in Germaine Greer's hair.

It is planned that the probe will stay for several days, and take samples of the bowling shirt, running them through standard feminist analyses before sending the results back to earth for further verification.

In other news, a lot of the world were apparently distracted from this groundbreaking mission by looking at pictures of a big empty rock in outer space.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


If you see something, say something.

If you see someone do something somewhere, say something to someone somehow.

If you see someone do anything anywhere to something, say anything about something to anyone somehow, before something happens to someone.

If someone sees anyone saying anything somewhere that is somewhat suspicious, say something-or-other to someone-or-other in someplace-or-other to prevent someone doing something everywhere sometime-or-other. 

If anyone everywhere ever does anything anytime to anyone everywhere else, say anything to someone somehow to prevent everything happening everywhere forever. 


The Department of Existential Security

Note: Oh, and this: be alert but not alarmed. Definitely do not be alarmed. Do not be alarmed about being alarmed either, merely remain alert to signs of alarm, rather than being alarmed at your alertness. By being alert to the alarming possibility of alarm about your alertness, you will avoid this alarming alarm about something done by everyone anywhere somehow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

How to terrify humans: a guide for chickens

You're a chicken, right, reading this post? Good! Because now I'm going to tell you how to terrify humans, one horrifying, gut-wrenching step at a time. Let's begin:

1) Sit in the back of your coop, adopting a fearsome visage and a grim demeanour. As a chicken, you may be uncertain on the meanings of the words 'fearsome', 'visage, 'grim', or 'demeanour', but don't worry! They'll just come to you! 

2) When humans come to your coop to say hello, make yourself look extra fluffy. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Humans are absolutely TERRIFIED of fluffy things and certainly will not want to pick them up and cuddle them straight away. In fact, expect them to run screaming in the opposite direction.

3) In case the human hasn't been turned into a quivering, gibbering wreck yet, by your fearsome visage, etc, or your general fluffiness, whirr at them in a melodious and lyrical tone. (Again, you may not be aware of what 'melodious' or 'lyrical' mean, but just run with it. Consider this: when your fearsome and terrifying ancestors, the dinosaurs, were roaming through the primordial forests, they  made themselves fearsome and terrifying by whirring at one another in melodious and lyrical tones. Oh cripes, I'm getting a heart attack just thinking about it!)

If you're a human reading this post, why don't you try it too? It might just work!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Statice update

Statice is a small purple flower that just happens to look like limonium perezii. Limonium perezii is a small purple flower that shares more than a passing resemblance to statice. Sometimes, limonium perezii is known as 'statice'. Statice, however, is never known as 'limonium perezii'.

If limonium perezii had a status update on Facebook, that status would read: "Anxiety". That's right. It would have statice anxiety. 

Pictured: limonium perezii in a typical state of existential angst.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Technical corner: how to brew with a spinning wheel

First you have to thread the trub through the rolag. You do this by gradually carding the mash with the doffer tool to separate the neps from the noils, then feeding the eyelash into the draff.

Once this has been achieved, you vorlauf the drop spindle until you have a top whorl and bottom whorl, in a process known as plying. You don't have to ply, but if you don't, you have to work out how to boucle the sparge with the driveband before the batt gets caught at the bottom of the tun and prevents the wort from running through.

Don't forget to mash the guard hair between the flyer and the false bottom to help clarify the hot break, turning with the art hackle every so often. 

Finally, by a process of dizzing the first runnings and roving the kick spindle, you will have produced a fine bowl of curds and whey. Simple, isn't it? Thanks for tuning in once again!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

On the many benefits of espresso coffee for modern-day computer science

Look, I inadvertently spill stuff on my computer all the time. Every hour as I sit over it doing incredibly important stuff like internet and more internet and more more internet and even more more internet and work and did I mention internet? a fine rain of bits of fluff and dandruff and scruff and puff wafts from the regions of my beard downwards. Occasionally I like to conduct little exploratory archeological expeditions underneath the keys on my keyboard with a slip of paper or something; there has to be generations of stuff buried underneath them. In centuries to come, I expect scientists will concoct theorems and rules about the layers of accretions beneath my keyboard. Maybe they'll even start finding fossils in there.

Anyway, the point is - my computer, spills: two things, not entirely unacquainted with one another. Yesterday, though, I gave the whole computer a shock to the system: I spilled an entire latte right over the top of it. It got caffeinated to the core. It was more than a little twitchy for the rest of the day; in fact, for a while there, I was wondering if it was ever going to get over it. (Or maybe it just wanted some sugar to go with the coffee? There's no accounting for tastes...)

On the plus side, the computer did smell pleasantly of latte in the morning. And if I spill so much stuff inadvertently over it, why not manfully take the proactive route forward, and begin spilling stuff over it entirely vertently? I could give it a cup of tea every morning, as a step-down from the latte  - caffeine, yes, but not so much caffeine as to give it the twitches: the "cup that soothes" could prove quite easy on its nerves. Or who's to tell if it couldn't appreciate a little booze in its diet? A hearty ale or two? A refined glass of wine? After all, my computer is at least one year old - which for a computer is incredibly old indeed. Especially if it's my computer. And I'm in the habit of spilling stuff over it inadvertently. Which I am.
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