Wednesday, 30 December 2009

real cuppy

Just quickly:
A hypnotized frog will lie perfectly motionless on your hand, sometimes for hours, with his arms and legs in his air and a foolish grin on his face. I forget what this teaches. Frogology One was all right but I often wish we had studies some brighter animal

The croaking of the Bullfrog has been compared to the bellowing of a Bull. This may be to true of a very large Bullfrog and a very small Bull*

*Guppy's Frog of the Solomon Islands is larger than the Bullfrog and extremely hideous. Guppy can have him

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

stupid itv

For about half an hour, it seemed, ITV's news (London news I think, but I was pretty tired) talked about the (genuinely very sad) disappearance of a Londoner in a skiing town in Switzerland. The gist of the report was that his family and girlfriend believed he was kidnapped; the Swiss believed he had been lost in an avalanche.

I am absolutely not belittling the story, but the journalism was shocking. We got, honestly, five minutes of talking with sad family member about how lovely this boy was, and how excited he was by his new job. Two questions which were not even raised were:

1. Was there an avalanche in the area at about the same time?
2. What reason did his family have for thinking that he was kidnapped?

Monday, 28 December 2009

cuppy / your inner fish

I probably haven't mentioned that I've been reading a book called Your Inner Fish. I have learnt very interesting things. At times, though, the book reads eerily Cuppyly (follow link in labels, if you are a newcomer):
the nerves that control breathing extend from the brain stem. This works well in fish, but it is a lousy arrangement for mammals

Fish have gonads that extend toward their chest, approaching the heart. Mammals don't, and therein lies the problem

Timing is everything. The best ideas, inventions, and concepts don't always win. How many musicians, inventors, and artists were so far ahead of their time that they flopped and were forgotten, only to be rediscovered later? We need look no further than poor Heron of Alexandria, who, perhaps in the first century AD, invented the steam turbine. Unfortunately, it was regarded as a toy. The world wasn't ready for it*

* Heron (or Hero) also invented the first vending machine, which dispensed holy water

Saturday, 26 December 2009

boxing clever

Utopia is a luxury residential ocean liner for tax-dodging malcontents who we are better off without and if the kraken exists, which I hope it does, and if it ever attacks a ship, which I hope it doesn't, there would be worse ships for it to attack. Especially if there is anything in the idea of hubris. Instead of paying taxes, the Utopians make themselves feel better by giving away their money. To help them decide how to do it, the ship emplyes a Philanthropy Concierge. I applied for the job, actually. It's probably why I sound so bitter.

People wanting to choose how to spend their money on doing good rather than trusting tax and bureacurats: nuts to it. You try doing without bureaucracy. Also, people say that bureaucrats lack common sense and just apply rules: yes, they do. The thing is, we agree on rules, and what the Utopians think is common sense and what I think are two very different things.

Friday, 25 December 2009

xmas present

(Incorporating Christmasses Past and Future.)*

I have a new jumper. I bet I'm not the only one. It feels like years ago that I first promised you another photo essay, and you are probably wild with rage that you are still waiting, but that is the way the cookie crumbles. My laptop is a PC; my desktop is a Mac. I meant to do it on my laptop from Little Hallingbury, but Macs are quicker and easier, it transpires, by enough that you are just going to have to hold your horses.

I saw Avatar a couple of days from, it seemed, inside a crisp packet. I am not that susceptible to vacuous action movies, but I enjoyed it. I am still slightly surprised at myself, because it pushed various bugbear-buttons (they're a thing, in case you hadn't heard) hanging over from my increasingly distant academic past: noble savages and ethereal spiritualism, that sort of thing.

Thoughts I had:
- is there any film anywhere of any real predator mid-chase snapping its jaws constantly on thin air (at best) or twigs, trees and anything else in the way?
- did the marine character really say at the start that the local fauna would eat your eyes for jujubIEs (instead of prouncing it jujubes)? I hope so
- how come the fauna of Pandora evolved consistently six-legged apart from the humanoids? Surely even a vestigial pair of limbs would be nice to signal that James Cameron had consulted a top international biologist such as myself (I recommend, on this front, that you read Your Inner Fish)
- I think films whose drama depends on positions of power and general decision-making being held by obvious morons are living on thin ice

However, as I say, to my surprise, I enjoyed Avatar.

* Not really. I am not a wizard.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

photo essay news

It has been pointed out to me that I have not produced the IPE I promised recently. I am sorry. It is coming, but I have been busy. I will probably do it when I am at the family estate over Christmas. If the wires allow.

Apart from that, I really like that someone has thought to ask WikiAnswers the quesiton: Where can you find examples of thank-you letters for receiving a business award?

And I enjoyed the story of Russia bribing Nauru $50m to recognise the made-up country of Abkhazia (I'm not sure 'bribing' is the technical diplomatic term, but all the same).

And, via Light Reading, I have been following the multifaceted Tango saga. Two gay authors learnt about Roy and Silo, the famous gay egg-hatching penguins of Central Park Zoo and wrote a children's book about it (calling the baby Tango, because it takes two), which more people have requested be removed from schools and libraries than any other since 2005.

The authors now have a child via a surrogate (both their sperms; left to chance).

Bonus fact: Silo subsequently shook the gay community by going out with a girl penguin called Scrappy.

Bonus fact 2: I think it is 'pinguin' in almost all languages that aren't English. Get someone with a Scandinavian accent to talk about pinguins. It's worth the price of admission.

Enough already.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

the world's most difficult language* (i read online)

Jim Funck explains how frustrated he gets when people who don't understand statistics rubbish statistics. He analogises it to Tucuyan, which The Economist says is the hardest language to learn on earth:
Most fascinating is a feature that would make any journalist tremble. Tuyuca requires verb-endings on statements to show how the speaker knows something. Diga ape-wi means that “the boy played soccer (I know because I saw him)”, while diga ape-hiyi means “the boy played soccer (I assume)”. English can provide such information, but for Tuyuca that is an obligatory ending on the verb. Evidential languages force speakers to think hard about how they learned what they say they know.

*It is not the language of love

Monday, 21 December 2009

freddy versus jason elam

Sorry, NFL fans - it's been two weeks without a proper Any Given Sunday magazine post, but I've had a couple of excellent but preclusive Saturday nights out.

Just a quickie, then:

Player of the Week - Jason Elam

Kickers are funny. They can play for twenty years, and brilliantly do a thing that loads of people can do nearly as well as each other, even if it is very high pressure, which means that two mistakes and they're out on their ears. Jason Elam is out on his ear, after a long and successful career (two Super Bowls with the Broncos).

'But is this enough to make someone your prestigious player of the week?' I hear you cry, expecting something better. Yes, is the answer. 'So, is there more?'

Oh yes. Because Jason Elam is the author of's one million twenty-nine thousand, four hundred and sixty first best-selling book, Monday Night Jihad (I'm sure it is doing better in the States).

Publishers Weekly says:
Just in time for the Super Bowl is this debut suspense novel from a 14-year NFL place kicker and his Colorado pastor. The result yields some nice moments paired with problematic writing and improbable plot twists. Air Force 2d Lt. Riley Covington is given grace to play NFL football instead of serving out his military time, but he opts to return to active duty after a horrific stadium bombing. Hakeem Qasim is an Iraqi groomed for terrorism by tragic events in his childhood. The lives of both the squeaky-clean Christian Riley and the radical Muslim Hakeem intersect in a way that readers will see coming early in the novel. Rich details about life as an NFL player invigorate the story; the details become problematic when the story gets wordy (as in one long and unnecessary chapter toward the end of the book). Although the final [...] plot twist is too easy, unexpected humor helps leaven the serious themes, and the sparks of romance that fly between Riley and an American Muslim woman will pique readers' interest
It sounds very moving. But I think we all want to know about the pastor who also co-writes thrillers in which, according to the author of Unveiling Islam, 'Each page has a pulse and every act has significance. This is more than a novel—it’s a genuine work of masterful suspense.'

Well, he graduated from Multnomah Bible College, stinted as a biblical videographer and his hobbies include translating the New Testament from the Greek and maintaining a world leaders database. How can you not be interested in this guy? It's easy to sound snide, actually, but I think he and Jason sound like nice guys who have found themselves in a weird place where chatting with their mates about a great story they'd like to tell has turned into a literal, actual, Christian techno-thriller.

You probably want me to review the book, but Mike Tanier, my most prestigious Nemesis, has already done it on Football Outsiders. You really, really should read it. It opens like this:
Riley Covington is a driven, passionate man. He's an expert marksman who can fly an airplane, prays roughly five times per day, and isn't afraid to resort to violence to solve a problem. He's the kind of hero America's enemies just cannot relate to, and in Monday Night Jihad, Jason Elam and Steve Yohn's wry deconstruction of the potboiler formula, Covington is on a one-man quest to stop a tight-end-turned-mad-bomber. Covington is aided on this one-man quest by a host of federal agents, quirky code breakers, gorgeous Iranian snipers, and heroic hot chocolate vendors.

On the surface, Jihad is a sanitized sub-Clancy quality techno-thriller, filled with stock characters and giant plot holes. But Elam and Yohn are clever writers who toy with our expectations of structure, storytelling, and grammar, creating a kind of un-novel that is every bit as deep as it is entertaining.
Every bit. Tanier is the bomb. As for Riley Covington: there are two sequels. He might get his nipples tortured, but he never swears.

Peter King

Sportswriting is relentlessly of the now. We analyse today's game and extrapolate wildly, as if it cancels out the past and predicts the future. Or, if we are a tennis commentator, we do the same with this game, or even point. If we are a tennis commentator, we should really get some perspective, to be honest. All I mean is that it is very easy to point at a sportswriter who has extrapolated wildly, because they all do it all the time. It is part of the bones of the air in which they breathe, and that's the way the world crumbles.

Peter King SEEMS to understand this in his absolutely Nemesis-worthy Monday Morning Quarteback Column for Sports Illustrated. He says it's silly to write off Tony Romo simply on the basis of a couple of bad games:
We have a tendency in micro-examining this game to make judgments too fast on players at difficult positions to judge -- such as quarterback
However, at the top of the column, writing about the same game, which saw Romo's Dallas beat the previously undefeated Saints on the day the generally outstanding Minnesota lost disappointingly and Philadelphia won big, he couldn't have shown more knee-jerk extrapolative vim:
In one weekend, the best NFC Championship game scenario may have morphed from Minnesota-New Orleans to Philadelphia-Dallas
Doing these on one page takes a special skill. Or dopiness of sub-editor.

You should listen to more Hello Saferide, by the way (thank you Big Mouth on the right). They are on Spotify. Sample lyric, about being young and in a holiday home with a guy she would have liked to have lose her virginity to:
Well, he said something I didn't understand
'Cause he was from the south of Sweden, he spoke just like a Dane

Saturday, 19 December 2009

new yorker

The New Yorker's scintillatingly entitled The Weekly Politics podcast does a good job on banking this week. Highlights:

1. If Obama had focused on banking before healthcare, he could have really done something. The bankers were terrified and begging, and would have accepted real regulation in return for being bailed out. Having been bailed out, they think, because they are just normal people, that the resulting profits are the result of their own cleverness. They are now not really interested in meeting with Obama.

2. But the profits are the result of being able to borrow money at almost no interest, thanks to the government. They can either lend it at higher interest or invest it in bonds. It is, therefore, impossible for them not to make money. To start handing out huge bonuses to 'superstars' is to try to pull the wool over everyone's eyes and try to take credit for a hugely successful (so far) government intervention. It is totally reasonable to put a tax on these bonuses. It is not (just) political grandstanding.

I repeat, I am in favour of strong banks and big wages for good people, but not insane wages, since you can get people just as good with merely big wages. They're just these guys. I'm all about the market, and it isn't working, because bankers make profits from stuff they haven't done. It's like people think they're clever when their house price doubles in ten years: this is money you haven't earned, people. It is because you happened to be rich enough to take a disproportionate benefit from an economic situation which lots of people who can't afford houses were also contributing to. Stamp duty is a way of taxing money people didn't earn.

(I know it is a bit more complicated than this. A bit. If I'm wrong, which seems unlikely, tell me. I will happily retract. I mean, 'unhappily retract'.)

big up gareth thomas

Lack of out gay sportsmen is crackers. Thomas might be the one to get the dominoes falling.

Tweet of the day:
[NAME DELETED] Gareth Thomas, you are a legend. More sportsman should be able to be honest about their sexuality (may i add, i'm not gay lol)

The lol is genius.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

somebody loves me*

Today I got an email titled 'I love you'. It was not spam. It was sent by a girl called Belinda Herring.**

Someone called Belinda Herring, who I had never met emailed me to say she loved me. You, crazy romantic fool that you are, see this as fate. Of all the people in the world, someone called Belinda Herring picked me. But really, all she did was forget to put a dot in her sister's email address. We had an amusing back and forth about this. She's seventeen years older than her sister, and the pair of them are 'closer than a two headed frog' which is not an expression I had ever heard. I like it.

* No, they don't
** Because I am big on privacy, 'Belinda Herring' is, for the purposes of this post, exactly the same as the real name of the real person who emailed me, but it is not the real name.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

been a while since we had any wodehouse

Cool is an overused word, but George Bevan, the protagonist of PG Wodehouse's A Damsel in Distress, is cool. He falls in love with Maud, but doesn't know her name. Still:
It was not as if he had no clue to go upon. He knew that she lived two hours from London and started home from Waterloo. It narrowed the thing down absurdly. There were only about three counties in which she could possibly live; and a man must be a poor fellow who is incapable of searching through a few small counties for the girl he loves
Later, he's stuck on a balcony while a chap called Plummer is proposing to Maud:
of all moments when a man may by all the laws of decency demand to be alone without an audience of his own sex, the chiefest is the moment when he is asking a girl to marry him. George's was a sensitive nature, and he writhed at the thought of playing the eavesdropper at such a time.

He looked frantically about him for a means of escape. Plummer had now reached the stage of saying at great length that he was not worthy of Maud. He said it over and over again in different ways. George was in hearty agreement, but he did not want to hear it ... [A disquisition on how some people can leap from a roof and some cannot] ... Inside the room Plummer was now saying how much the marriage would please his mother
Earlier in the book, by the way, a huge policeman appeared in the wake of this:
A rich, deep, soft, soothing voice slid into the heated scene like the Holy Grail sliding athwart a sunbeam
Beat that with a stick.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

bond without bond

You might not know that Clint Eastwood has made a movie about the rugby World Cup won by South Africa in 1995. Morgan Freeman plays Mandela and, hilariously, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar. Here is a line from a review:
All in all, “Invictus” — like today’s “A Single Man,” and next week’s “Crazy Heart” — is a movie built completely around a performance. Subtract its lead, and you don’t have much incentive to watch
I think this would be true of many films. Imagine, for instance: The Temple of Doom; No Psycho, Just a Motel; Harry; Sally; Driving; and so on and so forth.

clarity case and other stories

Feel a bit delicate after hard evening preparing new future cookery lesson / IPE.

Today's Telegraph website contains this headline: Julie Andrews compares singing after throat surgery to afterglow of sex. What can it possibly be about? Luckily there is a subheading to clarify: Dame Julie Andrews, the Sound of Music actress, has compared the experience of singing after throat surgery to the pleasurable afterglow of sexual intercourse. Then, in case you were wondering who this story might be about, there is a picture of Dame Julie Andrews:

But what if you don't know who this is, or can't infer it from context, or have completely forgotten what the story is about by now? Never fear, because the photo's caption is the piece's third sentence of text: 'Julie Andrews, the Sound of Music actress, compared singing after throat surgery to the afterglow of sex'

You may have noticed that there was no NFL post on Sunday. I felt more delicate then than I do today is the reason. I have some good things coming, but I have just read the NYT's Fifth Down blog, which has a series of quick reads for the week. The last two feature a couple of unheralded players. Their names are Richie Incognito and Keith Null. They could not sound more like pseudonyms or characters from a particularly arch Paul Auster story.

Miami fullback Lousaka Polite, by comparison, is just a guy with a funny name.

Monday, 14 December 2009

homophonic fish

Yes, yes, isn't it hilarious that I have got a new book:

You'll be laughing on the other side of your faces when I start telling you stories from it. Until then, two things:
1. Homophonic titles for books which I would also buy: You're in a Fish and Urine of Fish
2. A poem by Michael Flanders:
Lines on Meeting a Portuguese Man o' War While Bathing*

I do not care to share the seas
With jellyfishes such as these
Particularly Portuguese

*The modifier dangles, but the meaning is clear

Friday, 11 December 2009

this and that

1. Carbon fiber makes good hockey sticks - why not cellos? The famously hard-to-recognise Yo-Yo Ma thinks so too, as does Philip Heyman, the Welsh National Opera's principal violinist.

The big company in terms of carbon fiber cellos is Luis and Clark. If you don't think that's a fun pun, you don't know enough about the history of exploration and the Westward expansion of the United States.

2. When Romania entered the Great War in 1916, it had an army of 600,000 men.

3. My friend Sue, who is literally a brilliant songwriter, says this is one of her all-time favourite songs. I have been listening to it all day, not for the first time.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

not sailing but cruising

Googling myself as per usual (it is amazing I can still see), I found two new reviews of The Kilburn Social Club. I say 'two'. Actually, they are one review, which appears in both gay mag Attitude and, joyfully, Sailing Today.

The only difference is that, tacked onto the Attitude review, is this:
Attitude Verdict
There are some pretty imaginative touches here though, such as the different breeds of talking football, and the dialogue, when it comes, is fun. But while sports fans may find this to be an absorbing read Kilburn Social Club is unlikely to excite those for whom the appeal is limited to buttocks and forearms
I really wish there were also a Sailing Today Verdict along the lines of
This book is not bad, per se, but for whatever idiotic reason, it has almost no bits about sailing
I would like to assure readers of Sailing Today that my next book should satisfy them beyond their wildest dreams.*

* I worry, though, that I might still be too 'unhip' for Sailing Today. Those guys are some cool cats.

stupid virgin

I am, misery, going through a telecoms-provider upheaval to go along with the almost certain television replacement (it worked perfectly again for a while, but the picture's leftward drift has returned), which is the last thing I need, what with having to remember in which of the new kitchen cupboards I now keep the jam (answer = any one of three). It's shooting fish in a barrel, but the mealy-mouthed stuff on telecoms websites really is crappy. For instance, one line on the Virgin site reads:
What does unlimited broadband mean?
No download limits. Unlike some of our competitors, you get unlimited downloads as a basic right so you can load up on music, films ... whatever you're into
Elsewhere, however, there is the offer of Unlimited online storage, but instead of meaning unlimited, as it did earlier, this 'unlimited' means:
Enough for:
8,000 photos
4,000 music tracks
16 videos
1,600 documents
16 videos is the limit of what they can imagine any sane person being able to include in 'unlimited'.

Also, Virgin is a lot more expensive than Sky, and it costs, over the course of a year, something like a tenner a week MORE to get a bundled service which DOES NOT INCLUDE a phone line, and then you have to pay for a phone line. For some reason, they can't put a phone line in our house.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

annotated pravda: Lightning Can Open Doors to Parallel Worlds

It's been a while since I annotated any Pravda. It's not because Pravda isn't worth annotating:
Approximately 10 years ago, children began to disappear from an amusement park of the British town of Kent. The kids would enter the hall of mirrors and never came out.
The only thing I think unlikely about this is that I don't think there is a British town called Kent. There may be. I bet it doesn't have an amusement park. My guess is: Dickens World in Chatham. It has a haunted house.
The local police ran off their legs
It's a nightmare when that happens
Recently, a psychic lady announced that she knew where the kids were. According to her, there was a door to the other world behind one of the mirrors in the amusement park
According to her
We live in a 3-D space where everything is measured by height, width and length, and we are only capable of thinking within these limits
We are so stupid. It is lucky we have psychic ladies to tell us where the children have gone
We know that one dimension is an endless straight line. We can easily imagine two dimensions
But we have to imagine, that is the only way
– a subspace, or plain surface, and we can see three usual dimensions around. Yet, even academic science acknowledges that there are more dimensions out there
Even though academic science is the most crappy kind
There is the so-called “string theory” popular in contemporary physics. It is very difficult to understand
Says you
but it admits the existence of other dimensions. “There can be up to 26 dimensions, but they are sort of folded
Sort of
so we cannot see them. We have not managed to find them through experiments either,” explained Aleksey Basilevich, Doctor of Physics
Why not? What do they teach Doctors of Physics? Even I can tell from this article that if the dimensions are sort of folded, all you have to do is sort of unfold them
If the fourth and other dimensions exist, where do they lead?
Chatham, Kent?
They lead to the place that we normally call the parallel world
Chatham, Kent
It is easy to imagine
I know! I've already done it!
Imagine you live in a two-dimensional subspace, and you have no idea that this space crosses an endless number of other subspaces. At some of the crossing lines your two-dimensional figure can accidentally penetrate another space. The same is true for parallel worlds
This is a picture of Chatham, Kent:

In 1931, Charles Fort, American researcher, introduced the term “teleportation spaces.”
Probably you assume that this means Charles Fort was a Doctor of Physics. However, you may be more familiar with his name via The Fortean Times, the journal which bears his name, or his short story, 'The Giant, the Insect and The Philanthropic-looking Old Gentleman'. Probably the former.
These were areas where sudden teleportation was possible and where the “doors” to parallel worlds open
Said Fort.
According to various versions, these are the places where UFOs, goblins, ghosts and other creatures come from
According to various versions
But if the doors open, it is not ruled out that it is possible to enter the other side
Proponents of anomalies are convinced that thousands of missing people could be found in the parallel world. There are plenty of witnesses who allegedly traveled to other worlds. It is everyone’s personal business whether these people are to be trusted
Yes. I'm about fifty-fifty on it at the moment
Tatyana Faminskaya, a UFO researcher, said that she experienced teleportation twice in one of Moscow anomalous zones
Ok, I am veering towards belief. After all, she is a researcher
She could not feel the process of teleportation, but she would find herself in a place with a different landscape
Oh. Now I'm veering back again. Surely you would feel SOMETHING
Another story was told by Lidia Nikolaeva from Novy Byt village
I once went for a walk near Novy Byt village with a beautiful girl called Lidia Nikolaeva. Probably a coincidence. We were picking mushrooms
She said that she was picking mushrooms in a forest and felt a slight jab in her heart
Wait a second! I asked this Lidia to marry me. I wonder if she has made up this alien worlds story as some kind of sublimation out of regret at having turned me down?
She immediately found herself at a deserted church, 3.3 miles from the place she was before
The church where we would have got married
Faminskaya believes that teleportation is possible because of cracks in Earth crust that make the reality unstable
I think Lidia is unstable. You might think I should go back, since she obviously regrets it so much, but she had her chance
“Doors” to the parallel world can be open by lightning since it has enormous energy
Makes sense. Thank God we are back in the world of hard science
Irina Tsareva, a member of “Phenomenon” committee that studies anomalies, told the following story. Once, three friends went fishing near Saint Petersburg. On the way, their car was hit by a lightning, went into a ditch and hit a pine tree. The friends noticed a village house near the road that they have not seen before. An old lady who lived in the house let them in, and fed them dinner. At night, they laid on the floor. When the friends woke up in the morning, they were lying on grass and there was no house nearby. Their crashed car was found under the same tree
This is the most incredible story I have ever read! I almost wouldn't believe it but Irina Tsareva is on a committee, and surely they must have all talked it through
“There were many cases when people encountered invisible obstacles that felt like transparent walls. In old times such places were called devil’s spots
For which: use God's Clearasil
In Russia they can be found near the city of Tula, on the bank of the Upa River. People say that some encountered dense air pockets, and those who dared step inside of them never came back,” says Vadim Chebrov, coordinator of “Cosmopoisk” scientific society
A scientific society! (Do you mind that I keep making the same joke)
Meanwhile, scientists still hope that they can implement teleportation in reality. Konstantin Leshan , editor of a scientific journal, has no doubts that the process can be very useful
It would be
“Teleportation has the highest known speed
Faster even than hope, bad news or an arrow through my heart when I have an armful of mushrooms and Lidia Nikolaeva is refusing my hand
It will change our planet. Teleportation does not require oil
Well, depends. I am not sure we can say that for certain until we know what the technology is. We are assuming that it needs no power, and I am not sure about that
Number of planes, cars and train can be significantly reduced, and the ecology will be better
That's great. I really want the ecology to be better
The more scientists are involved, the faster we will create a teleporting device
Can't argue with that
Obviously, such a development requires money. Maybe world scientific community should chip in the same way they chipped in for the Large Hadron Collider

The sign off tag from Pravda is: Arguments and Facts


The Telegraph: Tiger Woods continues his descent with drug overdose suspicions

The Sun: Was Woods out of his tree?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

encore des nouvelles santharliman*

No news is not good news, but I do not have no news. Instead, I have news of a 'no'. Bad journalists think that 'no' is not an answer, and that scientists and researchers who learn that the answer to the question they are asking is 'no' have failed. But 'no' is an answer. It is a step along the way.

However, what it means in this case is that I still don't know what a santharliman is, for all my sitting next to the relevant copy of the OED, which leaps strait from santfine, an obscure version of sainfoin (healthful, wholesome) to santify, an obscure version of sanctify. These are followed by santir, the dulcimer of the Arabs and Persians. As, in the end, are we all.

* More santharliman news

Monday, 7 December 2009

this is not a picture of my bathroom

But I wish it were.


I was looking at a newspaper clipping discussing local dialect names for fish and cetera (asker = bottlenose dolphin), and the writer asked:
The next problem to be solved is–what is the 'Santharliman' of the East Coast fisherman?
Naturally, I typed 'santharliman' into Google. No hits. You don't see that every day.*

*And you will only ever see it again if you get to Google before Google gets to this post.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

i am the fantasy least weasel

Eli Manning has had a stress reaction in his cuboid bone
Haven't we all? No. Will Carroll is Football Outsiders' injury guy (injuries have a vast impact on sports results), and he tweeted that this is a common injury for ballerinas. His fans said he was calling Eli soft; Will said ballerina know about injuries. When I recently interviewed the brilliant Simon Kemp, who is in charge of the RFU's medical strategy, he explained he had periodic meetings with his peers to discuss best practice. His peers were the heads of medicine at the England and Wales Cricket Board, the English Institute of Sport and the Royal Ballet.

If you want proof of something, I can't think what, here it is.

Player of the Week - Scott Fujita

I think it is pretty much a matter of public record that I have a massive crush on the Saints. I know this makes me sound like a gloryhunting new fan, but the reason is I went to the Superdome last year when I was writing a piece about the Saints as emblematic of New Orleans' recovery from Katrina, and before I got the gig I was just getting into the NFL, and I probably knew as little about them as any team in the league, and I didn't like their helmet logo (I love it now) and so on and so forth.

Everyone I met there was incredibly impressive and assured, and while it is obviously not the case in every case, it seemed as if the franchise had really reevaluated what it wanted to be and picked a certain kind of player who epitomised that. Drew Brees is the obvious example. He is amazing. Everyone in New Orleans loves him. I love him.

Scott Fujita is a huge blonde Californian. 'Crazy guy, crazy surname,' you are thinking. Scott was adopted by a Japanese-American, Rod, who was born in an internment camp in 1942, and Rod's caucasian-American wife. He was brought up eating rice with chopsticks, and when he went to school aged 4, he introduced himself, 'Hi! I'm Scott. I'm 4. And I'm Japanese.'

Cute. To cut a long story shorter than I could cut it, Scott studied Political Science at the University of California, he speaks engagingly about being half-Japanese:
When you've never met a single blood relative in your life, the idea of ethnicity and blood relations takes on a different meaning. I found a very beautiful and interesting culture filled with dignity, respect and honor, and it became mine
, he's spoken in favour of gay rights and gay adoption:
I asked myself, what that is really saying is that the concern with one's sexual orientation or one's sexual preference outweighs what's really important, and that's finding safe homes for children, for our children. It's also saying that we'd rather have kids bounce around from foster home to foster home throughout the course of their childhood, than end up in a permanent home, where the parent, whether that person's single or not, gay or straight. Either way, it doesn't matter. It's a home that's going to be provided for a kid who desperately needs a home. As an adopted child, that measure really bothered me. It just boggles my mind because good, loving homes for any child are the most important thing
and, although this is largely a machismo thing but I love the theatre of it, when he tackles someone really hard, he does a little samurai-style bow to the crowd. What's not to like about this guy?

Nemesis Watch

MIke Tanier's matchup gags include:
[The Oakland Raiders are bad and badly-run, and Jamarcue Russell is their fat lazy quarterback] Al Davis, holder of hell’s leash, may be loosening his grip: he’s selling 10 percent of the Raiders, which comes to roughly 1.8 wins per five years, two of Nnamdi Asomugha’s consonants, or enough JaMarcus Russell to satisfy Shylock 26 times over.

Jake Delhomme has a broken finger on his throwing hand. If he tries to play through the injury, he will put extra stress on his other fingers, which will affect his wrist muscles, which will upset his whole throwing motion, which will cause his passes to be wildly inaccurate, which will result in no appreciable change in his performance.

The Jets remain mathematically alive in the playoff chase; mathematical life is not as good as real life, but it beats elimination.

Why I am the Least Weasel

'First, remind me what a least weasel looks like?' Ok.

'Aaah!' No, you moron. They are well violent, as I have explained before. Anyway, I mention them because on ESPN's Fantasy Focus football podcast, Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz periodically call each other weasels, and I find it funny. I have, after four weeks of predicting results, out predicted them them again.

'Wow! You are some kind of crazy futuristic genius!' Well, yes I am, but not particularly in this case. Matthew Berry, much as I hate to admit this of one of Nemeses, explains quite well here that his advice is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and the advice that Randy Moss is likely to have a bad week means different things for two different people in different leagues and situations.

Fantasy football is even more unpredictable than the real thing. Scoring is not fair. A player has two good or lucky moments in the end zone and turns a two point day into 14 pointer. Another is tireless and effective, rushing for 90 yards, and only picks up 9.

Psychologically, this has the very appealing result that we can congratulate ourselves on wisely spotting the possibility of a giant game from someone underrated or bemoan our luck at the unfairness of the Fantasy Gods. We never have to blame ourselves. Woo hoo.

Luck is one of the reasons sport is great, obviously enough. The margins between scoring and not-scoring are so slight that ten feet of difference over the course of a game can mean five touchdowns and the difference between an upset and a predictable blowout.

Anyway, I have decided to stop predicting for now, because doing the sums takes too much time and I can't see what statistical purpose it has apart from showing me that I should be a top Fantasy analyst. I can see a statistical analysis I COULD do, but it needs organisation, and I will do it next season. You must be very excited.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

don't go to italy on holiday

1. I am not a brilliantly informed expert on the Amanda Knox case

2. I have, however, read this book about the same prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, investigating a previous set of murders:


I only have a limited amount of time in my life, and I have to use a lot of it working out what constitutes a species of fish or tree, and finding out about American Footballers who write thrillers, so I had to make judgements about who in the book was telling the truth. This is what GCSEs were about people. It's important. What I decided was: Douglas Preston is a New Yorker journalist, and the New Yorker is rigorous. This predisposes me to believe him. Then I looked at the kind of evidence he presented about the prosecutor, and the kind of evidence that the prosecutor presented.

'Wow!' I thought. Preston's main tool is Occam's Razor. He assumed a series of brutal murders were committed by a murderous brute. He focused on who had access to crucial things, like the murder weapon. And who had motives and opportunities. The prosecutor, on the other hand, constructed an enormously complex story whereby a group of village idiots (the very best description in one case), drunks and disenchanted loners developed a sub-career as well-coached but still contradictory professional witnesses claiming they had evidence of a large satanist ring of doctors and professors paying people to commit murders and steal body parts for them. He quoted an internet soothsayer in evidence, almost verbatim. Reading the book, you are terrified that justice could be so crazy.

Then the post-script about the Amanda Knox case, and suddenly you see how the stories the police fed the Italian papers were uncritically reported to us, and there is no physical evidence of sex games or satanist activity. The latter have been dropped from the trial dossier, but they were fed by the press by Mignini, and they are part of what Italians think of Knox. Similarly, the famous bloody man by the fountain: he was shouting, 'I'll kill the bitch' into a mobile phone. He wasn't shouting, 'I killed her' to a helpful (and again well-coached and late-arriving) witness. Magnini's makes for a great story, but the world is not a Thomas Harris novel.

And so I thought, somehow, that it would be crazy for her to be convicted, since Italy is a proper country. But no, in spite of the operatic lunacy, she's found guilty, and it makes me literally think that, since I can go on holiday to lots of places, why would I risk going somewhere where something like this can happen?

(One other problem for Amanda Knox: she is stridently defended by Americans, and anti-Americanism is an easy button for Mignini to press. Utterly unmetaphorically, the whole thing makes me feel sick.)

Of course I might be wrong about Knox, but I really, really, really doubt it.

Friday, 4 December 2009

back to wild thing

Didn't have time yesterday to do the darker side of Eric Gill, which the Wild Thing exhibition doesn't go into for understandable reasons. The fun side of Gill is two posts down.

The Ecstasy picture of his sister Gladys and her husband Ernest is a bit less fun when you know Gill had incestuous relations with his sisters, and a lot less fun when you know he also had them with his teenage daughters. He did a lot of experiments and wrote about them in his diary. He was very thorough. He buggered the dog, for instance. He wore his smock and nothing else so he could shock people with his penis (with the sight of his penis - his penis wasn't electric). This, apparently, got boring.

Various Catholics have campaigned for his art to be taken out of churches. This guy's one of them. He doesn't like pictures of Christ having sex with a saint:

and the like.

His biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, wrote in the Guardian:
Having read Gill's own account of his experimental sexual connections with his dog in a later craft community at Pigotts near High Wycombe, his woodcut The Hound of St Dominic develops some distinctly disconcerting features. The knowing affects the viewing. How can it not? But Gill is too good an artist, too ferocious and intrepid a controversialist, to be protected and glossed over. We need to see him whole.

I think, normally, we separate the artist and the man, and that's right. But, but, but. I don't think a church should display works by Hitler or a Hindley. It's ducking the issue to say this would be a decision you made for practical reasons, of which there would be many. I think it would be wrong to display them there, given the nature of their crimes and their recentness, though I think it would be fine for them to be displayed elsewhere. Once you acknowledge the principle that some artists' work is inappropriate in churches, the rest is all just haggling over price.

This makes modern Western liberals very edgy, because it means making a judgement. Somewhere, you have to draw a line. The line will be imperfect, because it's drawn by people. As for what is displayed in churches, all I can think is that you get a group of churchmen you think are sensible, ask them to think earnestly, and accept their verdict. I'm not a churchman, by the way, in any way.

Judgement is saying that we think it's not a six and two threes, but 6.7 and 5.3, so we have to go with the 6.7. We might be wrong, but sometimes you have to make a decision. This makes me, as so often, think of Terry Pratchett. Here he is writing about Granny, a midwife.* She is choosing whether a mother or a child will die. The guy talking in capitals is DEATH:
Between the light and the dark … well, sometimes that’s where you had to be.
Granny didn’t bother to turn round.
‘I thought you’d be here,’ she said, as she knelt down on the straw.
WHERE ELSE? Said Death.
‘Do you know who you’re here for?’
Granny felt the words in her head for several seconds, like little melting cubes of ice. On the very, very edge, then, there had to be … judgement

In the case of Gill, I think churchmen have discussed this, and they have judged that people's ignorance of who painted the works and what he did makes them, basically, fine, in most cases. Since I am an unbeliever, who cares what I think, but I agree, and I also understand why people disagree.

*An adequate description of her for present purposes.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

they're just these guys

Some banker was talking on Radio 4 earlier about how, if we're getting out of the recession, it will be because the banking system is sorted out. Yup, for sure. He also said bonuses were vital for attracting the best talent.

Nope. I know some bankers in the city, as it happens. I like most of them, who I knew before they were bankers, and they haven't changed all that much. They're clever, but they're just these guys. Read any book ever written about bankers, and that's what you see - they are in a profession where people are paid insane amounts of money, and they are not more brilliant than doctors and civil servants, comedians or city lawyers. Like the rest, they go to work, battle with office politics, spend their days daydreaming about who fancies them and wishing they were on holiday, and so on and so forth. They're just paid more. If they got bonuses of £150k instead of £1m, to go with their six figure salaries, I find it hard to imagine we would lose many of them. They say they'd take their skills elsewhere. Where? Dubai?

Basically, if you pay people a safe £250k a year, you'll get people infinitisemally worse, if they are worse at all, than if you pay people a safe £1m a year.* Bankers aren't mostly supervillains and they are not unbelievable geniuses, they're just these guys, and they're doing a ludicrously remunerative job, and, human nature being what it is, they overvalue themselves.

No one will pay them more for what they do. And lots of other people could do what they could do. They're just these guys.

* I know £250k is a ton of money. Believe me, I know. I don't know what the right figure is. I think the banking system is very important and not much fun to work in, so you need to pay a lot of money to get good people to do it instead of more fun jobs. I have no problem with bankers being highly paid. But they need to get a grip, because a fraction of the money they currently earn would attract other people who are just as good as these guys, because these guys are just these guys. I don't want to labour the point.**
** I could be wrong about all this. I'm just this guy. But I don't think I'm wrong.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

funny reasons for going to wild thing

As promised yesterday, here are some funny reasons for going to see the Royal Academy's Wild Thing exhibition. Tomorrow I will tell you some slightly less funny stories.*

Wild Thing features Henri Gaudie-Brzeska, Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill. I will focus on ... Eric Gill. The big thing in his life was trying to reconcile his Catholicism with how much he liked sex, which was a lot. He was crazy for sex. One of the first exhibits is a full length relief of two lovers. It's called 'Ecstasy' and the original models were Gladys and Ernest, his sister and brother-in-law.

One thing you may note is that he is not that good at hair. He did a smaller sex scupture with a woman athletically bestride a man, we are told, and we have to be told it since the sculpture has been lost, like my favourite pens always get, however much I try to avoid it. It is called Votes for Women.

During this early period, Gill and Epstein did plans for a modern Stonehenge on the Downs - a 'Secret Temple' of huge pillars sculpted in the shape in naked literary celebrities. William Rothenstein wrote to Gill, saying
Epstein shall carve Shaw nude and you shall make Wells glitter in the light of the sun
It is hard to see how they could have kept this secret.

(Seven pillars? Something to do with the seven ones of wisdom? Not sure.)

Anyway, I should have mentioned earlier, but one Gill you might have seen is Prospero and Ariel, which is on the outside of BBC Broadcasting House.

Gill liked to wander round in a smock and nothing else.

* The official reason for calling this exhibition 'Wild Thing' is that Ezra Pound likened Gaudier-Brzeska to 'a well-made young wolf or some soft-moving, bright-eyed wild thing'. What I think, looking at all the sex, is that curators love a pun.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

dead earls

My favourite bits of peerage today are:

1: Edward FitzAlan-Howard, then Earl of Arundel, married Georgina Susan Gore on 27 June 1987 at Arundel Cathedral. Together, they have five children, three sons and two daughters: Henry Miles Fitzalan-Howard, Earl of Arundel, born 3 December 1987.

2. Colin Cowdrey's second wife was a slightly complicated relative of Edward, Anne FitzAlan-Howard, Baroness Herries of Terregles. They married in 1985. She was a racehorse trainer.

you don't care what i think

So why am I saying this?

Shall we just say I can't help myself and leave it at that. If you can, some time in the next month or so, go and see Wild Thing at the Royal Academy. I will give you some funny reasons why later, but you really don't need funny reasons.

I went mainly because this is in my small list of bits of art I will definitely focus on looting if I happen to be in Cambridge when the apocalypse comes, and I would say the same thing if Cambridge contained ALL THE ART IN THE WORLD:

(It is a bird eating a fish, and it's by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. I bet you couldn't do a sculpture this good. I couldn't. Maybe my mum will be able to in time. She's only ever done one sculpture. If you look at her sculpture with this knowledge, you will fall out of your tree with amazement.)

Among the other Wild Thing highlights was a Venus too tall for our house, but we could keep it on the balcony. She was by Epstein, and she stood on the back of two copulating doves. There were various other more or less abstract sculptures of copulating doves, of which this rather crowy one was my favourite when I was there, and this picture doesn't do it justice more than usual for sculpture, and I can't quite work out why.

To get hold of it, I will have to be hanging around the Smithsonian come the apocalypse, which won't be the safest place on earth, since almost all apocalypses seem to take out Washington pretty comprehensively.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

sumptuous sumptuary and massive yachts

People are so boring these days, you probably think, rightly. For instance: Lord Moyne. When he was pottering around on his yacht, he wore his red flannel suit. Really? Yes, really. Why would I make it up?

I wish I could find a picture of it. I can't. I can, however, find a picture of his yacht. It was originally a ferry called the Dieppe, which he converted. It's bigger than my yacht.

He renamed it the Rosaura and travelled the world writing books about pigmies and eskimos. You probably know of him, if at all, as the most famous person blown up by the Zionist terrorist Stern Gang in 1944. (Apparently even this is wrong - we now call The Stern Gang Lehi, an acronym for Israeli Freedom Fighters.)

Also: he was, with Churchill, one of the early anti-Hitlers. He thought the Gold Standard was stupid. His oldest son Bryan married Diana Mitford, who left him for Oswald Mosley (Moyne campaigned successfully for her internment at the start of WWII) and he had, for what it's worth, a good and brave Great War.

And it's not as if Churchill didn't climb over Blitzed London in a siren suit:

But still, A RED FLANNEL SUIT?! To the conceivable surprise of those people who assume that things get more extreme over time, and who package the past into a stuffy bowler hat and monochrome fustiness, and who do not even realise they are classic fallacists of the whig school, people with responsible jobs wore wackier clothes than they do now, and that's just how it is. For instance, when I was reading about the small fuss caused by Barack Obama bowing to The Japanese Emperor (Americans do not bow to people who aren't bowing back, and so on), I remembered a bit in Lords of Finance (yes, it's been a while, hasn't it? I can't believe you still haven't read it) where some American undiplomats turned up to an economic conference in London...

Senator Key Pittman of Nevada, who strongly advocated the remonetisation of silver, which Nevada mined like crazy, favoured bright yellow bulbous-toed shoes. When he was presented to George V and Queen Mary, he didn't bow and said ‘King, I’m glad to meet you. And you too Queen.’ He was drunk a lot of the time, and could spit tobacco juice into a spittoon with great accuracy. He was discovered one night by floor waiters in Claridges sitting naked in the hotel pantry sink pretending to be a statue in a fountain; another night he shot out the lights on Upper Brook Street; and when someone rejected the remonetisation of silver, he chased him at gun point through Claridges.

This man wore yellow bulbous-toed shoes. Who knows what colour that suit he's wearing is.

(In 1940, Pittman drank himself to imminent death days before an election. The Democratic Party let Nevadans think his illness was temporary and they elected a dying man. Legend says he was already dead an on ice. Legend is wrong.)

At the other end of the scale, Congressman Samuel D McReynolds (Tennessee) hardly attended the conference because he was desperate to get his daughter presented at court. He threatened the Prime Minister's personal private secretary that the American delegation would go home if this didn't happen. According to Wikipedia, he was succeeded by C. Estes Kefauver. I know how he feels.

put it on the board

I said I'd done my predictions but didn't have time to write them down. These were pre-Thursday, as should be pretty clear in a number of cases:

QB: Rodgers, Peyton Place Manning, Palmer, Favre, All The Philip Rivers Flow Into The Sea, Tom The Brady Bunch, Brees, Kurt Warner Brothers, Big Ben*, McNabb

RB: MJD, Peterson, Jackson, Williams, Grant, My Fair LaDainian Tomlinson, Johnson, LeSean Bones McCoy, Thomas Mr Jones, Addai

WR: Vincent I'm Sorry Ms Jackson, Rice, 85, Fitzgerald, White, DeSean I'm Sorry Ms Jackson, Wayne, Welker, Moss, Ward

Jackson's banged up. Big Ben's not playing.

*Non-playing. All rankings will be of top 9 rather than top 10 as a result

Thursday, 26 November 2009

on my desk in the british library

- Clandestine Erotic Fiction in English 1800-1930
Lady Pokingham or They All Do It, giving an account of her Luxurious Advantures (sic), both before and after her Marriage with Lord Crim-Con

- Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction
In discussions of science fiction and utopia, Hugo Gernsback traditionally functions as the token buffoon

- Classic Angling, Issue 61
Neil Freeman, his house overrun by angling artefacts, finds the ideal way to restock a new home and still please his wife: by stocking it with attractive (but still fishing-oriented) ceramics

come up and see my sometime

My sometime is amazing. No, that was just a typo.

This evening, as extensively trailed, I'm in Windsor doing a book swap and talking about whatever the audience wants.* It's a really good evening, again as extensively trailed.

Related interviews here and here.

* I notice that in my extensive trails, I use the same blog title. If you come tonight, do not expect me not to repeat jokes.

what? is it any given sunday already?

Yes, it is. By which I mean it's Any Given Thanksgiving, and so three NFL games take place today.

I have done my weekly predictive sums. I beat all-comers in Week 11 on what was, as you will easily be able to predict from this, a very unpredictable week of fantasy scoring.

I talked about this with two friends. One said that since Fantasy is a derivative industry, this meta-challenge with (other) fantasy experts is two steps derived from the activity generating what I as a top economist have to call 'value'. Another offered to help me make a spreadsheet for next season which showed if there were players who experts consistently mis-valued. Be still your beating hearts.

ESPN aggregated - 68
Matthew Berry - 67
Wk 10 ranking - 114
Season ranking - 82
RFH - 67

Running Backs
ESPN - 117
Matthew Berry - 127
Wk 10 ranking - 131
Season ranking - 123
RFH - 117

Wider Receivers
ESPN - 208
Matthew Berry - 219
Wk 10 ranking - 444
Season ranking - 310
RFH - 208

I will do something with these numbers at some point. This week I have written down my rankings but I don't have time to type them. I should be somewhere else.

Gregg Easterbrook, since I speculated that he was maybe a horse's arse based on something I can't even remember, has been good. I imagine he read this and upped his game, and he is welcome back into the fold of my Nemeses.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

where do they all come from? where's the factory?

Name a male member of The Corrs who doesn't believe in climate change.* Yes, that's right, it's Jim Corr.

Jim says:
My name is Jim Corr. I have been studying what is referred to as the New World Order the past couple of years. I invite you to come with me on a journey, so we can attempt to get closer to what is really going on in the world today behind the movie that's presented to us via the television set

Jim buys into all the half-baked conspiracies. On the subject of 9/11, he says:
that event is the nexus doorway into the bigger picture, being the push towards global governance, the formation of an elite run totalitarian One World Government with the subjugated masses underneath.

Read more here. Jim Corr uses the word 'elite' very, very frequently. He explains that you learn the truth about the conspiracies behind 9/11 after 'a little research'**. This is literally true. Jim Corr is an idiot.

* This is a great post about climate change scepticism. Basically, it says, 'sceptics' are being disingenuous, and none of them will put their money where their mouth is.
** I do not have the time or energy to explain what this word means to Jim Corr, and he wouldn't listen anyway.

RT @matthew

This was a comment on the New Yorker adverts below:
Matthew said...

Was inspired to click on They have a pair of mittens for $245 ( Tagline "You will never buy another pair of mittens again".

Monday, 23 November 2009

inspiring photo essay v: bobotie

This has taken forever to get round to. It is hard for me to imagine how you have contained yourselves.

Bobotie is the signature dish of South African cuisine, which does not rank among the world's top cuisines. All the same, it's delicious, and this is how you make it.

In its simplest form, you don't need any of the vegetables that I use. My bobotie is sort of based on how I make Bolognese. But since this is both a recipe and an important historical document of something that literally happened in history, the photo essay begins with a tray of roasted squash with chilli and garlic, as more or less per Jamie Oliver. Key things: don't bother to peel the squash; salt generously. These will take 30-45 minutes to cook at about 3/4 of your oven's power. I only wish I could be more precise. Before roasting, the view will be not unlike this:

Thirsty work, you are thinking, and you're right. I recommend a Dark & Stormy, which you make as if it were a gin and tonic, but using dark rum and ginger beer, and also a quarter of a lime, squeezed.

If you have any vegetarians in the room while you are cooking, they will be obsessed with nibbles. Make them buy their own nibbles.

Put some sausages to cook in the oven, since the squash are already roasting. Also some carrots. Maybe fry up some red peppers and broccoli. If you are a terrible photojournalist, don't bother to take pictures of this stage but move straight on to the main event. Fry some chopped onion in some oil, and after it's softened, add a couple of generous dessert spoonfulls of assorted powder. You could make it two spoons of medium curry powder, or you could, as I do, substitute some of that for mustard powder and paprika. Fry for another couple of minutes.

What next?

Oh yes, I remember. Brown some mince in the pan. As a rule of thumb, one big onion does 500g of mince, so you might have to repeat the procedure more than once. If you have a vegetarian in the house, you might make a batch out of the Quran. I mean Quorn. (Don't kill me for that joke. It was just a joke.) Then combine all the ingredients, including the sausage, which you should chop up into the Quran, I mean the Quorn, I mean the meat version, trying not to think of that incredible pool of fat that emerged from them.

You will now have a load of stuff and be wondering why the hell you have curried a Bolognese, especially when I tell you to put some chopped tomato in.

Oh, hang on though! What's that stuff on top! Yes, people, we're not in Kansas any more, because that is a dollop - a really big dollop - of chutney. You can be creative here. I once achieved astonishing results with a pork and fried apple bobotie, no vegetables, with apple and ginger chutney. Suit your meat to the chutney you have available. Don't be afraid of mangoes. The sweetness works well.

And if you thought you weren't in Kansas before, you're really not going to be in Kansas when you read what happens next. Take a load of bread, probably three thick slices per 500g of meat, and soak them in milk. Then mush these up in your hands, spoon into the pot, and mix thoroughly.

And then, as Kansas disappears between your ruby slippers, quickly get some more milk, break 1-2 eggs into it per 500g of meat, and whisk.

Having ladled the mixture into a lasagne dish or whatever,

you should definitely take another photo of what it looks like when you pour a very thin layer of the eggy milk on top prior to baking for forty minutes at 2/3 oven power.

I mean, why wouldn't you?

Then eat the bobotie with rice and some chutney. Nice lime pickle is really good with it. Lime pickle really varies though.

If I have seemed cagy about quantities, it is because my safety first policy meant that when I cooked for eight, including a vegetarian, I made enough bobotie for eight, plus for me for four of the next five nights, plus for eight more people on the fifth of those nights. It was really nice. I particularly recommend it with a chocolate cake with, basically, sequins that a neighbour has made for another neighbour's birthday.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

lies, damn lies and tony romo

I keep saying I haven't got much time on Sundays. I really don't today.

1. Gladwell: Marbury over there on the right drew my attention to the Gladwell-Pinker dabate as to whether the draft selects rationally with respect to quarterbacks. Gladwell says, basically, no, and Pinker says, basically, it doesn't do as badly as Gladwell says, and Gladwell, basically, skewers this rhetorically more than he skewers it actually.

I remember reading around this when the article first appeared in the New Yorker. My take, since you are so keen to hear it, was that there is a correlation which Gladwell skates over because he wants to make a point whch is rhetorically defensible enough to be getting on with, since his life's work, which he has spent over 10,000 hours on and so he is basically a genius at, is to generalise surprisingly, interestingly and with enough truth to provoke people to readjust their assumptions.

2. Hardly any Nemesis space, ironically, since Mike Tanier has his best week of the season. Seriously, just go and read it. Oh, ok, one highlight about a new head coach:
“I had all the answers when I was an assistant,” he said. “I wish I had more answers now.” It’s easy to have all the answers when none of the questions asks how to build an offense around Jamaal Charles.

3. How is your nascent top statistical study going?
You are too kind. Anyway, I have produced a set of numbers based on last week's predictions. I made some good calls - Jerricho Cotchery for instance, and keeping Miles Austin out of my top ten. I made some bad calls everyone made - Marques Colston and Hines Ward. I made some special bad calls all my own - thinking Dallas and Green Bay would have a shoot out and scoring various players accordingly.

What I have done is created a single number from my Top 10s by adding the difference between my predictions and the actual results. I have then done the same for ESPN's aggregate prediction, Matthew Berry's prediction, a robot strategy based on feeding back in last week's Top 10. Next week, I will add in a robot strategy based on cumulative season form.

The robot killed everyone on wide receiver by not picking Colston. Because I am using CBS stats, which are the only ones easily availably, I am making the not-totally-common-sense decision to rate Colston 567, like they do, because he lost a yard on the night and was therefore worse than a zillion people who didn't play.

ESPN - 68
BERRY - 77
ROBOT 1 - 94

ESPN - 157
BERRY - 162
ROBOT 1 - 181
HUDSON - 199 (Mendenhall, in particular)

ROBOT 1 - 210
HUDSON - 733
BERRY - 790
ESPN - 795

Even without the Colston issue, the Robot would have won here. WRs are the most random scorers; I did best here; seems likely that luck favours you more in more unpredictable games. The sample size is very small so far. It will take several weeks before the really stop statistical journals start paying attention.

My predictions this week are, and now I've got a stinging headache so I can't bear to look at my computer for another second:

QUARTERBACKS: Brees, Warner, Rodgers, Big Ben, Peyton, All the Philip Rivers Run Into the Sea and Yet the Sea is Not Full, Brady, Schaub, Favre, Palmer

RUNNING BACKS: Jackson, Peterson, My Fair LaDainian Tomlinson, MJD, Jones, Addai, Wells, Johnson, Mendenhall, Forte

WIDE RECEIVERS: Rice (really? What am I thinking?), Fitzgerald, Ward, Andre the Giant, Wayne, White, Colston, Welker, Jackson, 85

Vision. Blurring.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

a box of oranges, or maybe a playstation. or a pony

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Friday, 20 November 2009

stories of old kilburn town, and other public appearances

1. I will tell my first story of Old Kilburn Town at The (excellent) Good Ship's excellent wordPLAY evening on January 5th. It will be about love and artificial intelligence, and it will be very moving and funny. The protagonist's name is Tom, but that's a coincidence if you are my friend Tom who lives in Kilburn. I had to call him something and I went for the most boring name I could think of. (That was a joke, Tom.) (Good grief, get a sense of humour.)

2. If you are so obsessed with wordPLAY, presumably you'll be coming on December 1st, where the brilliant Susannah Pearse will be singing.

3. But before all this, there is next Thursday's Firestation Book Swap. Not only will I be talking, but when I swap my book, which is a really good one, I will be sweetening the deal with a brilliant compilation cd. The book swap will not end as late as says on the website, by the way. We've all got homes to go to, and very few of them are in Windsor.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

housekeeping / local streetscenes

1. The mysterious kitchen leak looks like it will occasion a new cupboard, some things called plinths that aren't what I call plinths and maybe a new floor, but we can hope and dream this will not be the case.

2. I am buying a chair from an incredibly kind woman who lives nearby. This is a horrible thing I saw when I was going to try it out:

3. This will not be the kind of streetscene I describe in my eagerly awaited stories of Old Kilburn Town. They will mainly deal with Tom, who works in an Artificial Intelligence laboratory and wants a girlfriend. I'm obsessed with AI stories at the moment.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

the wisdom of terry pratchett

1. Top international biblical scholars reading anything I write will be familiar with the relentless Ecclesiastes. In The Truth, Terry Pratchett's at it too (The Truth is about newspapers):
The press waited. It looked, now, like a great big beast. Soon he'd throw a lot of words into it. And in a few hours it would be hungry again, as if those words had never happened. You could feed it, but you could never fill it up
I don't think 'beast' is an accident either.

2. TP's good, but he didn't predict superinjunctions:
'Then I'll ban him from doing it!'
'How, sir?'
Vimes looked a little deflated. 'You can't tell me that as commander of police I can't stop some little ti- some idiot from writing down anything he likes?'
'Oh, no, sir. Of course you can. But I'm not sure you can stop him writing down that you stopped him writing things down'

the last word on mermaid erotica, i promise*

You already know how mermaids have sex, it's just your brain hasn't connected a familiar image with the question. How exciting is that! The reveal is below.

You can ask the internet how mermaids have sex. If you do, you get people complaining irately about how the original Hans Christian Andersen illustrations have a tail starting below the bum, and then things got Disneyfied. Or a serious-sounding guy explaining
They can leave the water for certain limited periods of time, when this happens they assume human form, similar to the selkie. It is during these periods that they choose to mate, unsuspecting mates would not be able to tell them from anyone else.
in such a forlorn way that I am CERTAIN that this happened to him.

But then you notice that The Mermaid Problem is literally a thing to the extent that Wikipedia has a quite long page of all the places it's appeared in literature and popular culture (Futurama and Red Dwarf are just two places that think reverse mermaids are more sensible, and Magritte painted one):

The blog Confused? Let's google it Has done the best work on this for hurried readers, and it turns out that answer has been in front of your eyes all this time, as I promised.

In ye olden days, mermaids looked like this:

(Ok, technically this is a melusine, I think, but let's for now assume that melusines are the basis for mermaid myths, since they look more like mermaids than stupid manatees.) Where have you seen one of these before? Oh yes! Here!

And we can all imagine how, well, like I said, that's your lot.

* For now. If you come to my much anticipated Kilburn storytelling session, probably be in January, who knows?**
** I know

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

mermaid spider erotica II

I know I promised more cookery lessons, and they're coming, but I need to finish what I started.

Further to yesterday's speculation as to whether a mermaid is a fish or a person, sexually, The Shark and the Mermaid by Billie Myers nails its colours pretty clearly to the wall. I don't know why this YouTubist has done a video with dogs. In fact, wait a second, dogs, shark, mermaid, nookie? Maybe it was The Vet!

Further to which, after posting the piece of erotic mermaid fiction with fluorescent eggs I movingly analyse below, The Vet asked:
Well, what do you guys think? Will I be able to make the transition from the children's morality market to the convenience store romance section? And, do you like the scene? Helpful comments certainly welcome. I'm sort of new to mermaid romance/erotica....
Samantha K wrote:
The writing is good, but some of the dialogue is a bit shifty. Why mermaid erotica?
How long is a piece of string?

Arabesque was more fulsome:
Vet, you are a multi-talented genius. How anyone can make such a transition from children and YA to romance is beyond me, but you, sir, pull it off flawlessly.
Just like the mermaid. Sorry
Who knew that mermaids would make such a perfect subject for a romance novel?
Was it me? No
I think this would be a best-seller at the convenience store in only a matter of days after publication.
All this COULD be irony. I don't think so, but it could be
I had a friend, skilled in the writing of mermaid erotica, read this over
Hold up! Surely SHE knew that mermaids would be a perfect subject for a romance novel, even if I didn't (I don't) (I mean I didn't)*
and she would like to point out that Seraphim is a male mermaid's name, not a female.
Oh yes! I knew there was something odd about it! No, wait a second, was the odd thing that it was obviously a male mermaid's name (the pc term is 'merman')? I think it wasn't. I think it might have been that 'Seraphim' is not a-
She suggests replacing it with something such as Ariela or Lilayn or Monyata, or any other female name.
These are excellent suggestions, but since she's his protagonist, I think The Vet should use a name that will make the her stand out from all the other mermaids. What about Kate? Sue? Alice? Marie? Emma?
Otherwise, it is very good (and accurate!)
Mermaids really do have fluorescent eggs and no port in a storm
the scene is excellent, very graphic but described in such a poetic manner as to be beautiful.
I cried twice
Are you sure you've never written in this genre before?
No one - literally no one - could be that good first time

* Google returns 296,000 hits for 'mermaid erotica'. For 'vet erotica' the number only rises to 358,000. The first hit says: 'every conversation seems to return to interspecies erotica'. The most promising erotic fiction on page one is Bunny Love, in which 'A lonely veterinarian experiences erotic romance at a Wiccan retreat.' We've all done it.