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.