Thursday, May 31, 2007


I don't have an excuse, but the proximate reason is here. (Don't read my contributions, read everyone elses).

im in ur h31mz d33p
killin ur guyz
uruk hai

Update: teh ph3ll0sh1p rng and teh 2 t0wrs

Update 2: teh r37urn of teh king and 3 rngz 4 teh 31v3n kngz

Unlikely Links: xkcd

xkcd is "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language."

If that doesn't interest you, then I'm not sure I can convince you.

Here's a few favourites of mine:

Merlin (Merlin lived backwards)
Science (It works, bitches)
Su Doku (Finally one I can do)
Pong (It's what the matrix sequels should have been)
Pi Equals (This joke for Stan)
Useless (Romance + Math = ?)

If you hover your mouse over the comic you get more information.

Update: Dozy, forgot the genius Comic Fragment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Excitement! Adventure! Exoplanet Astronomy!

Anglo-Australian Planet Search, responsible for finding about half the planets outside the solar sytem have reported finding 28 more. The BBC have a pretty good article on it. I'm kind of busy, so will put my feelings down in one syllable:


I think the exoplanet log is linked to in this previous post about planets, but don't have time to check now.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spring Bank Holiday

We[1] like significant dates here at Night of the Hats. So as part of our ongoing series of High Days, Holidays and other Dates Of Interest, let's talk about the Spring Bank Holiday.

There is a christian feast, known generally as Pentecost, and here in the UK as Whitsun[2], the 50th day after Easter Sunday, and the 10th day after Ascension day. Whitsun commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles; it's in Acts of the Apostles if you want to know more.

Now once upon a time, the day after Whitsun, was known as Whitmonday, and celebrated as a holiday, with ale, mystery plays[3], horse racing, cricket and brass band competitions, to take a few examples from wildly varying time periods. When Bank Holidays were introduced, WhitMonday, a movable feast 7 weeks after Easter, was one of them. Later (1971) with the introduction of the May Day Bank Holiday, the Spring Bank Holiday was introduced, and fixed at the end of May to avoid it coming too close to the May Day Holiday.

Hopefully we're now all clear on why we get two Bank Holidays in May, then nothing until August. At least in England and Wales, anyway.

[1] "We" meaning in this case "I".
[2] White Sunday or Wit (Wisdom) Sunday, depending on which etymologist you happen to be talking to.
[3] Stories from the Bible rather than, for instance, Agatha Christie

Sunday Challenge

I'm feeling pretty lazy, but don't want this blog to get stale in case someone actually looks at it. So here's a challenge recycled from Stan's website:

The Charle's Dicken's has' overu'sed apostrophe­s'­ on thi's s'ignboard to Jims immense' annoyance. Can you help lower his' blood pres'sure by spotting all the error's?

There is, of course, no prize but honour, mainly because any answer of mine might be wrong.

Friday, May 25, 2007

More fish story

I previously referred to a Daoist fish story. Now I discover another version that is subtly different.

I'm barred from being a zen guru by Bert, so I'll just have to think about this until the master appears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Not a Ravenswood Story

I have one Ravenswood story ready to go.

It should really be the last Ravenswood story.

It would work okay somewhere further down the line, when I've put a few more normalish stories, and a couple of odd ones up.

Must think harder.

All story ideas gladly accepted.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The duration of romance

I have a limited capacity for certain types of fiction. Horror films tend to lose me after about 30 to 45 minutes. Comedies - wacky, zany, follow-the-joke-and-never-mind-the-logic-comedies - I normally enjoy for about an hour. And I have a very small amount of tolerance for romances.

All of this is for bog standard, low quality stories. A horror film with a bit more to interest me - Saw, with it's central mystery, or Scream with it's references to other Horror films; both of which, by no coincidence, have above average acting and directing - I've happily sit through.

But I was talking about romance. Let's consider for a moment The Break-Up.

If you've not seen it, the title tells you the premise[1]. The interesting thing is that the romance which precedes The Break-Up is shown in a set of photos which form the credit sequence at the start. And I enjoyed it. No, really. See, any on-screen romance story which lasts under about 5 minutes[2] is fine with me.

I would put the video to David Powter's Bad Day here, but, although the song has been (mis)used by several people on Youtube, I can't find the actual video. So let's jump straight into the murky depths of Pirates of the Caribbean fandom with this video of Captain Jack Sparrow/Elizabeth Swann[4] moments to Thea Gilmore's cover of the Buzzcock's Ever Fallen in Love.

No, go and watch it and if you're sick of it before the end, you've found your limit (or maybe you don't like Thea Gilmore, in which case we don't need your patronage round here any more. Go on, move along).

Note that, good acting, plot, characters, etc. etc. will immensely increase my attention span. But if you want me to sit still for a feature-length generic sub-Catherine Cookson period family drama/romance, I may be a little tetchy at the end.

Or just dozy maybe.

[1] It's a failure of communication. However, the failure of communication both arises from and illuminates the characters, rather than being just decided by authorial fiat (which is why I can't watch soap operas).
[2] Based solely on a very bad Youtube video, which has all the Batman/Wonder Woman[3] romance scenes from The Justice League cartoon, to the sound of Phil Collins' Against All Odds, one of my friends has a much shorter attention span for random romance.
[3] Also the Bruce Wayne/Diana Price scenes. Since I've not watched it, I don't know whether their secret identities are shared. For more on the flimsiness of Bruce Wayne/Batman identity, take a look at Justice League International #16 ("His name is Wayne... Bruce Wayne")
[4] Will Turner? Is he any relation?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Summertime Blues

With the five day forecast showing "light showers" for Saturday, inevitably I'm invited to a cook-it-yourself barbecue. Welcome to the British summer.

Uninevitably, I was asked my opinion on barbecuing fish. Although I came up with a good answer off the top of my head, there's more, so I've hit the references and come up with a few suggestions.

Lea and Perrins barbecue cookbook[1] suggest cleaning fresh sardines, but leaving the heads on, coating in sea salt and cooking for 8-10 minutes on an oiled barbecue. Rick Stein, on the other hand, thinks you should oil the fish, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

Rick Stein is very keen on chargrilling or barbecuing fish. He notes that oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring etc.) are all good. Also Mediterranean fish, such as Mullet, Bream, Gurnard and so forth can all be usefully barbecued. He notes the golden rule of barbecuing - do it on the hot ashes; flame is bad, but the metal must be hot, and the fish well oiled to prevent it sticking.

Here's a couple of things you can do in addition:

Lime Butter:

Take a lime and a pack of butter. If the butter is warm you, can do this by hand, but if you have a food processor, why bother? Anyway, zest and juice the lime, add to the butter, and mix. You can use the butter to "oil" or baste your fish[2], or, assuming you forget, spread it on the bread you have with it.

Lime Mayonnaise:

If you make your own mayonnaise, then I'm suitably impressed! Replace the vinegar in the recipe with lime juice, and at the moment when it's emulsifying, add some lime zest.

If you're constrained like most people into using bought in mayonnaise, then it's even easier. Simply squeeze a little lime juice into the mayonnaise and add a bit of zest, stir until smooth, and presto! The farm shop sells Tarragon and Lime Mayonnaise, which is really nice, and I'm pretty sure you know how to make your own after this hint.

I'm done here, which is a bit disappointing as I thought I had lots of fish barbecuing advice. Just one or two unrelated notes: I successfully returned the hat Mum hired for a wedding, but for that and other reasons, missed Alan Titchmarsh, Gardener, TV Personality and writer of slightly steamy novels[3] signing at Sandwich Bookshop - possibly the most exciting thing to happen in Sandwich since, um, er...

[1] A useful free offer that doesn't overuse Worcester Sauce (much)
[2] This may or may not be a recommendation, but I got the idea for this from Michael Swanwick's novel The Iron Dragon's Daughter.
[3] I am in no way an expert on erotica, but you can find ruder books in the Romance and Family Saga section in W H Smith.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Derby Day

I've occasionally claimed that Derby Day at Epsom Downs is like England in miniature. But what do I actually mean by that?

Well England is about rushing outdoors as soon as there's any good weather, and Derby Day is 2 June this year, which is as close to a guarantee of sunshine as you get in this country (that is, very iffy), and almost entirely outdoors. Assuming you're one of the hoi polloi and haven't paid to sit in a stand etc.

England is definitely a land that enjoys a flutter, and this is one of the major flat races of the racing calender; if you put a bet on the National, you can put one on the Derby.

Is England a land that loves horses? Of course it is. We aren't the US or Mongolia where their national psyche is built on horsemanship, but Horse Racing is definitely the Sport of Kings.

Which leads us to England being the class system. Now Epsom Downs are public land, so you can get onto it for free. This, along with it being close to London, lead to it being extremely popular. People of all classes are here, and even mingle, although posh people get to go back to their stands and drink champagne, while the rest of us have to stand in line at the cider lorry. (England is also the tension between the city and the country, but I think that kind of goes without saying).

Napoleon pointed out that England is a nation of shopkeepers, and there's an enormous fair for people who like shopping. For people who don't, there's an enormous cider lorry. England isn't about hats, but the Racetrack is one of the last strongholds of traditional hat wearing. Take a look next time - everyone involved in a race, trainer, owner, steward etc. wears a hat. Good enough Jim?

So, there's my take on the Derby as England in miniature. Anyone want to go?