28 May 2007

Quote: Progress

There are four things that hold back human progress: ignorance, stupidity, committees and accountants.

[Sir Charles James Lyall]

27 May 2007

Zen Mischievous Moments #128

More on English ...

Thanks to Riannan (aka "In the Headlights") we bring you the translations of some common words, phrases and silences used by women, but rarely understood by men:

Fine: A word used by women to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

Five minutes
: If she is getting dressed, this means half an hour. Five minutes means five minutes if you have been told you have five more minutes to watch the game before helping her with chores.

Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This actually means something, and should alert you to be on your toes. Arguments beginning with nothing usually end in "fine". Nothing can refer to silence, or can actually be a comment, as in "What's wrong?", "Nothing".

Go ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Whatever it is, don't do it.

Audible sigh: This is not a word, but a non-verbal statement, often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here arguing with you about nothing (qv).

That's okay: One of the most dangerous things a woman can say to a man. "That's okay" means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

Thanks: A woman is thanking you. Don't ask why or faint. Just say "you're welcome."

Whatever: Her way of saying f*** you.

Don't worry about it, I've got it: Another dangerous statement. This refers to something a woman has asked a man to do several times but is now doing herself. This will lead to a man's asking "what's wrong?" which is answered by "nothing."

26 May 2007

English is a B*gg*er of a Language

Following on from yesterday's post about the difficulties of the English language, Noreen came across the following letter from one David Truman of Fulham in the London Evening Standard of 18 November 1991:
Lines in honour of the rehabilitation of Frank Bough (by an inner-London primary school teacher trying to teach children English).

I take it you already know
of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
I write in case you wish perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps:
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it's said like bed, not bead;
For goodness sake, don't call it "deed"!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear for bear, or fear for pear.
There's dose and rose, there's also lose
(Just look them up) and goose and choose,
And cork and work, and card and ward,
And font and front, and word and sword,
And do and go, and thwart and cart
Come come, I've barely made a start!
A dreadful language?
Man alive, Who mastered it when I was five!

25 May 2007

Zen Mischievous Moments #127

Twenty-one reasons why English is hardest language to learn.

  1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
  2. The farm was used to produce produce.
  3. The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
  4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  5. He could lead if he would get the lead out of the lead.
  6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  7. Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  8. A bass and a bass were painted on the head of the bass drum.
  9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  10. I did not object to the object.
  11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  12. There was a row among the oarsmen on how to row.
  13. They were too close to the door to the close to close it.
  14. The buck does funny things when does are present.
  15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  17. The wind was too strong to wind in the sail.
  18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

[With thanks to Sue Frye]

18 May 2007

Rauf the Taxi


Rauf, originally uploaded by kcm76.


One of my friendly local cab drivers. Totally unposed; he had no idea I was going to take it when he next turned towards me. Luckily we were sitting in stationary traffic at the time!

Friday Five: Nudity

I'm amazed that it's almost two weeks since I posted anything; guess you'll just have to put it down to too much work. Anyway here's this week's Friday Five, which is one I couldn't resist as it's an old hobbyhorse of mine. :-)

Nudity/Body Awareness
(aka "How comfortable are you in your skin, or with others?")

1. Have you ever gone skinny-dipping?
Sadly no I haven't. I'd like to but there seem to be no available facilities near here, and anyway most clubs require one to be a member of British Naturism as a bona fide (I don't like BN; too cliquey and too club-centric, unless it has changed a lot in the last few years). Neither am I anywhere near a naturist beach. And no opportunities in my youth. Very sad.

2. When you're home alone, do you strip down to get comfortable? Do you ever go out without underwear because it's more comfortable?
I always wear as little as possible at home. Writing this I'm wearing just a pair of shorts and that only because I'm awaiting a grocery delivery from the supermarket. I just love the freedom of nudity and the air is good for the body -- if it was good enough for Benjamin Franklin it is good enough for me. We have a naturally warm house so even in the middle of winter I'm often wearing nothing. And in summer I'll sit in the garden in nothing, tho' only close to the house so as not to frighten the neighbours; it doesn't bother me but it probably would bother "them next door".

I don't often go out without underwear, but I certainly do in summer if wearing only shorts.

Basically I wear clothes only because (a) the rest of society demands it and (b) for warmth. Otherwise, why bother?

3. Have you ever/do you use the bathroom with the door open? Are you comfortable using public facilities?
The only time our bathroom door (or bedroom door) gets shut is if there are visitors in the house, and then for their benefit not ours. We've always been like this and we both wander in and out even if the other is in possession. It doesn't bother either of us; it never has. I have no problem with public facilities and would have no problem with mixed sex facilities. I'm actually astonished at the number of men who clearly dislike peeing in public and always use a cubicle rather than a communal urinal; I reckon this affects 30-50% of men -- very odd.

4. When getting intimate with your significant other, lights on or off?
Either; it depends on how we feel at the time. Actually it is more a question of glasses on or off! Mind you even if I say "lights off" we never draw our bedroom curtains (come to that, any curtains) and there is a street lamp outside, so the bedroom is never dark. And you'll not be surprised to know that we both sleep in the nude; I have done since I was a student and managed to get out of living in conventional shared lodgings.

5. How comfortable are you with body exposure/nudity of others? Group shower rooms? Topless/nude beaches? Breastfeeding in public?
Absolutely no problem with any of this. I'm dismayed at the number of men who walk around group shower/changing rooms trying to hide behind their towels or swimming trunks. I'm one of those who walks around totally bare and thinks nothing of it. And the antics of the British on the beach trying to change out of wet swimming costumes behind a towel always amuses me.

Before you ask ... Yes, of course one looks at other people in the nude. Why shouldn't one? We look at each other clothed and admire nice bodies; so why not in the nude? Staring is objectionable whether you're nude or not. I feel sure fewer girls would complain about having their tits stared at or being visually undressed if blokes were more used to seeing the naked human body. And it works both ways: girls you'd get a good look too!

I see no problem with nudity anywhere, anytime; public or private. What's the problem? I can't understand why people have a problem with nudity. Come on, let's be honest: give or take the odd scar we all know what's underneath that shirt, skirt, shorts. We would all be better off if we were more used to nudity; if we were brought up with nudity. We'd be much more comfortable with our bodies. That would make it easier for most people to talk to their doctors (and each other); they'd be less embarrassed. So in turn our health would be better because illnesses would get treated sooner, as we'd not be embarrassed/scared of going to the doctor. And we would be much less embarrassed and reticent about talking to each other -- about anything, not just things sexual! -- which would be good for most people's relationships. Ultimately we'd all be more civilised. Besides, isn't nudity a basic human right?

Go for it: Nudity for all!


[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]

06 May 2007

Head Cook, Restored

I'm really pleased. This weekend I've managed to get back to doing the cooking -- something I always used to do the vast majority of. I set myself a challenge last Thursday: cook two meals in the next week. So far I've done three main meals (although one of them was a salad). We're eaten:
  • Friday: Fusilli with asparagus, smoked duck and beans
  • Saturday: Pasta and chicken salad á la maison
  • Sunday: Cheese and rocket omelette with tomato, avocado and onion salad

Now all I have to do is to keep it up.

(If anyone wants the recipes -- well some guide as to what I did anyway -- ask and I'll post them.)

05 May 2007

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)


I found this today on a rose bush in the garden; the first one I've seen; I'm pretty well certain of the ID. Not the best of pictures I've ever taken.

The Harlequin Ladybird is a recent arrival in the UK and it is spreading from the SE. It is a pest: it is aggressive, spreads quickly and predates other ladybirds rather than following their example and eating aphid. More information at www.harlequin-survey.org and www.ladybird-survey.org. Yes, I have submitted a report to the survey.

And now one has a dilemma. Do I destroy the beasticle on the basis that it is a pest, or do I let it go free rather than risk damaging my karma?

04 May 2007

Friday Five: My Life Wouldn't be the Same Without ...

Apologies to everyone for the long silence: been very busy at work in the last few weeks; just now beginning to surface. So let's catch up with this week's Friday Five ...

My life would not be the same without this...

1. Song/movie/book:
Well as you'll all expect by now I'm going to be very predictable and nominate a book: Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Now there's a surprise! But I could almost as well have chosen one of any number of albums or classical pieces.

2. Person:
Dare I nominate anyone except my wife? Yes I dare, but I won't! Noreen has to be the nomination, although clearly my parents have to be a very close second.

3. Place:
Now this is really difficult. Much as I moan about it my first inclination is to say London -- 'cos it's where I was dragged up and the place I know best. But there are other places where "I've left a bit of me": Forde Abbey in Dorset would be one, and Lyme Regis another.

4. Event:
Another difficult one! I'm going to have to think about this for a minute or few. Strangely I don't remember events well, perhaps because I don't have a highly visual memory. There aren't too many events which stand out and probably none for which I can replay the whole video in my head, only odd snapshots. Even things like our wedding and my doctoral graduation are fairly fuzzy memories. Clearly our wedding would have to be high on the list, as would the Anthony Powell Centenary Conference in December 2005; also the funeral for our friend Robbie at which I was the "celebrant" and my father's funeral. Probably in that order.

5. Self-indulgence:
Don't think I have too many doubts here. It has to be beer. I always enjoy good beer -- by which I mean traditional English real ale, or quality Continental lager and white beer. My second choice would be food. No real wonder I'm the size I am!

[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]