Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Epilogue

When this blog was starting up a month or so ago[1] I advertised new posts with teasers or bits of nonsense sent by email. Here's the collected Stan and Vas on holiday journal trailers.


Vass and I are going to Belgian, which is where the buns come from. We caught a ferry and got on a choo-choo train. I kept shouting "Choo Choo" and everyone found it funy, except Vass. We had to change trains in Leeds, except, it's spelt "Lille" apparently. I couldn't understand anyone in Leeds as they had really thick accents, so Vass had to do the talking. This trip is really funy, althou Vass didn't find it funy when her bike fell over and all her stuff fell out of the panyers, but I found it funy. Vass is not talking to me at the moment.


Vaz'es Mum asked Vaz to get some Beljan Chocylates for her. Vaz bought lots and lots for her Mum which I thought was really nice of her.

Saddly, when we came to pack them there was no room in Vaz'es panyers. I offered to put them in mine, but Vaz then realised that the chocylates would melt and bounce around and get damaged, and wouldn't be nice for her Mum. "I guess I'll have to eat them" she sed, looking really saddly. "I'll help!" I sed.

"No you won't" she sed.


I've lerrned to wriite in Nederlander, which uuzed to be caaled Duutch, buut thaat waas juust becauuse Engerlanders thouught the Duutch were Gerrmans. Vaas is not immprressed with mi Nederlander speelliinng, und saays I'm juust wriiting very baad Engerlander.

Vaas is so wronng.


My bottom is being qwite bad. Vasz thinks it's becos I ate too much zowerkrowt, but that's rubish becos zowerkrowt just gives me windypops. I blame the nobvursts, or maybe all the sosages I ate.


Tooday we saw some Germans. We could tell they were Germans as they woor Leather trowsers, called Ladies-hosen, and hats and braces and were drinking beer and eating sosages and invading Poleand. Vass ses this is a stereo-type, but it was'nt, it was a live Oom-pah band.

[1]In internet time, this is nearly two seasons.

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 9

From Vas' lightly fictionalised journal

Wednesday 23 August

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and home
Stan and I on our bikes did this way roam
Turns out Stan can't tell the Rhine from the Rhône
I think his Geography needs to be honed

We've seen all kinds of things that aren't at home
Everest's peak, and some dinosur bones
I'm glad I didn't see them on my own
It's really boring sightseeing alone

Stan and Vas on Holiday Part 8

[Stan[1] returned to the country last week. This lead to a good old eighteenth century riding-around-and-shooting-off-pistols on Wednesday night. When Stan fell off for the third time, I was able to secrete a diary with the following entries on his person and thus this is now his official fictional secret diary [2]]

Thursday 3 August

Have set off on our biking holiday! Despite Neil's gloomy predictions, I'm sure it will be fun, healthy and lots of drinking will take place, with no problems.

Friday 4 August

Out of clean socks already! Vas refuses to wash them for me. So much for pulling together as a team.

Saturday 5 August

Have to camp in a garden, and use the toilet in the pub. To be polite I drink much beer in the pub to make up for us using their facilities. Vas and I very amused by this turn of events

Monday 7 August

Have been in Gent. Worse still, my hat is dirty. Vas refuses to clean it for me. The Belgians are trying to claim a German for one of their famous Belgians.

Wednesday 9 August

Rotterdam. It's raining. Vas and I talking again.

Thursday 10 August

Still raining. Still talking.

Friday 11 August

Ran out of clean trousers. Vas not keen on cleaning them.

Sunday 13 August

Still raining. Vas and I made it to Amsterdam without exchanging a word. Have just seen Bob Marley fly past on a swanephant.

Tuesday 15 August

Turned up in Arnheim. As our heads cleared we realised we wanted to be in Nijeheim[3] so cycled there. Everything good and the world is a happy place. Have immense munchies.

Thursday 17 August

Arrived in Dusseldorf. Something is going on this weekend. Jim thinks it's Nazi related. Neil thinks it's a Straßenfest which I translate as street festival. Hopefully I can buy some clean T-shirts there.

Saturday 19 August

My website has broken! Vas refuses to fly home and fix it. Will relax and enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday 22 August

Have run out of clean pants. Rather than get into the whole Vas-refusing-to-wash arguement again, I've borrowed a couple of pairs of hers.

Wednesday 23 August

Had to strip to my pants, or rather Vas' to get through airport security. Unfortunately the sniffer dog made a nest of my clothes while they made me drink my 2 litre bottle of water, and by the time anyone had noticed the dog had given birth to four very cute puppies. Had to fly home in Vas' pants. Vas not happy, especially as I had to keep going past her to go to the toilet. Good news: one of the puppies will be named after me!

[1] Also Vas, but due to the circumstances of the end of their holiday, Vas was having a day of rest, which, it seemed, involved not seeing Stan.
[2] Obviously, that's not what really happened. Instead I did a hi-tech version by putting this diary on the data card on my camera and then let Stan use his portable data-harvester to steal all my photos, which sucked up the diary along with it.

[3] Stan probably means Nijemen, but may mean Niflheim.

It's not all that important is it?

Interesting and Important blogging is going on even now. People are discussing peace plans for the Middle East and Sudan. Speculation on when Tony Blair will leave Downing Street is happening. Nuclear v Fossil Fuel v Sustainable Energy comparisons are occuring. The results of this years Hugo awards are being dissected. The question of ball tampering is being asked. Pluto's demotion to 'dwarf planet' is spawning comment threads. Flame wars are heating up over whether Captain Jack Sparrow's inevitable resurrection will be cool or lame.

Which makes me feel a little trivial, when the burning question at Night of the Hats is:

Night of the Hats: singular or plural?

(This comes from the post "Letter from our reader", where we're plural).

I mean, it's just me. Even when I quote, or put up other people's stuff, Night of the Hats = Neil; that's why I put other peoples material as quotes. It's not like the Parker blog, which is explicitly collaborative, even if all the posts so far have been by me. It's not a mouthpiece for an organisation, and it's not incorporated as an entity.

So why do I feel I ought to refer to it as a plural?

Unlikely Links (4)

American Political Parties. It's actually really interesting. Not the two at the top, but all the rest. Find out about how the Communist Party of the USA had to transform itself when the USSR stopped funding it (no, really, it was being funded from Moscow). Learn about the history of the American Socialist Party (their candidate for President picked up 6% of the vote in 1912). Confuse yourself between the two US Green Parties. Ask yourself whether the American Nazi Party think they're impressing anyone.

Once you've finished looking at those wacky Americans and their quaint political parties, don't forget to look up the political parties of your country (a quick google gives this list for the UK).

[I have a half-formed idea about ideology as aesthetics and politics as an art project which will probably never see light here; there are many strands forming this thought, and the many different pages and ways of displaying political parties are feeding several of them]

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chicken v Chicken

I had intended to do a bit of cooking over the bank holiday and put a recipe or two up here. Due to being hungover on Sunday I roasted a chicken. It's sort of my default cooking plan: Hungover? Roast a chicken. Uninspired? Roast a chicken. In a strange kitchen? Roast a chicken. It's a friend's birthday and a small group turn up unannounced at 7 in the evening asking what we're doing for supper? Find that I'm already roasting a chicken.

Now the important thing is to get a decent chicken. If you have a decent chicken and keep an eye on it (and can identify when it's about to go wrong) it will turn out fine. Our butcher is really good, and his chickens have always been excellent.

Nevertheless, I'm going to talk about two slightly different roast chicken recipes here. Both of them make a good chicken very tasty indeed, and will prevent a half-decent chicken drying up and generally becoming unpleasant (if the chicken isn't even half decent, make chicken soup or coq au vin - that's what those dishes are for).

The two recipes I'm currently undecided between are Jamie Oliver's Fantastic Roast Chicken and Nigel Slater's Roast Chicken (not online although he has one that look like a hybrid between the one in Real Cooking and Oliver's here - hardly anyone clicks on my links anyway, so no loss there). Oliver's needs a bit more preparation, but you basically leave it in the oven as the butter keeping it moist is already inside the skin. Slater's is much more about just shoving everything onto the chicken and getting it in the oven, but you need to baste it in the butter that's run off a couple of times during cooking. So it's a toss up which is actually easier, although if you're hungover when you need to get dinner on, Slater wins. I like both the chickens. My occasional food critics generally prefer Oliver's chicken, but that might be an artifact of my not being hungover while cooking.

The obvious[1] thing to do is hold a chicken roast off and blind taste test. If anyone is interested in joining in, let me know. I'm currently too disorganised and lazy to sort out a date and venue, but now I've put it on the internet it'll have to happen.

One last thing: no matter how much you dislike carving, and even if it's someone's birthday, don't put candles on the chicken. Noone will ever be impressed at having to cut the "Chickencake".

[1] Obvious to me, anyway.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I heard back from My First Reader[1] about the big chunk of my novel[2] I gave her last week[4]. She's mostly confirmed things I already suspected (which scenes and characters are a complete waste of space, which need rewriting etc.), but one comment she made has been an inspiration to me:
All these legendary heros and gods sound like bloody-handed maniacs
Why is this inspirational? Well it's like this - what if all these bloody-handed maniacs are actually the same bloody-handed maniac? What if all the legends of warriors and warlords are all inspired by the same source? A magical-religious conspiracy to keep the world a battlefield and prevent people from figuring out the Nature Of The Universe[5]? Untangling this will make a much better plot-driver than I initially had.

It also says a lot about me and what I've been writing - if they all sound like bloody-handed maniacs, I need to rewrite some of them. Take out the elements that make them bloody-handed maniacs[6] and maybe they can become more interesting. Possibly even original.

But that's not really what I wanted to say, as it's just obscure to anyone without a draft of part one of the novel in front of them. What I wanted to comment on was her reply to my garbled version of the above:

Glad to see I'm still some kind of muse for you

So yes, My First Reader, you are some kind of muse to me[7], and I'm glad of it too. So often it's one of the same small group of people that say the right words that trigger something in my head to create something new. I mean it's usually based on a book, or a film or something else entirely, but I need the person to say something to focus it. This is the nature of my inspiration.

And of course I'm well supplied the other ingredient for genius.

[Those of you less interested in my process of creation and just interested in the results, will be pleased to know that I will be breaking from my novel and concentrating on my side projects for a week or two]

[1] Who wishes to remain anonymous in this role for a whole fistful of reasons. If you aren't My First Reader, be assured that it's not that I don't love you; quite the contrary! No, My First Reader is my first reader because she provides the most constructive criticism. My favouritism is purely functional.
[2] Did I mention I'm writing a novel? I'm writing a novel. If I haven't mentioned it to you, it's because, I mean, who isn't writing a novel? I only need one first reader (currently My First Reader) so the rest of you can wait until it's second drafted. Not to worry though, an exerpt[3] will be appearing on Night of the Hats within 30 days.
[3] Probably the first chapter, which obviously enough is chronogically about a third of the way through the story. This may annoy Stan, who has previously criticised films for beginning during the climax, then going back to the start; or it may not, as he is a fan of Iain (M) Banks who almost reflexively starts his novels sometime after the story has begun.
[4] Her first response: "What happens next?" Now that's what I call a result.
[5] I've not finished figuring this out yet, as might be obvious.
[6] I really like this phrase, in case you hadn't picked up on this.
[7] Note to self: do not show her Sandman #17

The mandatory bank holiday weekend post

Yeah, Yeah, you all want to hear about the bank holiday weekend. You want to know about the mini beer festival in the Red Cow, the way my brother's mates ate all the cheese in the house, how come we were drinking sake while finding out exactly how many channels on Sky turn into soft porn after midnight, and Jim's unusual and tasteless use of Jenga bricks. You want to know about more of my brother's dreams, about how I declared my love to a friend over the weekend, about the chickencake Anne got for her birthday, about how the jazz on the riverside green attracted many of our parents to come out and boogie (and sit in the camp chairs we'd manhandled down there). You want to hear gossip about boyfriends, their car and how well they maneuvered them up my parents' driveway. A few of you want to know about promised posts from before the weekend. Some of you even want to know about Parker.

Well, eventually some of this will be addressed, mostly in an oblique way. Until then I leave you with this quote from my brother while he was playing online poker:

There's a lot of willy-waving going on, so I'm only going to play if I've got the nuts.
Have I mentioned he's occasionally known as The Regular Smut?

Monday, August 28, 2006

My annoyance knows no bounds

I've just discovered that due to me not being in Borders on Oxford Street last Thursday[1] I missed Thea Gilmore doing a gig in a bookstore with Neil Gaiman in the audience. The good news is that I have a new ambition in life. The bad news is I wasn't there.

I've not yet got Harpo's Ghost[2] so will not review it here, except to say that you need a copy. Actually you need five copies; one for home, one for the office, one to give to a close friend, one in case a family member "borrows" one and one for when your lover walks out and takes a copy with them.

When I've got it, I will no doubt rave about it without the faint hint of uncertainty in the above endorsement that this time an unbroken run of genius has been marred by a creation that is only excellent. Although I promise only to do that in the pub, not on the internet, you lucky dogs.

Actually this post is really to get that obituary my brother sent off the top. I mean, really, what possessed me to post that?

[1] Like I was Monday two weeks ago.
[2] I leave it to you to find out if this is a Gaiman book or a Gilmore record (or vice versa, or a collaboration)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Letter from our reader

My brother sent me the below, via the blog address. Originally I wasn't going to post it[1], but, after talking to him and rereading it I've changed my mind. I mean - Free content! Satisfied reader! Toilet jokes!

Apparently it's based on something that came to him in a dream. I've edited it a bit but I tend to do that with anything that passes through a text edit window in front of me, so you lot should be used to it.

I read this in today's Telegraph obituary section today and I thought it may interest your blog.

Dean Itchianus,
Comedian and UN health ambassador.

Dean Itchianus born Wigan 21st June 1980. He attended St Widnes Grammar School for Students and briefly studied at St Surgeons School for Medics in Edinburgh before becoming a full time comedian. He first came to public prominence in 2008 when he took part in the Medical/Comedy reality TV show "You stitch me up!" when his catchphrase "In that case some bum's got my pencil," became a household phrase. It was most notably used in the infamous "Ring Cycle" sketch during the 2009 Royal Variety Performance performed by Lance Armstrong and Roy "Chubby" Brown, the sketch that was on stage at the time of the attempted assassination of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Dean Itchianus' star waned in the late noughties and in 2011 he moved to the USA with his second wife Julian. There he found a talent for speed eating. In May 2011, he won the Coney Island hot dog eating championship at his first attempt, the first rookie to ever do so. He was the first All American speed eating champion to win three times in a row in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This record still stands. With the introduction of speed eating to the 2016 Lagos Olympics the sport clamped down on the use of many of the laxative products that competitors used to compete at consecutive events. After failing two tests in May 2015 he retired from the sport.

Dean divorced Julian and moved to Mexico in January 2016. He competed in unsanctioned Taco eating contests and gained a great deal of weight. On 31st April 2018 in Juarez, Mexico he was famously filmed competing when he shat his guts out. This was the first time this, now commonplace, medical phenomenon was ever witnessed.

Dean spent 50 days in intensive care and was involved in pioneering surgery by Dr Wally Christmas, a contemporary of Dean's from his days in Edinburgh, to hermetically seal the guts into a small carry cart which his third wife Rafael pushes around for him.

Since the accident he worked for 7 years as an obesity ambassador for the UN and was knighted in 2024 for his work for the organisation.

He died on 3rd May 2025 after a sild bone caught in his throat. He is survived by his fifth wife Dean.

[1] Hey, it's my blog, so I get to decide what nonsense goes on it.

News from the world of Classificational Astronomy (again)

Despite lobbying by tens of thousands of H P Lovecraft fans[1], and my own take on the situation [2], the IAU has demoted Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet": BBC report, BBC Q&A, and the BBC on the controversy.

This leaves us with the classic 8 planets. If you don't already know them, I'll happily come round and demonstrate with a ping pong ball, a football, an orange and whatever else they used in that episode of Porridge.

The good news is that this gives me a chance to round up some earlier Plutocentric web pages etc.

Tim Kreider broke his cartooning hiatus to make his view known. (Here is an earlier cartoon of his on Pluto).

Charles Stross explains that there's only four planets in the solar system; the rest are just hunks of rock left over from the accretion process (one of his commenters goes on to assert that there's only one planet in the solar system; the rest are just hunks of rock and gas left over from the etc. etc.) has updated it's definition of Pluto, but a sensible and useful solar system resource now has a domain name that sounds like it's a pluto-is-a-planet extremist site.

I haven't actually checked what the Walt Disney Corporation have to say, but I'm guessing it would go something like:

We had hoped to get 2003 UB313 named "Mickey" but anything that keeps one of our characters in the news headlines is good. Not that there's anyone on Earth who hasn't already heard of Disney.

[Edit: I forgot to add Warren Ellis' thoughts on the subject]

[1] and it's a purely a coincidence that this decision has been made the week before the Worldcon, meaning that the world's most rabid fanatical SF fans are on a different continent.
[2] "It's cool to have more planets"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thursday Search Engine String Post

At last, someone has come through to this blog from an unexpected and entertaining search string! It seems that if you type:

bbc ice cream dress-up game

into Google, this site comes up as number 4!

Now all I need are some pictures of a cat and this will feel like a real blog.

[Edit: Night of the Hats is number one if you type in: Hound Keeper
This website is rapidly becoming one of those useless sites you stumble over when looking for proper information]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Unlikely Links (3)

The Shark Tank is Computerworld's column for reader's stories about the crazy things that happen in the world of IT. Most are entertaining. Some rely on a in-depth knowledge of IT-y things. Some made me wince. A few reminded me of things I'd seen (or done).

Bad thing: They have a year's archive, which can use up whole days while you read it (and occasionally inhale coffee when the punchline comes).

Good thing: It says "Computerworld" at the top of the page, so if you're in IT and one of the three people who doesn't know about this already, you can claim it's work related when your boss catches you looking at it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gratuitous Folklore; or One More Impossible Thing to do before Breakfast

While checking a few facts (before distorting them) for the last post, I came across one of my favourite passages in Peter Berresford Ellis' The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends. The story so far: Culhwch, thanks to an unlikely chain of circumstances, needs to marry Olwen, daughter of Ysbaddadan Pencawr, chief of the giants. Ysbaddadan is not too keen and sets him some "difficult" tasks to prove he's worthy.

Ysbaddadan began to grow angry. He enumerated no less than thirteen difficult tasks, together with no less than twenty-six less difficult tasks, all to be accomplished. To each and every one of them Culhwch agreed to perform the deed.

Ysbaddadan wanted the comb and shears that lay between the two ears of Twrch Trwyth, the king of the Otherworld boars, who could not be hunted until the hound Drudwyn was obtained, and the hound could not be held until a leash owned by Cors Hundred Claws was taken. No collar would hold the leash, save that of Camhastyr Hundred Hands and only the chain of Cilydd Hundred Holds could hold both chain and leash.

No one could act as hound-keeper to Drudwyn except Mabon ap Modron, who had been stolen from his home when he was three nights old, and his whereabouts not known. Only Eidoel, his kinsman, had known where he was but Eidoel was in the secret prison of Glini, and no one in the world knew where that was. And even Mabon could not hunt Twrch Trwyth, save on Gwyn Dunmane, the steed of Gweddw, who would have to be fought for him.

Twrch Trwyth could further not be hunted until the dogs of Aned and Aethlem were obtained, for they were never unleashed on a beast they did not kill. To use the hounds, only Cyledyr the Wild Son of Hetwyn the Leper could act as huntsman. Cyledyr was nine times wilder than the wildest beast in the world. Nor could Cyledyr be obtained without the agreement of Gwyn son of Nudd, whom the gods had made guardian of the demons of the otherworld. He could not leave his charge, in case the world was destroyed by the demons.

Further, no leash in the world would hold Aned and Aethelm, the hunting dogs, unless it was made from the beard of Dissull son of Eurei, the bearded giant. Even that would be useless, unless it was plucked from his beard while he was still alive, and then with wooden tweezers. He would certainly not allow anyone to do so unless he was dead.

Neither would Twrch Trwyth be hunted until the services of Bwlch, Cyfwlch and Syfwlch be obtained, together with their three shields, three spears, three swords and their three hunting-horns that sounded so dreadful a note that no one would care if the sky tumbled on them in order to stop the sound.

However Twrch Trwyth could not finally be slain except by the sword of Wrnach Cawr, a mighty giant, and he would never part with it. Lastly, Twrch Trwyth could not be hunted without the backing of Arthur and all his huntsmen.

From The Quest for Olwen, pp384-5, The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends, Peter Berresford Ellis from the 14th century White Book of Rhyderch and Red Book of Hergest and also from a thousand year old oral tradition.

Apart from the obvious questions this raises[1] it looks like the final attempt to throw a spanner in the works of a classical quest tale - the hero is set a variety of tasks that he can't accomplish; wanders off either sensibly depressed or naively hopeful to complete them; meets a talking animal, wise beggar or long lost cousin[2] who tells him what to do; he does what he's told[3]; everyone meets their ordained destiny. The difference here is that as well as jamming in props and characters who look like they've been borrowed from other tales, one essential character is in the prison of Glini and no one in the world knows where it is!

Ysbaddadan Pencawr is obviously not keen on having Culhwch as a son-in-law; equally obviously he's heard many stories where people have been set difficult tasks and completed them and drawn the conclusion that the idea was good, but the tasks need to be more difficult.

Sadly the story goes downhill from here. (If you want to know how it ends, here's the BBC's much much shorter version of Culhwch and Olwen. The version in Ellis has a few more twists and turns[4].)

[1] If Mabon ap Madron was stolen when three nights old, who told you that he is the only possible hound-keeper to Drudwyn? Eidoel his kinsman? The same Eidoel who is now in a prison that no one knows where it is? How interesting.

[2] Culhwch meets two helpful relatives during this story.

[3] Often in mind-numbing detail and sometimes without a final twist.

[4] It turns out that Eidoel doesn't know where Mabon is. I didn't expect that to happen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Trial (Part 1)

Stan: Jim, I put it to you that you allowed your marriage to end.

Jim: No, no. It was only for a year and a day, and it naturally lapsed at the end of that time.

Stan: And you did nothing? You didn't attempt to secure an extension? To seek out the marrying authority and inspect the regulations? You made no effort to adjust the calendar of those who married you? You didn't try to change the natural order of the universe to extend the period?

Jim: Well, no, but, that all seems a lot of work...

Stan: A lot of work? For your one true bride?

Jim: Well, it wasn't really like that...

Stan: Perhaps you'd care to tell the court the circumstances of your wedding.

Jim: Well, it was like

Stan: Yes?

Jim: We were at Glastonbury, and were quite drunk, and were going past the wedding place, and, you know...

Stan: Were swept away in the passion of the moment? Married on the wings of an unstoppable destiny? Fell in love at the stroke of midnight?

Jim: Well, anyway, we got married. But it was only for a year and a day.

Stan: A year and a day. So, Jim, who married you? What authority is it that marries people for a year and a day. I'm not familiar with marriages being of that specific period.

Jim: Well, it was dark, and we were drunk, I'm not really sure...

Stan: Not sure? Do you have no idea who married you?

Jim: [inaudible]

Stan: Please repeat so the court can hear.

Jim: We were married by the Fairies.

Queen Mab: Just to clarify - are you referring to the sidhe?

Jim: I beg your pardon?

Queen Mab: As well you should. Are you talking of the fair folk, the gentry, the people of the hills, the fey?

Jim: Yes, yes I was. That was the sort of fairy I think we were married by. Although they might have been the other sort as well...

Queen Mab: Jim's confusion may well be caused by the glamour which he will have experienced during the ceremony.

Jim: Glamour, yes, I bet that's it. No, wait, it was a muddy field in the middle of the night, that wasn't glamourous at all.

Stan: Perhaps there is no need for a supernatural explanation. But to continue: You made no effort to seek out the fey, to investigate this matter?

Jim: Well, no. Everyone knows that if you seek out the fey, you come to a bad end.

Stan: But you and your wife have already been married, probably by magic. Having once been touched by faerie magic, you have to see the consequences through for good or ill. Schools teach Practical Folklore and Applied Mythology for these very situations! What were you doing during those lessons?

Jim: [inaudible]

To be continued...

[Based loosely on a conversation in Jim's garden about a month ago]

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 7

From Stan's lightly fictionalised journal

Saturday 19 August

Just one word:


Excitement! Adventure! Ramsgate Station!

Last night, after a brisk walk I arrived at Ramsgate station with about 6 minutes to spare before the last train. Not entirely to my suprise I found that my train was delayed; somewhat more unusually, every train was delayed, with no expected time, just the word "delayed". A small child explained the situation to me.

"A drunk man hit a guard and ran off down the tracks! When he comes back I'm going to kick him in the nuts."

"That sounds a bit extreme" I said to the child[1].

"I wanted to kill him, but Grandma said that would be bad".

A member of station staff broadly confirmed the child's story, explaining that he'd run off into the yards and they'd had to cut the power to all the tracks. Eventually he was arrested and, after several minutes rebooting the trains and shuffling them from platform to platform we were able to get on our way.

The child didn't get a chance to chastise the man, but I have to credit them with my new idea for a Parker episode; Snakes on a Train.

[1] A moment waiting at Ramsgate station, especially as I had sweets, water bottle, notebook and current novel, is as much a moment to be experienced as, to take some random examples, a moment flicking through the TV channels at home, or a moment floating down the channel on an inflatable wrestling ring.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Stan and Vas on Holiday Part 6

From Vas' lightly fictionalised journal

17 August 2006

Riding up and down the Rhine
Drinking quite a lot of wine
Stan declares it's quite divine
Hey! The bastard's drinking mine!

Stan and Vas on Holiday Part 5

From Stan's lightly fictionalised journal

16 August 2006

I come awake without warning. My arm is cold and numb where my head is resting on it. The silence is disturbingly complete and the darkness even more so.

The tent seems empty. I slip my arm back into the sleeping bag, wincing as feeling returns to it.

What woke me?

I realise that I can hear something creeping around the tent. In my sleep fuddled mind, I don't recognise the sound. A fox, maybe, or a cat. Are there wolves in the Netherlands? No, that's silly.

The sound has stopped. Outside the door. I shiver, wondering what it could be.

The zip moves, then tears upwards, all in a rush. Whoever, whatever it is comes into the tent and looms over me. In a terror of confusion I wait for...

"Hi Stan," whispers Vas, "had to nip out."

"We're out of loo-roll."

I scream "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not the best thing since...

While slicing some bread, I managed to cut my finger open. This will be slowing my typing down for the next few days.

But it did remind me that I meant to post some bread recipes here. That reminded me that I never get around to swapping bread recipes with people who make bread. If you bake bread, whether with a breadmaker or the old fashioned way, and have an interesting recipe the comment section of this post is for you. Go ahead - click on comment and write your recipe. I promise to try them all[1].

I'm especially interested if you have a recipe that gets around slicing bread.

[1] Unless it sounds revolting. I may still try and make revolting bread, but I don't promise anything.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

News from the world of Classificational Astronomy

The IAU planet definition committee has come up with a new definition of what a planet is. The good news for Pluto partisans is that Pluto gets to stay in! (The cartoon I wanted to link to has vanished, presumably in celebration of this news. Grr.) Of course this highly charged decision has yet to go in front of the full International Astronomical Union to be confirmed. I predict a debate similar to the ones in the 3 Star Wars prequel films [1].

The BBC has a quite good article on it, including the diagram of the new planets, Charon (currently a moon of Pluto), Ceres (currently an asteroid) and UB313 (currently a Kuiper object). In case you can't be bothered to click through: the old definition was that a planet is a celestial body that moves against the fixed stars; the new that it orbits a star, and is not in orbit around another body, and has enough gravity to form a spherical shape.

Not that any of this actually changes the stuff that's out in space. But it may change the way we think about them. And it's cool to have more planets.

Edit: The debate continues, in a much more amusing form, everywhere else on the internet.

[1] Which means I'll probably nip out the room to get a drink while it's happening.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 4

From Stan's lightly fictionalised journal

Saturday 12 August

I've been to the Belgian National Records Office and it's official: There are only 9 famous Belgians! They are:

Adolphe Sax - inventor of the saxophone (also the saxhorn and saxtromba)

Lambert Adolphe Quetelet - Mathematician and inventor of the Body Mass Index

Gerardus Mercator - Cartographer, mathematician and geographer (hence Mercator projection)

Jean-Marc Bosman - Footballer who caused the transfer rules to change

Eddy Merckx - Legendary cyclist

Rene Magritte - Surrealist painter and theorist

Georges Remi aka Hergé - Creator of Tintin

Jean-Claude Van Damme - The Muscles from Brussels

Audrey Hepburn - Who, I hope, requires no introduction

One reason for the lack of famous people is the relative youth of the country, which was only founded in 1830. Hence the introduction of earlier "Flemish" personalities, and the slightly questionable inclusion of Audrey Hepburn, born in Brussels (as Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston) to a British father and a Dutch mother.

The Belgians themselves see this situation as a challenge rather than a problem and have a plan in hand to upgrade Johann Tserclaes Tilly from "well known general" to "famous general" by 2015; to rebrand an existing famous historic figure as Belgian by 2017; and to create a brand-new modern celebrity by 2020!

[With apologies for Stan's grotesque ignorance of famous Belgians, who are currently enumerated by one website to the figure of 259]

Monday, August 14, 2006

Interim Limerick

Occasionally I write poetry[1]. Anne, a friend of mine, complained that I hadn't written her a poem, but Vas got one just for going on holiday. (Which is a complete misreading of the circumstances surrounding that particular piece of verse. I seem to recall that when I worked for Anne, I wrote all my messages to her in blank verse, but fortunately all records of that have been swept away by the forgiving nature of time). Well, I've promised to write Anne a poem for her birthday; here's my progress report, in the form of a limerick:

There is a young lady named Anne
Who would like her poems on demand
She's a little upset
That I'm not finished yet
(Hey, I'm writing as fast as I can!)

On an unrelated note, but on a subject that came up the same evening as the poem thing was discussed, Jim and Anne may be interested to learn that this news story states that the Waffen-SS was indeed declared a criminal organisation.

[1] but I can give it up ANY TIME I WANT!


So I went and helped my brother and his girlfriend move over the weekend. It went about as expected:

A convoy of cars got lost on the way there and ended up in Nunhead;
Much broken crockery;
The new bathroom being exposed to the elements;
The old landlord trying to show someone round in the middle of us moving out;
A sofa getting stuck in the stairs for an hour, trapping some of the new neighbours on the street, and some at the top of the stairs;
A few tears, a couple of cuts, a sprain and a screaming match;
My Brother and his Girlfriend playing "Paul and Heather McCartney" while the rest of us looked on in exhausted... um ... exhaustion;
A wrestling match with a gang of traffic wardens as we attempted to unload a van in a bus stop;
Pouring rain at the moment all their worldly goods were piled on the pavement;
14 visits to the hardware shop;
Great amusement at the eccentricity of the wiring of the new flat;
The cat going missing;
"Hilarious" key mixups with the wrong keys being at each flat and a handbag being locked in the rental van who's keys had vanished;
The old landlord getting us to show someone else round just as we're trying to get the last bits into the flat, then asking us whether they seemed okay as they wanted to move in on Monday, before any money could change hands.

And then, having moved in, we ate at Nando's (apologies for the plug, but it was exactly right as post moving food), then went back to the flat, which is really quite nice, and got quite pissed. A good time was had by all. If anyone is short of anything to do for a weekend, I heartily recommend helping someone move.

Please note that my recollection may not exactly match those of the other witnesses.

Unlikely Links (2)

Attention Deficit girl is a comic strip with a soundtrack. No, really. I have a plan to get someone who can draw make something like this for me. I mean, I have a plan to write a script and let my talented up uninspired friends to draw and record a soundtrack.

But Attention Deficit girl was there first and I, and the rest of the world, will just be playing catch up. It's funny. Really funny. It runs off Flash or something (sorry for the lack of detail; my electronic box expert is cycling around the Netherlands at the moment) which means it may not work for you.

Also: I can't stop playing the ADG dress up game. Is this normal?

If you've just come over from Monkey Fluids...

I'm not actually a nice person. Still, I'll try and put some posts to entertain you.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream


A Bowl of Blackberries surplus to requirements
Some left over blackberry juice from last nights blackberry compote
Some Sugar
A touch of Crème de Mûre Sauvage
A tub of vanilla ice cream

Take your blackberries and boil them with a little water until soft. Mash them up.

Strain the fruit mixture. You can get proper jelly bags and frames and stuff, but we always use an old tea towel held onto an upside down stool with safety pins. Let the juice strain through for at least an hour. Stir and poke the pulp occasionally until you get bored, or have got out as much juice as you think is needed. Get the vanilla ice cream out the freezer.

Boil up the juice again, with a little sugar. You don't need too much as vanilla ice cream is sweet and the blackberries are going to cut through it. I boiled it for 5 minutes, but I think I'll use more blackberries and reduce it for longer in future to get an even more intense blackberry flavour.

Leave it to cool for a while. Stir in a glug or two of the Crème de Mûre Sauvage. Pour carefully onto the vanilla ice cream, then stir it to get the ripples. Refreeze.

This is a work in progress, as I think you can get more blackberryness into it. There may be updates as the blackberry season progresses.


Last night a friend told me "I want things to read! Blog more! Blog! Blog!"

Obviously he hadn't taken in this Blog's mission statement/tag line. So I've changed it.

As I'm going away for the tomorrow for a few days I'll be attempting to fulfill his request today. You may notice a decrease in post quality, in proportion to the increase in post quantity.

If you don't notice I hate you.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Psychopath Test

So anyway, two of my friends had received a one question Psychopath test, through the magic of e-mail, and tried it out on me in the pub. I wasn't quite right, but close enough that they were concerned by the result (the test is here and why you shouldn't actually be concerned here).

I was fairly dubious of this test, even before I researched it. Amongst other reasons, last summer I was at a party which had really quite a lot of research psychologists at it ("Hi! I'm a psychologist. I really don't want to know about your mother," as one of them suggested they should introduce themselves to non-psychologists.) From the little I picked up of their work, and my own experience in experimental design, the question simply doesn't test the attributes of psychopathy without being effected by other psychological factors, such as problem solving skills. (I would rewrite the question anyway, although I won't do so here in case my version makes me look crazy, or, more likely, completely ignorant.)

Well I've known for ages that I'm bad at dealing with people, and that when watching scary things on the TV[1] I say things like "if they really wanted to cause problems, they should add this sadistic twist to their plan." But I always thought I was maybe somewhere towards the Asperger's side of normal, or, as I don't display symptoms that would put classify me as having any autistic spectrum disorder and having met people who do, don't want to trivialise their condition, bad with people, rather than amoral.

(On a related note I've discovered that although sociopath and psychopath are usually considered synonyms, some experts use them to mean different things, although I can't het a handle on the difference. )

There was going to be a clever ending, to tie this up, but it wasn't as clever as I thought. Due to the demands that I just post stuff (although he probably meant on our other blog), instead here's a link to the Wikipedia article on Psychopathy which includes Cleckley's definition of psychopathy as a checklist. Why not count off how many apply to you!

Apologies to any actual psychologists who I've offended. I promise I won't tell you about my Mum.

[1] Spy films, police dramas, the news.

Unlikely Links (1)

The Monkey Fluids blog (link at the bottom so you don't click through without warning), involves a guy putting new captions to illustrations from children's annuals and storybooks. As might be expected, many captions are obscene, others just bizarre, but almost all are hilarious. Better still is the comments section, where you can come up with your own caption, and astound the world at your wittiness, knowledge of pop culture and lack of taste.

As might be expected I occasionally post comments there. It's here.

(My favourite? I'm glad you asked.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 3

From Vas' lightly fictionalised journal

Sunday 7 August

I'm on holiday, on my bike.
My boyfriend keeps on saying "Yike!"
He moans much more than I would like.
Keeps it up, he can take a hike.

(Only kidding Stan!)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 2

From Stan's lightly fictionalised Journal

Friday August 4

I don't know why I thought Brussels was boring, everything here is amazing; the food, the drink, the cafes and restaurants are so good that I think I'll explode; chips with everything, beer with everything, lots of cream and chocolate (Vas likes it here too), the seafood is really, really good even for a capital city; the people are friendly, and more than willing to overlook our outrageously bad french; the architecture's cool, from the Grand Place with it's gothic City hall and antique guildhalls, to the Atomium - real Retro-Futuristic Modernism there - but it's the plethora of Art Noveau buildings make the whole city really good to look at; Museums everywhere including a musical instrument museum (who knew?), a beer museum and art galleries of all types - even a comic strip museum; there's that fountain of the little boy who stopped Brussels from burning down, or something, but hey, I guess if a little boy urinating has turned into a major tourist industry, who's having the piss taken out of them; anyway, not even time to draw breath, we're cycling on towards the Netherlands next week, so got to make the most of it.

[I was trying to get a breathless sense of enthusiasm here, which I don't think worked. It really needs to be about three times longer, and actually one stream-of-consciouness sentence, rather than using semicolons to replace full stops. I'm keeping it as an interesting failure.]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Plan

I was in the pub last night with a friend, who, to maintain his anonymity, I will refer to as "Jerome". We have a mutual friend (here known as "Lorraine") who has recently moved house. Neither "Jerome" or I had her new address.

We were pretty sure this was an oversight on "Lorraine"'s part.

To discover her address I came up with a plan; that we would come up with an object that was irresistable to "Lorraine" and put it on ebay. When she bought it, we would find out her address[1].

"Jerome" then texted "Lorraine" to ask for her address, on the pretext that he wanted to send her several tins of sild.

She replied with her address[2] immediately.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from this, and I'm not sure there is, it may be that there are better uses for tracking devices that are completely irresistable to one person but undesirable to everyone else [3] than to auction them on ebay to find out the address of the person who desires it.

This completely pointless post has been brought to you in association with beer and agreeing to blog something while in the pub.

[1] Refinements to the plan included "Jerome"'s suggestion that the object be a tracking device of some sort in case it were to be delivered to an address other than "Lorraine"'s, and my thought that the object, while irresistable to "Lorraine", should be found undesirable by everyone else on Earth.

[2] Lightly fictionalised it is:

221B Baker Street

[3] If it were undesirable to everyone but a small group of our friends, that would also be okay.

Parker Episode Guide

Parker 10 episode outline:

1. "Pornography"
(Pilot. Full Outline to be posted later.)

2. "Girly Night"
(Concept (role reversal) and main joke(s) ready)

3. "The Fallopian Tube only goes as far as Stockwell"/"What is the fear of vaginas called?"
(Have to check my notes)

4. "Dance Fight!"
(See also West Side Story and numerous music videos, most recently the Zutons)

5. "The unwanted houseguest"
(Everything is in the title here)

6. "Written Entirely by Jim"
(As I've noted elsewhere, I'll need to see some scenes written by Jim before I can write this properly. The plot will probably involve lard, hats, booze and bikinis that look like normal underwear[1])

7. "I love it when a plan comes together"
(I'm blank on this, other than the reference. Was this someone else's idea?)

8. "Stan"/ "That's all very well but where are my trousers?"
(As I recall, a fairly flimsy plot, revolving around Stan's trousers going missing.)

9. "Round the Horne"
(Recycle old radio show sketches. Kids won't know that it's stolen. Yay history-less youth!)

10. "The Wedding"/ "Jump the Shark!"
(The wedding was added last night. The plan for this episode was to break the situation so badly that no second series was conceivable. Then we would try and conceive a second series[2])

Jim suggested that there should be a dedicated Parker Blog. This would be a collaborative effort, allowing everyone to post ideas, jokes, and scripts and then be commented on. In the pub, this sounded a brilliant idea. Back at home, I now think that I'll take no action until either:
  1. someone else does something that should be a post;
  2. people complain to me that they want a Parker Blog; or
  3. someone else sets it up, at which point I will cross-post everything to it.

(Jim was thinking of trying to film something over the Bank Holiday Weekend and thought that this might speed up scriptwriting)

Comments on either the episode outlines or the Parker Blog idea are welcome, and, if you are one of the usual suspects, required.

[1] Or possibly underwear that looks like a bikini
[2] Without using "But it was all a dream..."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Stan and Vas on Holiday Part 1

Stan's lightly fictionalised journal

Wednesday 2 August

I woke up at nine O'clock. That's too goddam early. I looked at the dame lying next to me and groaned. I'd agreed to take her to Belgium. I hate Belgium.

I looked at my bike and groaned. The tire needed changing. I'd have to take it down to see Locky. Locky was a good guy, and a good mechanic. He loved his work. But if you went to his workshop first thing in the morning you'd be lucky to get out in time for lunch. If there's one thing he loved more than his work, it's talking about it.

I looked at the dame's bike. It looked good. Too good. Whenever I'd biked with her before I'd had the better bike. But now her's was better.

With a bike like that she'd be beating off those Belgian guys with a stick. She'd better be anyway.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

David Gemmell

David Gemmell died last Friday, apparently in front of his word processor.

Gemmell wrote powerful, muscular and, to steal an especially apt word from one of his obituries, burly heroic fantasy. When he was at his best he was very good indeed.

When he wasn't at his best, he sometimes seemed to be repeating himself. But he was still more interesting when repeating himself than many other author's have been when trying to repeat fantasy classics by other people.

He wrote a couple of duologies, a structure that I think deserves to be more popular, and many single novels which can be read alone, but often have links to each other. The common elements range from the loose and unclear to the explicit . He leaves behind two volumes of a trilogy about Troy.

He also leaves behind a wife, two children and many many fans.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lammas Day

1 August is Lammas day, the traditional first day of the harvest. Different communities have their own celebrations related to this day. In my family we celebrate my Uncle's birthday, which is one reason why I mark it.

The name Lammas comes from Anglo-Saxon, but it's also considered part of the Celtic calender, under the name Lughnasadh[1] in this sequence:

Imbolc (1 Feb) (Start of Spring[2])
Beltane (1 May) (Start of Summer[3]) (also Gemma's birthday)
Lughnasadh(1 Aug) (Start of Harvest)
Samhain (1 Nov) (End of Harvest; Start of Winter)

So far as I can tell, no apostrophe is needed for Lammas day (it isn't the day of the Lamma).

[1] Meaning "Lugh's Wedding" - Lugh was the a Celtic God who probably didn't give his name to London.
[2] Traditionally marked by Ewes lactating. Sorry if this is too yucky an indicator for you.
[3] The herds were moved up to the summer pastures on Beltane (or, more likely, the day after if it was celebrated properly).