Saturday, April 28, 2007


I may or may not have been woken by an earthquake this morning. On the one hand I woke up at EXACTLY THE TIME IT HAPPENED. On the other hand, I thought I woke up because some bloody pigeons had landed on my windowsill. Still, pigeons are sensitive to this kind of thing aren't they? Or is that just an urban legend? They're magnetic, that's for sure.

Earthquake links via Anne:

US Geological Survey

European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre

UPDATE: Okay, you can all stop asking whether the Earth moved for me. I said stop it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Much Requested Service

From today I am proud to announce that my friend Stan is available as your personal shopper! Here's the full blurb:

No time to shop? Can't decide what to buy? Keep hearing an annoying song in your head when you pass particular products? Not to worry - now Stan can solve all your problems!

Stan is THE personal shopper for the 21st Century. He is so dedicated to shopping he doesn't even charge for this service! Shopping is Stan's life and nothing will get between him and a bargain.

You don't even need to give Stan a list for supermarket shopping, as Stan's advanced prediction techniques allow him to decide what you're likely to need. This technique takes recycling one step further by using lists discarded by previous shoppers to guide Stan's shopping experience.

Don't delay! Stan only has 24 hours in a day to shop for you. Contact him
now at
Stan's shopping: Professional, Courteous and Efficient!

Update: Due to the popularity of this service[1] I'm sorry to report that our client list is now closed. In future, personal shopping will have to be done in person.

[1] With Stan

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another unfocused two-part post

My Mum is going to a wedding in a couple of weeks, and has hired a hat for it. Because of the Bank Holiday and her going away just afterward, I've been delegated to return it.

Sometimes fate just hands you an opportunity, and you have to run with it.

On an unrelated note I was suprised to discover that not everyone in the world has seen the video made of lego that accompanied the White Stripes single Fell in Love with a Girl. So here it is.

More Adventures in the 21st Century

Unless you've been hiding in a paper bag for the past day or so, (or possibly just not been connected to one of the many ways to acquire new information that the 21st Century provides for us) you're probably already aware that an "earthlike" planet has been discovered 20 light years away. You may not be aware that 229 planets have been discovered outside our solar system. That's right 229 planets. All discovered since 1989.

Other people talk more and better about this here (starting where Kathryn does the New planets dance for the 230th time).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In which the Welsh language is treated with respect

I have no wish to diss the language of Wales. Hell, on St David's day, I'm the first to shout Iechyd Da, while enjoying a pint of Leek and Daffodil wine. Nevertheless, while flicking through the 10,000 channels Sky beam down, I noticed that S4C[1] had the following program on:

Y Clwb Rygbi

When I succumbed to my curiosity, I was unsurprised to find that it was showing a Rugby Union match between Sgarlets[2] and Gweilch[3].

[1] THE Welsh language channel.
[2] Also known as the Llanelli Scarlets.
[3] Also known as the Ospreys. You won't believe what the spellchecker gave me for that word.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sun Tzu on Salt Marshes

For a variety of reasons, Sun Tzu is on my mind this evening. As most of my regular readers[1] know, my favourite bit is a slightly obscure, outdated and specific passage. So here it is; Sun Tzu The Art of War Chapter XI, Lines 7&8

7. In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should be to get over them quickly, without any delay.

8. If forced to fight in a salt-marsh, you should have water and grass near you, and get your back to a clump of trees. So much for operations in salt-marshes.

So much for operations in salt-marshes indeed. Similarly my favourite out-of-context verses of the Bible are Leviticus 11, verses 9-12

9These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.

10And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

11They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.

12Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

(God and/or Moses is quite insistent on this topic, and it gets repeated in Deuteronomy 14 verses 9&10. It also explains why Lobsters and Prawns aren't kosher)

[1] All four of you

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Can you name two members of the Jackson Five?

K T Tunstall[1] is, as we all know, immensely talented. But exactly how talented? I've conducted an experiment on French Television, and the result is somewhat unexpected. Ms Tunstall displays the same amount of talent as the entire Jackson Five, but requires two attempts to reach this level.

To continue my work I'm requesting help from the passing strangers on the internet. To join in simply watch this video, then comment below. All comments will be rewarded in some way or other that I haven't thought through yet.

[1] As we all also know, the "K T" stands for "Katie Tunstall". Don't think about it too hard.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dining Out

On Sunday evening I ate with my parents and some of their friends at a restaurant called fish!.[1] It's very nice; Obviously £14.95 is quite a lot for cod, chips and mushy peas, but it's damn good cod, chips and mushy peas. As it's in Borough Market, it's always fresh (not that anything in a restaurant shouldn't be, but it's good to get the reassurance).

One thing that intrigued me; obviously it's a fish restaurant (um, clue?) but it does offer non-fish dishes. They are in a footnote saying (as I recall) breast of chicken and vegetarian dish of the day are also available and to ask your waiter if you want it. Which is saying "We, fish!, are a fish restaurant, and so we suggest you try our fish, but we understand that some people don't like fish and may have been dragged here by their piscavore friends, so there is an alternative".

It's the equivalent of omelet or chicken and chips at the curry house.

[1] Since the name of the restaurant is "fish!", should I put a full stop at the end of that sentence? Or is one bit of punctuation enough?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: Fairies

There are no fairies in the Ravenswood.

Actually, that's not true. There are fairies, but no one has ever seen them.

Alright, there are fairies, and everyone has seen them. The youngest child in the wood, barely able to toddle or speak, will tell you of the day they saw one of the fair folk whittling at a stick, and if you stand a round at the tavern, many are the people who'll tell you of the time they watched a procession of the fairy queen ride by. Some days, if you walk down the paths in the deep wood, you'll run into two or three, whistling jauntily in their feathered caps and suits of green. "Good day My Lord" (or "My lady", depending) you'll say, and "Good Day" they'll reply.

Of course you should never ask a fairy a question. If you do, and they answer, you'll owe them a debt, and to owe the fair folk a debt is a perilous thing.

Or is it that, if they answer you true, you must answer their question with a lie? Perhaps it's merely that their answers are always true, and a little more true than you wish.

On balance, if you should meet a fairy in the Ravenswood, best if you don't speak to them.

Unless that makes them think you're being rude. For the one thing you must never do to one of the Lords and Ladies is be rude.

Top 5

Top 5 lists run around the internet like some kind of disease. In an effort to counteract this, I present a top 5 list that probably won't be copied anywhere soon:

Top 5 Songs Noone Wants to Hear Me Sing at a Karaoke Night

5. Baccara - Yes Sir, I Can Boogie

Actually you don't want to hear anyone singing this. You have been warned.

4. Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger

Imagine that amazing brassy intro, building excitement, then the music dips down... and I miss the opening note (at full volume). Nasty.

3. Bob Dylan - All Along The Watchtower

(All Along The Watchtower has been covered many times; The versions here are Dylan, Hendrix, and acoustic ones from Michael Hedges and Chantel McGregor)

In this case it's not my singing that lets me down, it's the harmonica playing. Or rather, my air-harmonica playing.

2. Berlin - Take My Breath Away

No seriously, why would you want to hear me sing this? Why are you even asking? What are you thinking? Are you thinking at all?

1. Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

I can't sing like Kate Bush[1]. I can't dance like Kate Bush. But that hasn't stopped me yet. Be afraid.

Bonus: Because no top 5 list is complete without a 6th entry:

Liza Minelli - Life is a Cabaret

If you don't know why by now, it's time and past time to stop.

[1] I can't even sing like China Drum, whose version doesn't seem to be easily available on t'internet. I have got it as the B-side to one of their singles if anyone's interested. (Also I know of at least two other people with a copy).

Ravenswood Stories: The girl who disappeared and was nearly found again

The friend who lives on Ravenswood road has moved out. I had intended to post this story at the time, as it was complete in my head, but life intervened, so I guess now is as good a time as any.

The girl who disappeared and was nearly found again.

People vanish in the Ravenswood. Sometimes they vanish in the winter, and are found in the spring, all gnawed bones and scraps of clothing. Sometimes they vanish in the spring, and come back, years later, with tales of wars and voyages, with fortunes, or rags, with missing limbs or scars. Sometimes they vanish as couples, to come back weeks later, having been married at the Great Green Tree, fifty miles up the valley, where the parents' consent isn't needed. Sometimes they vanish in hard times, and if they come back, it's to be buried.

One day a girl vanished in autumn, while herding pigs through the forest to feed on the mast. The pigs came back, as pigs will, a little later than expected, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. The girl's father and brothers and uncles and cousins went out to search for her.

Some of them straggled back in throughout the night and the following day. They had found where the pigs had been, and followed the trails that lead too and from it. They thought they had seen signs that some people had been past, some going this way and some that way. They could almost heard shouts at the edge of their hearing. They followed marks that nearly became tracks.

The village sent out searchers all that day, but only the most ambiguous of signs of the girl were found.

The best hunter in the village followed what traces could be found for a week. He said afterwards that he always felt on the verge of finding something, just around the next bend, or past the next bush. His dog was always sniffing out some faint scent that might have been her. Occasionally the wind or bird cries seemed to be drowning out a high pitched human voice.

As autumn turned to winter, several people who were in the forest said they almost found a track, or a place where the ice on the pond had been broken the day before by something, or what might have been a footprint in a thin layer of snow. The girls father followed the merest hint of a trail for three days, always on the verge of finding a clear sign.

As the years passed, every now and then people nearly heard things, or almost saw a trail, or felt something unusual that made them think they could follow a track, but they always petered out. One man got lost in the woods following such signs and hints, and was only found by a hunter a week later.

If you go into the Ravenswood, you may think you see something, a trail or track, that might or might not be human, and may or may not be just random signs in the wood. If you follow them, you might find the girl, as so many others so nearly have.

But no one has yet.

Note: All the Ravenswood stories are first drafts, and I had real trouble with this one. It's no where near as spooky or mysterious as I hoped. If anyone has any ideas on how to fix it, the comments are open.

The title owes something to the Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold story The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars.

Next time in Ravenswood: something a little lighter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jane Austen

Somebody spent half an hour looking through this blog's archives on Easter Sunday, mere hours before I made a triple update. Their luck, either good or bad, is undoubtedly fearsome.

But I didn't notice that until now, as I got distracted by a Jane Austen novel I didn't know existed! Better still, it's an attempt by Austen to write and epistolary novel inspired by Les Liaisons dangereuses.

Jane Austen; dead 190 years and still suprising me.

(Lady Susan available from the Gutenberg Project; also better formatted and annotated at All this from a discussion of possible Jane Austen crossovers.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Big Brothers

A friend of mine was going to meet his little[1] sister's boyfriend for the first time yesterday, at the second day of a beer festival. I'm not going to go too much into the reality of this, in case some people who actually know psychology read this and laugh at me, so here are a couple of of possible scenarios I was unable to coherently express on Friday (as I'd been at the first day of the beer festival):

Jim: Who are you, and what are your intentions towards my sister?

Boyfriend: Oh, you're Sam right? [Ruffles Jim's hair] Look, here's a quid. Get yourself a bottle of pop, me and your sister want to spend a bit "quality time" over in the corner, if you know what I mean.

Jim: Who are you, and what are your intentions towards my sister?

Boyfriend: Tell you what, let's discuss it over a pint of Crafty Shag[2].

Jim: Who are you, and what are your intentions towards my sister?

Boyfriend: Hmm, your aggressive introduction sugests to me you have some self image problems, and maybe a bit of an inferiority complex. Tell me, do you have the urge to draw penises everywhere as a way of marking your territory, or do you just run around beating your chest?

[1] Early twenties
[2] This was one of the beers at the festival, and not what you're thinking.

Conversation overheard on the quay

The scene: the quay. Your narrator is discovered overtaking four children, who appear to be about 12 years old; 3 girls and 1 boy.

Girl: ...He's always asking me to go out with him, even though he knows I'm going out with you...

Another Girl: You can't go out with him! He's the half brother of your cousin... no.. you're his... no wait...

Third Girl: Did you hear? There was this girl and she married her grandfather, and they had sex, and he died and they had babies!

Which taught me something, although what, I'm not sure.

Unlikely Links: Strange Maps

The Strange Maps blog is a blog of strange maps. I love maps, and the concensus is that I'm pretty strange, so obviously I watch it like a hawk.

I reccomend the whole thing, but a few highlights include:

The world's first and only esperanto state;

A map we can all understand, inspired by Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark; and, of course,

Flash Gordon's Mongo.