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One Thing I Learned Today
Friday
 
That soured cream better have diamonds in it
I went to Sainsbury's to buy a bunch of soured cream for this Czech recipe I want to make for 12 people this weekend (dinner party. I feel married for christ's sake), and I was in disbelief when I saw how much they wanted for it. 75p for a half-pint!! Outrageous, I say, SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS!! Of course, this being a Czech recipe, it would take about £15 worth of the stuff to make the recipe for that many people. Screw that, the wife can cook something instead. Does anyone know if Asda or Tesco sell it cheaper?
 
If I ruled the world...
...or a small corner of it anyway! One thing I learned of a couple of weeks ago, that I thought might interest you guys, is the existance of NationStates, a nation simulation game on the web. You set up your own country by answering a series of questions about your politics, and then each day (or however often you want) you get issues to decide upon (e.g. whether to legalise euthanasia, clamp down on protesters, etc.). It's obviously very simplistic, and you don't get many options, but it's good fun - my friends and I have been playing it for a couple of weeks now. My country is here - I don't think it's doing too badly...
Thursday
 
Words Worth Reading (no not mine, other peoples')
Hi kids. So I haven't posted much of substance on here, I'm realizing mainly because I don't learn that much in a day. Once I'm in grad school, look out, but for now my days are occupied with a pretty big chunk of mindlessness.

So I was thinking I'll talk about books, because at least I still read those on occasion. Right now I'm reading Larry McMurtry's Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, on Liam's suggestion. I've not read McMurtry before, and this is probably not the best book to start with, as it's a memoir of sorts, and now that I'm halfway through it I'm wishing I had some knowledge of his novels. Still, it's an extremely enjoyable read -- McMurtry's narrative voice is saturated with age and experience; it is peaceful and accepting and simply telling you how it is. Or rather, was.

While the book is sort of his own memoir, it's also a memoir of the American frontier. McMurtry is the grandchild of some of the original homestead settlers, and as a boy he lived through the dying years of the "old west." He saw the dwindling out of the "real" cowboy and the inward trickle of roads and technology as it seeped through the continent. The combination of his subject matter along with his smooth narrative style causes me to constantly think of Willa Cather's My Antonia while I'm reading. She's something of a contemporary of McMurtry's, and she had a very similar experience as a child of settlers. Her seminal novel is narrated by a male character, and it is his voice I hear while reading Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. However, naturally, Cather focuses on the female experience in this time, McMurtry on the male. For this reason I think they would make a great pairing to be read back-to-back. If you give them a try, do let me know what you think.
Wednesday
 
I am a Sausage! (or a Jelly Doughnut)
What? You mean there's a real world outside the internet, and it's bigger than my apartment? Really? If there is I haven't seen much of it today. However, inside the world of pixels and pings and things I discovered that Google doesn't just offer the opportunity to translate phrases such as "Baby, stop licking my eyelashes" into Spanish ("Bebé, parada lamiéndose las pestañas"), it will also obligingly translate its own user interface into Bork Bork Bork!, Elmer Fudd, Hacker, Kannada, Klingon, Pig Latin, (and now we're getting really weird) Welsh and Scots Gaelic. Cornish is sadly unrepresented at the present time, but Breton is, and I hear that's as close lingustically as it is geographically.

Google translates whole websites (sketchily, it must be said) into other langauges. Very useful when looking for French of German DVDs on Amazon. Here's this website in German. Ich bin ein Berliner indeed.

If you're looking for something kinkier than German (and come on, it's hard to be kinkier than Germans, for whom it's not illegal to eat each other) then the Dialectizer might be worth a shot. Here's the State of the Union Address in Cockney, and again in Redneck, which really brings it to life.

I also found proof that Cambridge University scholars may well be wrong. Guardian readers might have read that:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
But this is almost total gibberish, or gsibiberh. It may work for simple words and sentences, but when you try scrambling something more complex it becomes impossible to understand what's going on, linguistically speaking. Try scrambling this very site for a sparkling example of what I'm on about.

Of course, like I said earlier, scrambling gives much more intelligible results when applied to simpler sentence construction. Is this getting old yet?
 
Clammy Hands & Numb Asses
Snow tubing in action.Today I learned that I appear to be the only person that actually works during the day! But luckily since Star Trek Enterprise is on, Kelvin's clammy hands have been pried away from the computer and I can actually communicate!

Well, today it is ass-numbingly cold out--today it got up to a whopping 1 degree above zero, with the windchill at -30. I forgot how fun winter is!! But it's nice to have the snow, and I think I may try and convince Kelvin to come tubing with me at some point here when it gets a little warmer. Nothing like spinning down a big hill at breakneck speed on a large rubber donut. whoop-ee!

And now I depart to my bath--to wash away the memories of being harrassed by a Californian woman, who actually has a "houseboy," about how I'm shipping her table pads. I need a new job.
 
A Parable... (or "Blimey! It's just like the Bible, innit?")
I heard a story today, children. Would you like to hear it? Well, get comfy, and we'll begin.

One man, we'll call him Tony, wants to kill another man, we'll call him Sandy. None of Tony's friends see any good reason why Tony should kill Sandy, but Sandy doesn't have the same coloured skin and doesn't worship the same god as Tony and Tony doesn't like that. Plus, Tony's good friend George, an alcoholic and drug addict, wants Sandy's money so he can buy more cocaine. So Tony tells a lie, and says that Sandy is planning to kill Tony's friends, so Tony needs to stop him.

So, one day, Tony and George knock on Sandy's door, kill him, and steal all his money.
(Also, a lot of George's friends accidentally kill a lot of Tony's friends, but that's a story for another day...)

Auntie Bee, who used to be a good friend of Tony's but has fallen out with him, tells all of Tony's friends that Tony was lying. Tony doesn't like that, and defends his position furiously, even when George admits that Auntie B is right, and that Sandy was a nasty man, but really wasn't going to hurt anyone but it doesn't really matter anyway, because George now has all of Sandy's money, and that's the important thing.

Tony gets a special friend of his to find out whether Auntie Bee has any proof that Tony is lying. Tony's special friend concludes that Auntie Bee had no proof that Tony was lying when she said he was lying, and that the fact that now she has all the proof she needs is irrelevant.

Tony decides that because Auntie Bee said all these mean things about him without proving them, that Auntie Bee should be beheaded and gutted, and so one snowy morning in January she is beheaded and gutted in the town square for all to see.

And Tony and George, because there's no one left to make sure they're not up to anything, live happily ever after...

So you see children, if you're ever in trouble, you can try to get someone else in trouble, and you might just get away with it.
 
Sexed up, dressed down and kicked out...
Learned today that the phrase "sexed up" can get people into a lot of trouble when applied to government weapons reports. Lord Hutton delivered the findings of his inquiry into the death of government weapon inspector Dr David Kelly and whether or not the story that brought about his suicide was in the public interest. Apparently Dr Kelly (the source for the story) was the victim of the journalism of one our BBC Radio 4 reporters, Andrew Gilligan and the chairman of the BBC Governers, Gavyn Davies, really shouldn't have defended Gilligan without checking the facts. Maybe he did check the facts, maybe the facts are no longer provable, maybe we do need our wrists slapped or maybe we'll just never know because it all might have made the government look bad. The upshot is that we're in loads of trouble because the inquiry couldn't prove that our story was factually correct so Davies has resigned and Tony Blair wants a full apology. This strikes hard at our editorial integrity and director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke is in real trouble - this comes at a time when we are desperate to retain charter renewal and maintain our status as a publicly owned corporation. Anyway, Tony Blair seems pleased...
 
Don't pray in my school, and I won't think in your church
So I'm wearing this hat, right? It's this really fuzzy black-and-taupe skullcap thingie that I bought in some surf shop when I was in Sydney. It being quote bitterly cold end quote today, I thought it would be funny to go unwashed and wear a silly outfit, like my little stupid hat, a surfing t-shirt, and trainers, and plait my hair in two. People here think that's weird.

Perhaps I should have worn trousers.

In other news, I've been doing a lot of research lately on arguments for and against Christianity, for my own amusement. Well, it's also so I can argue against Elias and his pin-headed conservativism. Predictably enough, I've found lots of information pertaining to when the canonised gospels were written, the inconsistencies within them, etc. But here is one I had never thought of before, and am ashamed that I hadn't: Jesus' disciples are said to have been Jewish fishermen. Given that, and their geographic location, their language would have been Aramaic. We knew this. The gospels, all four of 'em, are written in Greek. How obvious can you get? And yet I had never thought of it. Ahh, the things we learn.
 
It's finally snowing here!
At last thick, white snowflakes are falling; deep and crisp and even. This is the first real snow this year to fall in Brum. It's usually rare to get any snowfall south of Nottingham, and although I can't exactly see myself sledging or making snowmen, it certainly does brighten things up. More please!
Tuesday
 
Bagpipes Are Not The Only Fruit
That Arabic/Scottish connection illustrated.Go down to Anyone will claim to be of Scottish origin on Burns Night... and read the comments, particularly Casey's last comment, about bagpipes. Then come back here.
From the dubiously-titled Omani:
"Bagpipes were first played in Ancient Egypt about three thousand years ago and their use then spread throughout the Arab world. Because of their long association with the instrument, bagpipes are very popular amongst Arabic people and Arabic melodies sound very good on the instrument."

Sorry, Casey...
 
The Return of the King Gets 11 Oscar Nominations
Peter Jackson, the tubbiest film genius since Hitchcock?This is what I learned today and it's good, good and good. Still don’t know if I want ROTK or “Lost In Translation” to win best picture though as they’re both excellent films. Shame that “City of God” and possibly “21 Grams” (haven’t seen this, I’m just going on recommendation from Liam) weren’t up for this award but then it’s also a heinous crime that Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” wasn’t up there too.

“Master and Commander” got 10 nominations which is fair enough as it’s good fun (still these are ten nomination that could have gone on much superior films), but I’m delighted that “Cold Mountain” doesn’t pop up in either the best picture and best director category because it looks like a vast tower of wank. Also the fantastic “American Splendour” got a nomination for best adapted screenplay. I’m satisfied.

 
Bitter Cold My Arse
Bald man's bum exposed by whirling kilt.Did any of my fellow polar-dwelling Americans know that in Scotland, 0 degrees (celcius for Christ's sake!) is called "bitterly cold"?! I say that if it's still warm enough for men to wear knee-length skirts with no underpants to speak of, it's not bitterly cold.

Can I get a hell yeah?
Monday
 
Shagging a Mattress...
It's Australia Day today. Actually, it's probably not Australia Day in Australia anymore, and there's no good reason for the rest of the world to care, but anyway...
 
Hehe... Pocket Billiards!
Today I learnt (learned) where the Billiard Congress of America keeps its official rules. They're here. They're also stultifyingly boring, so look only if you're having trouble sleeping.

Today I also learned (learnt) the exact meaning of the verb stultify, which is variously: to make seem stupid, foolish, inconsistent; make absurd or ridiculous; to make dull or torpid; to render worthless, useless or futile; (Law) to allege to be of unsound mind and therefore not legally responsible.

But then, all official rules for sports are boring as hell and it is probably this devotion to the minutiae, this belief in the importance of the word over the deed that makes so many referees, in the words of football supporters up and down the UK, wankers. If they can plough through and memorise an entire rule book they're hardly likely to be normal people, are they?
 
Wala ala balloh
I learned today that if you listen to Arabic music long enough, you want to kill yourself and those around you. Also, you start to hear English words in the Arabic lyrics, and eventually you'll find that you start singing nonsensical songs with any words that have syllable patterns similar to English words.

I find that listening to music in a language you don't understand can make you feel one of two ways: worldly and smug, in the way that people who call themselves "artistes" are, OR ridiculous and droolingly one-celled. Depends on the day, really, and the language. For example, when I listen to music in Greek, I am an "ARTISTE" because Greek is nice to listen to and saying "I listen to Greek music" sounds impressive and classical. When the music is Arabic, I am mentally retarded because Arabic music sounds like someone choking on someone else who sings in Greek.

Kinda makes me hungry.
 
The Ultimate Way to Pass the Time at Work
Many thanks to Emily for sending me this link. It is the best game ever. Seriously. Well, second only to "Sextris," maybe.

Hit the Pingu

Lig, sorry if I stole your thunder on this one. But I'm at work. And bored. And you're sleeping.
 
Liam will love this
Apparently "The Office" won a Golden Globe last night for best musical or comedy series on tv. And it's not even started up on HBO yet, has it? The award lists it as being on BBC America. Rock on.

I'd just like to note here that I just read this online, I didn't actually watch the awards show. But anyway, other highlights are the incredible "Angels in America" swept every single award relating to a television mini-series, and The Return of the King got a bunch, including best picture. Let's hope the Academy follows suit.
 
Anyone will claim to be of Scottish origin on Burns Night...
Sunday night was Burn’s Night. Rabbie Burn’s birthday is also shared by Rachel’s dad, Steven. In a bizarre but inspired move, Rachel’s mum, Jane, decided to hijack Burns night and appropriate it for birthday celebrations, which we undertook on Saturday night. As well as myself and Rachel, Steven, Jane, and Rachel’s brother Chris, about three other couples came along (all family friends), all of which attempted, at least once during the night, to claim that they had Scots ancestry. This may or may not be true - this isn’t really the point - I was more interested in the direct correlation between identification with the Scots and rate of alcohol consumed. Identification with the Scots came coupled with authority on the topic of Burns, so someone decided that we should attempt a Burns quiz. I think my team got something pathetic like 3 out of 44 but at least we remembered that Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne,” even if we didn’t remember that ‘Poosie Nancy’ ran an Inn that Burns frequented (can’t imagine why...)

This was the second time in my life that I’ve eaten haggis and it was every bit as delicious as the first time (being last year when my Glaswegian housemate Michael suggested I try it). We all attempted to recite some poetry and failed – well, you have a go at the first verse of "Address To A Haggis":

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

Then we ate, drank and were merry. We had a fantastic soup made with haddock, potatoes and onions, and then progressed to Haggis wi' Champit Tatties and Bashed Neeps (potatoes and carrots and swedes) before finishing off with (very potent) whisky cake and oranges doused in Grand Marnier (also very potent). Whether you’re Scottish or not, this is certainly a fantastic and highly recommended way to cheer up the end of your January. Fandabidoosie.

 
Long Journeys and Longer Nights
I have learned¹ that my sleep cycle is a fragile thing. Having this weekend done this journey, followed almost immediately by this journey², and having not had a good night's sleep in days, I managed to sleep almost all day today. As a result, it is now almost one in the morning, and I am not at all sleepy. Again. I am so messed up.

¹ Incidentally, this clearly is proof that "burnt" is impurer grammatically to "burned". Otherwise we'd have "One Thing I've Learnt Today" wouldn't we?
² This may not appear to be a long journey, but bear in mind that I am from a country where a journey of such length will end up with a dunk in the ocean. The Americans think one hundred years is a long time. The British think one hundred miles is a long way. Neither is correct.
Sunday
 
Relation Anxiety
hello everybody! This is meg--but I have a feeling it'll show up as Kelvin. He's taken over the computer in many ways. I will have him fix this. Anyways, yesterday I learned that my grandpa with a bow tie looks exceedingly like one of those scary old men who frequent pubs in tuxes in the middle of the day, wandering around talking to people they don't know. I also learned that I will NEVER ride in the car long-distance with my dad EVER AGAIN!!! Kelvin says he's like me, but I will not believe this.

I also only learned of this blog--yet again, forgotten about. (I think that Kelvin's self-deprecation may have rubbed off on me a bit). Don't worry, I'll get over it very soon.

I also learned about yamacas, arcs, torahs, and very loud aunts who give bad, exceedingly long speeches about daughters including what they ate for dinner when they brought her home from the hospital. Egads. But the ceremony was very nice, but as my grandpa said, too much getting up and down again. Very tedious when you're wearing a skirt and need to check each time you stand that it isn't getting caught in the chair and everyone behind you is getting a view of your behind.