Friday, December 31, 2010

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I haven't blogged in a while because I've been at home, cut off by blizzards of snow, and a three day walk from an internet connection. Well, that's a lie, but there's been some snow, and my computer is in London, so I've had to use my brother's old laptop.

So this is Christmas
Here's a quick lowdown* of what I've done during the Christmas holidays.

1. My lovely girlfriend came for Christmas.

2. My brother, aforementioned girlfriend and I went to Midnight Communion in Minstead (where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried**). It was a bit boring. The vicar, who was a Pope look-a-like, had a rather boring voice and talked nonsense: 'You look into the manger and you see Jesus' face saying, "I want to be your friend."' But he did drink the left-over port rather energetically after Communion.

3. I opened Christmas presents. Said presents included a lot of toiletries. I don't know whether there is a reason for this.

A dramatic reenactment of what happens when I put on aftershave.

4. I ate lots and lots of turkey.

5. I played a lot of bubbleshooter.

6. I went to a birthday party involving scalectrix racing. The person whose birthday it was turned 32 that day, but that didn't mean we didn't have fun eating cake and racing cars. I came last.

7. I ate lots of chocolate, cakes and other food.

...and a happy New Year
Today is New Year's Eve. Every year, according to tradition, our family goes to a party at another family's house. Unfortunately, this year, this family have come down with the flu. So this year I'm not doing any thing for New Year's Eve this year. So instead, I'm going to go to have a hot chocolate and go to bed early.

I am also writing a list of New Year's Resolutions. So far it includes:
  1. Write my dissertation and finish my masters.
  2. Stop procrastinating.
  3. Write a novel, have it published, and win the Man Booker Prize.
  4. Learn to speak Arabic fluently.
  5. Read the entire Bible. In its original languages.
  6. Find a job.
  7. Maybe volunteer abroad. Or get an internship. Win the Nobel Peace Prize for the work I do.
  8. Get my own Wikipedia article.

Do you have any other suggestions of what resolutions I should make? Anyway, I shall be off, so Happy New Year to you all!

*Just because it rhymes with 'lowdown'.
** Although he's been dead for more than two hours.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adult Authority Figure

I haven't posted anything much in a while, but I was just thinking of a conversation children often have with their parents or teachers. It has to be one of the most annoying things an adult can say to a child.

Child: How do you spell catharsis?*
Adult Authority Figure: Look it up in the dictionary.

What is that all about? It's a) completely illogical, b) lazy and c) just an attempt by Adult Authority Figure to hide their ignorance. Another example of parental stupidity is, 'If you fall over and break both your legs, don't come running to me for sympathy.' Actually, from a medical perspective, that could be considered sound advice.

Can you think of any other stupid things parents say to children?

*I was a precocious child.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Grammar Nazi: Or why I don't have friends

I'm a Nazi. A grammar Nazi. When I see a missing apostrophe, a they're/their/there identity crisis or too many dots in an ellipsis (it has three, is that too hard people?), I have a minor heart attack. Unfortunately Facebook is the worst place for grammatical accuracy known to mankind. And also, unfortunately for me, I have the ability to write an obnoxious comment back.

Alas, this unhealthy compulsion isn't restricted to the internet. When I overheard someone say, 'Is brutalness a word?' to a friend, I had to bite my tongue not to turn around and say, 'No, it's brutality you're looking for.' I believe this one of the plethora of reasons that I don't have any friends.

Who'd have known this picture would have come in so handy?

And by the way, the plural of status is statuses, not stati. The same goes for virus.

Quick Questions
  1. Which misuse of the English language annoys you the most?
  2. Do you have any other pet peeves?
  3. Can you be my friend?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Essay Woes

Today I've been trying to write an essay. It's about the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It all started well. I went to the library and took out four giant books which seemed relevant to the topic. Three of them have 1948 in the title and two of them have the word 'war'. I thought that was a big hint. I took them home, nearly breaking my back in the process, and started to read them. This is where my problems started. I believe I have a concentration span equalling 8.4 seconds. After that, this happens:

And then I try to write the thing. It usually ends up something like this:

If you click it to make it bigger, you'll notice on the taskbar that I googled the lyrics to Rosie and Jim. Don't ask me why.

And then I go and play on bubbleshooter for a bit, so I can 'have creative thoughts'. In fact, I have it saved in my favourites, because I'm cool like that.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Four reasons why people think I'm crazy

Sometimes I get the impression that people think I'm crazy. It took me a while to work out why. But I eventually came up with four reasons why people might assume I've got a screw loose. So here they are.

#1 I talk to myself
And sometimes sing to myself. In public. Which for some people is a sign of insanity. Sometimes I'm not alone, but that means I look like I'm singing at someone, which is worse. And if I happen to be with friends who are also singing, well, that's just insane. I've had people walk away.

This habit is probably the sole reason I want children. Compare:


And you get the idea why.

#2 I have no spatial awareness
This means that I'm constantly tripping over, walking into things and falling into the road. Once I was walking along a street with knee high bollards along the side of the path. I walked into the first one. And then the second. And the third. And I wasn't even drunk. In fact, I've never been drunk. And this is probably why. This, combined with reason one also means that I publicly announce my stupidity.

To make it worse, I've also worked out that often it's just easier to let yourself fall instead of trying to stop it and causing more pain and/or embarrassment. But sometimes this means I crumple to the ground for no reason whatsoever. I once left a building and didn't realise there was a small step between the door and the pavement. I thought I was falling. So I fell to the ground into the foetal position. Embarrassing.

#3 Insects cause me to freak out
If I see an insect, I try to kill it. I wave my arms around as if I'm having some bizarre seizure, whilst screaming 'DIE, YOU CREATURE OF SATAN!' while I'm trying to kill it. But, because of my lack of hand-eye coordination, I always fail to do so. I then realise that the insect may be more successful at hurting me than I am at hurting it. So I beg it for forgiveness.

#4 I stalk people
Only joking! I'm not that crazy.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

British Weather

British weather has a bad reputation. In fact, some people say that Britain has the worst weather in the world. There's a really good reason for this. And no, it's not the weather. It's the British. You see, the British love to moan.

Whatever the weather, there's something wrong with it. Even if it's good weather, if it lasts for more than a day, then people start talking of drought and hosepipe bans and ecological distasters of which we have never seen the like of before.

We also like to complain how the country goes into complete chaos whenever it snows. Trains stop running, schools close, people can't get work. It's a disaster. Of course, the reason for this is that the amount of money it would cost to prepare our country for snow, which occurs at most a few weeks of the year if at all, is much better spent on things like hospitals and sewers and things we actually use. When I lived in Spain, they had exactly the same problem, except it was the other way round. Where I lived, it was really really hot and dry most of the time. So when it rained, the streets instantly turned into rivers. Spanish cities have very poor drainage. And why? Because the amount of money it would cost to invest in a good drainage network is more than the benefit it would provide.

And I don't live in a country where drought, hurricanes, blizzards or tornadoes are likely to affect me any time soon.

Anyway, sorry for that rant, and also that I've mentioned the weather three posts in a row.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It snowed today here in London. So as I was walking through the blizzard flurry few snowflakes I decided to provide myself with a wintry mental soundtrack, including:


I was also aware of the number of friends I have on Facebook who work in schools due to statuses like this:

Friend 1: Snow Day!
Friend 2: School closed for the day! Woohoo!
Friend 3: Day off work today, school closed. Anyone with a sledge I could borrow?

I on the other hand did not have a snow day. But, my cold water was turned off due to a burst pipe or something. I thought, that's ok, I still have the hot water, I can still have a shower in the morning. Yeah, a 100 degree shower of burning fire. Luckily I realised my logic was flawed before I got into the shower.

But now I have hot water and normality is restored. On a side note, why do we have two nouns for the adjective normal? We have normality and normalcy. I hate normalcy. It was invented by a US President (Warren Harding) and it seems to have stuck. Maybe I've misunderestimated the influence presidents have on a language. But no sane person would refudiate that this is a little wee-wee'd up. See what I did there? Did ya, did ya?

On that note, I think I'll say 'how, for now'.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bristol Stool Chart

I just received a comment in my last post from an avid reader fan stalker friend who was evidently annoyed that I did not mention a particularly ingenious frape committed jointly by herself and my brother.

Shmead no. 1 has just achieved a Bristol Stool Chart no. 4 with great satisfaction and barely had to wipe.

If you are unaware of what the Bristol Stool Chart is, it is quite simply the best thing to come out of Bristol in its entire history. That being said, the second best thing to come out of Bristol was the slave trade. I think that says it all. I'm sure my friend from Bristol will disagree. But anyway, the Bristol Stool Chart (BSC) is a medical system for classifying human faeces. BSC 1 is constipation, whilst BSC 7 is diarrhoea. BSC 4 is ideal. Below is a chart describing the Bristol Stool Chart. Print it off, and stick it on your bathroom wall. It will change your life. Trust me.*

*"The Bristol Stool Chart changed my life," said one English teacher. "I don't know how I survived this long without it."

Fact of the Day
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was voted upon today in 1947. The decision, in favour of partition, marked the start of the 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, followed by the declaration of Israeli independence on 14 May 1948 and the First Arab-Israeli War.

Freezingness and frapes

Super hi to all!

So, this weekend I went to Manchester to visit my lovely girlfriend. It was a great weekend. I got to listen to said girlfriend perform in a concert, and got to look around a city I'd never visited before. It was nice. The only thing, it was freezing. I mean properly cold. Like this cold:

Yeah, I know it's in German. Whenever I see Germans in military uniform in a film, I always assume they're either Nazis or evil henchmen for a James Bond villain. Sad but true.

So I'm glad to be back in London where it's tropical in comparison. In other news, I got fraped. Again. If you don't know what 'frape' means, here's a definition from the dictionary of Searching for Sapience:

frape v.
to hack into, or gain access without the owner's permission or knowledge to, an account on Facebook, in order to vandalise his or her saved details, generally to cause minor confusion and embarrassment.
Etymology: a portmanteau of Facebook and rape.

Typical frapey activities include adding crude or embarrassing statuses, changing the owner's gender and/or sexual orientation, and changing information about them on their information page. This most recent frape attack involved changing my date of birth. I got quite a few birthday greetings, which is always nice, but unfortunately, my birthday isn't for another two and a half months.

A person who frapes is called a frapist. This is my diagram of a frapist. If you see one, log off all accounts immediately, and delete this individual from your friends list.

Anyway, that's all folks, so super bye from me!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Excessive positivity

My friend and I were talking yesterday about a colleague of hers who was constantly moany and negative.

How I imagine her office

I told her, that to combat it, she should cancel it out with an annoying level of positivity.
I thought about drawing a horse, but I didn't think that'd go too well.

For every annoying negative comment, my friend would have to respond with an equally annoying positive comment, and kapow! like matter meeting anti-matter, harmony would be restored. In order for this idea to be carried out to fruition, we came up with a plan.

Step #1: Eternal optimism
Every situation has a silver lining. And if you can't think of one, then things aren't as bad as they actually seem. Situations aren't difficult, they're a challenge to be overcome. That extra piece of work your boss has given you, good karma. And so on.

Moany colleague: It's raining again. I hate the rain.
Friend: When it rains, I always think how happy the fish must be.

Step #2: Always give the benefit of the doubt
No one is incompetent, lazy or rude. They're either incredibly busy, unwell, or have a deep-seated anxiety due to childhood trauma. And maybe, they're just having a bad day.

Step #3: Sing
This is one I have tested out, to many of a friend's dismay. And my conclusion is that for any occasion, there is an annoyingly upbeat song. At this time of year, festive songs are particularly appropriate, but my friend and I agreed that anything by Cliff Richard would do.

It would also be good to try and fit the song around the moaner's behaviour. Direct questions in songs towards them ("Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?"). If they are moaning about some problem, My Favourite Things is in order. Complaining about work should be replied with A Spoonful of Sugar.

With these steps, office harmony should be restored. Are there any vital steps I'm missing?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I wish I knew

I wish I knew what the symbols on my oven meant. I think I've just grilled a pizza for twenty minutes.

Edit: After googling a description of the oven and eventually finding a PDF of the manual (I was planning to link to it here, but I then realised that no-one in their right mind would spend their free time reading the manual to an oven they don't own) and I did indeed grill my pizza. Although the burnt topping and doughy base gave it away somewhat.

I wish I could cook. Oh well, I'll just have to make do with watching Nigella Lawson et al on the television.

Pavement hogs

I tend to walk a lot. This is because a) I'm too poor to afford a car or public transport and b) I'm too scared to ride a bike in London. This set up generally serves me well, because I live in walking distance of university, several supermarkets, and most other things that will keep me happy and alive.

However, I have noticed that whenever I am in a hurry, there is always someone in front of me who is walking more slowly and who seems impossible to overtake. These people I call pavement hogs and in my view are a menace to society surpassing asylum seekers, children and the unemployed. I have also noticed there are several types of pavement hogs, which, with the aid of clear and colourful diagrams, if I do say so myself, I shall describe here.

Type 1: The sentries
(aka teenage girls and tourists)

These are social creatures. They work in groups, where they occupy an entire pavement whilst walking at a painfully slow pace. Their most annoying trait is that they usually stand at a distance where you contemplate overtaking them by squeezing between two of them, but where they are just slightly too close together to eliminate the risk of physical contact. And as I'm English, making physical contact with a stranger is worse than a bee sting to the eye.

Fig. 1: Sentry pavement hogs

Type 2: The wandering tribes of Israel
(aka drunks, the homeless and tourists)

Type 2 generally act alone. They create their nuisance by walking slowly, but in no discernable direction. Therefore it is impossible to overtake them without the risk of them diverting course and making physical contact with you.

Fig. 2: Wandering tribes of Israel pavement hogs

Type 3: The stop-starters
(aka parents with young children and tourists)

This type of pavement hog can either act alone, or in groups. These type of pavement hogs walk along at a normal pace for a while, and then abruptly come to a stop, maybe to take a photograph, consult a map or berate a child. This means you, whilst walking behind them, end up doing a pedestrian foxtrot. Quick quick slow... quick quick slow... quick quick slow...

Sometimes these different types combine into super pavement hogs. For example, types one and two can be merged into the drunken hoardes of football fans, whilst one and three can merge into the tourists with a tour guide.

If you think I've neglected to include any groups, please let me know.

Fact of the Day #2

Terrorist attacks are more likely to occur on a Wednesday than any other day.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

I've just been looking at the statistics of my blog, which I find very perplexing. Apparently, my most viewed entry, with over 2,000 hits, was one about the film 'Che', followed by a bit of ranting about Barack Obama.

If I was a media analyst, I wonder what I'd learn from this. If I wanted more hits, should I write about South American revolutionaries?

Simón Bolívar was a South American revolutionary and military and political leader. He was born in Caracas, on July 24, 1783...

Or maybe I should write about politicians?

Michael Gove announced his white paper on education today, which isn't worth the trees it's written on.

But, I'm not doing this for fame, love or money, although any of them would be nice (particularly the money). I just find it strange that an entry I think is average at best receives the most hits per day.

Anyway... Fact of the Day: Bir Tawil, the most unwanted place on Earth

Bir Tawil, a small area of the Sahara Desert between Sudan and Egypt, is the only part of the Earth’s surface other than Antartica which is unclaimed by any country. (The technical term for this is terra nullius.) Although administered by Egypt, neither it nor Sudan wants this poor 800 square mile triangle of desert.

So why did poor Bir get left all alone and unwanted? The answer lies with another area of land which meets Bir Tawil at a quadripoint, the Hala’ib Triangle. This part of the world is claimed and wanted by both Sudan and Egypt. But in order for either country to have any legal basis for their claim for the Hala’ib Triangle, they have to rescind any claim for Bir Tawil.

This is because of the way the British (it’s always the British) divided the land between the two countries. In 1899, the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement set the border between the two countries at the 22nd parallel. This meant that Bir Tawil was a part of Sudan, while the Hala’ib Triangle was a part of Egypt. However, in 1902, the British created a new ‘Administrative Boundary’ for practical reasons which placed the Hala’ib Triangle in Sudan and Bir Tawil in Egypt. Of course, Egypt refers to the 1899 treaty for its claim to the Hala’ib Triangle, which means, according to them, Bir Tawil is in Sudan. Sudan, on the other hand refers to the 1902 Administrative Boundary to back up their claim for the Hala’ib Triangle. So Bir Tawil gets left out yet again.

Of course, if oil was discovered in Bir Tawil, I’m sure everything would change.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Awkwardness of not learning names

I am really regretting being lazy and not making an effort to learn people's names. The time where it was socially acceptable to ask them their name is way past. And what's worse is that everyone seems to have learnt my name. So I now am left having conversations like:

Nameless person: Hi, Stephen!
Me: Oh ... hi, Mumblemumble! How are you?

And I just have to hope they don't notice that I'm calling them Rhubarb and Custard. What's worse, I actually made the active decision at the beginning of term not to make an effort learning people's names, because I'm more socially unaware than a socially unaware rock which lives in a place where not many other rocks live, like, I don't know, a sandy beach.

And before you get all technical on me and say that a grain of sand is actually just a very small rock, we'll see which one hurts more when thrown at you. Yeah. The actual logic went something like this. I spent the summer teaching English at a school where I had to learn lots and lots of strange names every week.

First day of class. Mature joke, I know. But actually, in my defence, I was having a conversation with other teachers about annoying names, and I said, 'I had two Fannies this week' and all my colleagues sniggered. Look who were the mature ones then.

So I decided I wouldn't spend all that energy learning names this term. And anyway, I'd just learn the important names naturally, wouldn't I? I was so so wrong. I now know only about 10 people's names. That includes my flatmates, who account for five of those names (I have seven flatmates).

This sad state of affairs leads nicely onto my fact of the day.

Fact of the Day

Yes, I'm trying to do a Fact of the Day. Which would be more aptly named, Fact of the week or Fact for whenever I can be bothered to update my blog. But anyway, here goes.

Have you ever had a moment of doubt when you thought that, maybe, just maybe, you weren’t as popular as your friends? Well, it turns out you were right. On average, your friends have more friends than you do. And this is true for almost everyone.

This effect, aptly called the friendship paradox, has a very simple explanation: you’re more likely to be friends with someone who has lots of friends, than you are with someone who has very few friends. This effect is found in lots of other social networks. For example, your mother is more likely to have had more than the average number of children of her generation. This is simply because a lot of people had no children, who, by default, are not going to be your mother. Similar phenomena include believing a place to always be crowded when in reality it isn’t, simply because you’re more likely to be there when there’s a crowd than when there’s no-one there.

In other words, the fact that your friends are more popular than you is no indication of your own popularity. It’s simple statistics. It might take a while to get your head around, but it’s just maths.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

C is for cookie

I've been ill. I won't give any details, but let's just put it like this: I can't be more than thirty seconds away from a bathroom. And because I've been ill, I've been wasting my time on the internet looking at completely random rubbish. This has included me browsing through Wikipedia's list of amusing vandalism. My favourite so far has to be the analysis of the Sesame Street masterpiece, C is for Cookie.

The commentary given was:

C is for Cookie can be regarded as a case study in persuasive oratory, emphasizing the emotional aspect of public speaking. Cookie Monster builds excitement by answering his opening rhetorical question, "Now what starts with the letter C?" with the obvious reply, "Cookie starts with C!" He then challenges the audience, "Let's think of other things that starts with C," before quickly replying, "Oh, who cares about the other things?" casually dismissing a whole range of other possibilities as irrelevant. Thus, having ostensibly come for the purpose of covering the letter C in its entirety, Cookie Monster has already focused his agenda exclusively on cookies, employing the classic bait and switch tactic.

Several times in his presentation, Cookie Monster emphasizes what appears to be the central thesis of his remarks: "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me!" The appealing rhythm of this slogan appears designed to entrance listeners, swaying their emotions and making them instinctively want to chant along with him.

After rousing the crowd, Cookie Monster systematically lays out the logical underpinnings of his pro-cookie ideology, comparing cookies to round donuts with one bite out of them and to the moon during its crescent phase, in essence using a straw man argument that implies his opponents would advocate the superiority of these competitors over cookies. In this sense, Cookie Monster may be proposing a false dichotomy representing cookies as the only viable choice to a group of obviously inferior alternatives.

But before the audience has a chance to catch on, Cookie Monster launches into another round of repetitive chanting, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me, yeah!" as young children sing along. Here, Cookie Monster uses a propaganda technique strikingly similar to that employed in George Orwell's Animal Farm by the pig Napoleon, who trained the farm's sheep to bleat, "Four legs good, two legs bad" on his cue. Cookie Monster then adds visual stimulation to his discourse by chomping into a large cookie, concluding his remarks with "Umm-umm-umm-umm-umm" and other chewing sounds.

You've gotta love it!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The opticians

I needed a new pair of glasses. I've needed one since around February. So I finally got round to booking myself in for an eyetest to buy a new pair of eyes. I always feel slightly nervous with eyetests. I know I'm there so they can test my eyes, but I always feel as if I'm being judged, and as if it's some sort of trick.

Can you read out the letters you can see? By the way, this is called a Snellen Chart.

The optometrist was really nice and put me at ease. Then came the second part, looking for a pair of glasses. Ok, I made a bit of a mistake here. I went to Optical Express, which is like well posh, innit. I should have gone to specsavers.

Anyway, the optician, a different person, started showing me some really nice glasses. You know, nice glasses. From French Connection. And whatever other companies make expensive glasses. And he wouldn't tell me the price. Eventually, he showed me a pair of glasses, and I also chose the second free pair of glasses. And only then did he tell me the price. Two hundred and ten pounds. I said I couldn't afford that, and he replied, 'well they'll last a very long time'. That would be a lot of consolation for when I starved to death from being unable to afford food.

So, instead, I bought the cheapo second pair of glasses which would have come free, for just under fifty pounds. Which I thought was fair enough. So now I have a pair of glasses.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Modern art

I haven't updated again in a while. I am very sowwy. I wanted to insert a smilie here, just to show how sowwy I actually was, but blogger wouldn't let me. Don't you love smilies? They're so last decade.

A great big smilie just for you. I made it myself. Can you tell?

(I almost wrote 'their so last decade', a grammatical crime so awful I would have probably spontaneously vomited when I realised. But, then again, I've just written it, and haven't vomited.) So what I might do to overcome this rather intermittent rate of blogging is to write several entries but only publish them on a weekly or so basis. And then you'll never know that I'd been rejecting my blog for ages.

Anyhoo, a friend just reintroduced me to that amazing word, I shall tell you about my life. Last week, my brother visited. As a part of this visit, we did lots of amazing things like riding dragons and fighting nazgul. I mean, we went to Camden markets, which are cool [italics are my own]. We also went to the British Museum. I want a Rosetta Stone mouse mat, even though I don't use a mouse for my laptop but one of those funny touchpad wotsamajigs.

Another thing we did was go to the Tate Modern. If you don't know what the Tate Modern is (where have you been? The Highlands of Yemen? I mean, come on people.), it's a modern art museum, an extension of the Tate Gallery, also in London, housed in a disused power plant.

I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. Some of the art was quite impressive and/or original. However, I found that 40-50 minutes was my limit for exposure to modern art, because after that, I started to get a bit irate. This is mainly to do with the fact that finding decent art in Tate Modern is like panning for gold. You might get a nugget now and again, but you mainly get pebbles. But more than that, it was the ridiculous descriptions which accompanied these paintings.

So, I decided, for my own, and hopefully, your amusement, to make my own painting. And then describe it. So here you go:

A line of poetry (or: I can come up with pretentious titles too), 2010

"The use of colour and chaotic forms show a playful rejection of society's bourgeois demands for conformity to structure. Its different layers, starting with large, broad strokes, to more detailed shapes created through air brushing have an almost narrative quality, showing a range of emotional expression from the soft round forms in blue and yellow, the aggressive violent strokes in blood red, to the small, repetitive shapes demonstrating concentration and perfectionism."

What do you think? Should I become an art curator? I also thought you might want one of your own. Leave a title and suggested commentary in the comments. Although my suggested title would be 'Why does blogger always srew up the formatting whenever you upload a picture?'

This one looks scarily similar to one that is actually in Tate Modern.

Also, my girlfriend visited the weekend just gone, only for too brief a time, but it was still nice. And we went to a really cool burger restaurant in Islington called Byron, if you ever want to go (it's on Upper Street). It was only half way through that burger that I realised it was my third in four days. How bad is that? Although one was vegetarian so doesn't really count.

Anyway, this is a long post. I should have divided it into two and posted each section a week apart, and then wouldn't have looked so bad.

Adios, amigos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I love grammar, because I is a geek like that, innit. Today I discovered the existence of 'antagonyms', also known as 'contranyms' and 'autoantonyms'. An antagonym is a word which, when used in different contexts can mean more or less the opposite thing.

For example: clip

"I clipped some extensions into my hair to make it look more voluminous."
"I went to the hairdressers who clipped an inch off of my overgrown hair."

In the first sentence, clip means 'attach', whilst in the second, it means 'removed'. Another example is dust.

"My mother-in-law was coming for dinner, so I dusted the shelves."
"I murdered my mother-in-law, so the police dusted the shelves for fingerprints."

Again, the two sentences have very different meanings. In the first, dust was removed, in the second, it was added.

So, just a short update for now. Hasta luego, mis amigos...

Monday, October 18, 2010

My life at the moment

So far, I've not written too much about my life in the present. That's mainly my attempt to hide how boringly average my life is. But, so you don't get deceived into believing that I'm some really interesting person who finds cures for diseases, or hunts down terrorists, or something else equally exciting, I shall tell you what my life is like and then you'll stop reading my blog and everything will be back to normal.

So, to start, I'm a student in London. I'm currently doing a masters in Near and Middle Eastern Studies. This involves learning the ridiculously hard language of Arabic (Ahlan wa Sahlan!), learning about the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and looking at transnational news. It's all very interesting, and a lot of hard work, but there's nothing quite like an interesting challenge to get you up in the morning. That doesn't mean that I actually do get up in the morning.

Other than being a hard-working student, I'm also trying to get a part-time volunteering job. Well, I'd also quite like a paid one, but given the recession at the moment, that ain't gonna happen. So, I've applied for a volunteer post with the Red Cross, let's see how that goes (fingers crossed!) and have also just been to a training day about visiting detained asylum seekers at Yarl's Wood concentration camp detention centre.

As well as all that, I have recently started going to Holy Trinity Brompton church in Kensington, which is more or less next to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Which is a very interesting museum might I add.

In a side note, I am aware that in my highly artistic pictures, what I call 'Big Ben' is actually St. Stephen's Tower. But, I couldn't fit that in, and we're not pedants here, are we?

Quick Questions

  1. I'm new to London. Any recommendations of places to go?
  2. What do you think of my drawings? They're great aren't they?
  3. What interesting things are you doing in your life at the moment?

My first dictionary

If you like dark humour, then this is the blog for you. My First Dictionary takes the book we all know and love but twists it in a horribly sick fashion. And if you're horribly sick, like me, you'll find it hilarious. Here's an example of one of the words.

Movie deaths

In operas, characters sing before they die.

Count the bodies.

In films, even the most inarticulate characters...

...suddenly have a life-shattering epiphany moments before their time is up. Whilst suffering from gunshot wounds, hypothermia, poisoning, etc., they make elegant speeches where they're able to tell their families how much they love them.

Can you guess the film?

I know that's not how I'm going to die. I don't want to die like that. I want to die in a blaze of inchorence, where my impending doom is highlighted by my inability to form a single sentence. I want my last line to be something like, 'I need to defrost the television,' or something like that.

Another thing I don't get are murder mysteries. It's ok when the detective comes across dead people as a part of his or her job (CSI for example, or at a push Diagnosis Murder), or when their skills are called upon to help solve a crime (Bones), but I can't help getting suspicious of detectives, who, for no apparent reason, arrive at murder scenes on a weekly basis. I've not seen a single dead person in my entire life, let alone a murder victim (touch wood). Why are we expected to believe that some old lady, by random chance, regularly finds herself intruding on a murder scene? Either they're really unlucky, or there's something suspicious going on. Either way, I wouldn't want to end up near one of those people, because the likelihood is you're going to end up on Crimewatch before the end of the evening.

And while we're on the theme of death, here's a gruesome death related fact for you. When brain-dead people are removed from life support systems, their arms sometimes lift up and then fall over their chests. This is known as the Lazarus sign. I've got loads of these sorts of facts. They're great conversation starters at parties. 'Hi, did you know that up to half of hypothermia victims undress before they die?'

Quick Questions
  1. Did you guess the film? You're right, it was Deep Impact.
  2. What would you like your last words to be?
  3. Who's your favourite fictional detective? Sherlock Holmes? Jessica Fletcher?* Peter Boyd?

*You've gotta love Angela Lansbury. I honestly cried at that film every time I watched it as a child.

I know a song that'll get on your nerves

We've all had it. We've listened to a catchy song, but once the song has stopped playing, it keeps on going in our heads. We have a song stuck in our heads. Luckily, unlike having physical objects stuck in our heads, this phenomenon is harmless, but is more likely to irritate women than men.

What I want to know, which is the worst song for getting stuck in your head? My brother introduced me to the amazing 'Banana Phone' song.

Of course there are other songs which seem to make their way into your brain. One of my favourites is Total Eclipse of the Heart by the gravelly-voiced Bonnie Tyler.*

In German, they call this phenomenon Ohrwurm or earworm. But unlike real parasitic worms, this is just a metaphor.

So, quick questions:
  1. What makes a song get stuck in your head?
  2. What's the most annoying song you know?
  3. When was the last time you had a song stuck in your head, and how long did it last for?

*Bonnie Tyler's famous raspy voice comes from an operation she had to remove nodules on her vocal chords. She was ordered not to speak for several weeks after the operation, but did so, giving her voice its unique quality.

Chilean miners rescue

Isn't it wonderful that the Chilean miners, who have been trapped underground in dark, humid, hot conditions are finally being rescued? The bravery and good-naturedness of the miners has captured worldwide attention, and they have received gifts from around the world, including signed Barcelona shirts, money, and a holiday in Greece.

I know that if I was trapped underground for more than five minutes, I'd have a psychological breakdown.

Me after a night out.

But (yes, there's always a but), not to be cynical... have you ever noticed when someone says, 'I'm not being...' they are...

Back on track, I don't really get the nationalistic celebration which seems to have erupted around the whole rescue. People watching the rescue have been shouting 'Chile!' and the miners have been saying 'Gracias Chile!' As I've said, I have huge admiration for the miner's bravery and mental and physical strength, and yes, the country (and the world) should celebrate that they've been rescued, but I don't get the outpouring of pro-Chile feeling. After all, it was the lax health and safety in the mines which led to the tunnel's collapse in the first place. But maybe it's just me.

On a different note, have any of you been to Dans le noir? It's a restaurant where you get to eat in pitch darkness to experience the sensation of being blind (can you see my thought processes here?). I went to the original one in Paris more than a year ago now. It was a great experience, and I really had fun. But have you ever noticed that when a group of friends somehow end up somewhere dark, a lot of prodding and grabbing is involved? Because for some reason, when it's pitch black, it's suddenly molestation fun to grab people.

In another sidetrack, I'm amazed that in the film Buried, which I haven't watched, Ryan Reynold's character gets mobile phone reception. If only the same was true on the London Underground.

Last aside, I promise. If you ever get buried in an avalanche and survive, you should still have enough air to breathe. Don't start digging randomly, because you don't know which way is up. What you should do is dig a little hole around your mouth and spit into it, to find which way down is. Then dig in the opposite direction.

Quick Questions*

  1. So, what would your worst claustrophobic, horror movie nightmare be?
  2. What was your weirdest or most interesting dining experience?
  3. Should I watch Buried?

*I stole this idea from my brother's blog a yonder.

A bad flyer

Warning: If you do not like flying or vomiting, or have a fear of death and injury, then click here. You have been warned.

I am a bad flyer. And I don't mean this...

I mean that when I fly, I have an urge to talk about all the possible things that could go wrong on a plane. For example, some friends and I were flying to Spain. As our plane was taxi-ing on the runway, my friend turned to me and asked me whether we would be in greater mortal peril if we crashed onto the land or the sea.

'Well,' I replied, 'it depends on the angle the plane hits the water.' You see, if the plane hits the water at too shallow of an angle...

Then the plane skims like a stone, bouncing repeatedly. But if the plane hits the water at too steep of an angle, the wings are ripped off and water rushes into the plane at hundreds of miles an hour.

This was seconds before our plane was about to take off, cross the Bay of Biscay and then land at Alicante airport. I'm quite sure the other passengers weren't too happy.

(Un)fortunately, I am not alone in this affliction. I was once flying home from Leipzig in Germany. After a busy week visiting friends, and getting very little sleep, as soon as the plane went above the clouds, I started to drift off.

The lady next to me had different ideas however. Once I had entered that half-asleep half-awake stage, she decided to lean over me and ask the passing air steward, 'What is wrong with the plane?'

I bolted awake, imagining a fiery scream-filled death, hurtling towards earth like a ball-point pen dropped off the Empire State Building.

The air steward however, seemed nonplussed, and asked the lady passenger next to me what she meant.

'Aren't we flying too high?' she replied.

I certainly know that I'd rather be flying too high than too low. She then spent the rest of the flight in the foetal position.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Year away


I've been absent for a whole year. I'd love to say that I had a good reason for not updating but I don't. So here I am again. I'm sorry.

So, I'm back in the blogosphere, but in order to hide the shame of not updating people for a year, I've started a new blog. So, with a warm welcome, may I introduce the wonderful, the amusing, the yet-to-be-filled-with-rambling-nonsense, Searching for Sapience. Here are some reviews:

'The best blog since La Vie en Rose, but that doesn't really say much.'

'Setting a new low in blogging.'

'Searching for what? Never heard of it.'

If I've managed to enthrall you, do head on over, say 'hi!' (I'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to say 'hi').

EDIT: I was reading through some of the old posts in this blog, and I decided I like it too much. So I've just transferred all my posts from my ex-new blog, to here. Maybe I'll keep them both updated, but we'll see!

EDIT again: I've changed the name of this blog to Searching for Sapience. So now, the new blog is the old blog, and the old blog is the new blog. Simples!