Monday, 30 June 2008

Skeleton Keys

I was reading about the man who got a teapot made out of his father's ashes. Now every time he has a cup of tea, his father will be there. Until he drops the teapot, of course.

This kind of thing is getting increasingly popular - you can have your loved one's ashes turned into diamonds, or whatever.

What I don't understand is this: If you want to use their remains to make something, why bother to turn them into ashes first?

Putting the remains of a cremated person into the grinder.
Along with some cigarette ash too, by the looks of things...

Wouldn't it be less destructive and more personal if his father hadn't been cremated? He could have had a teapot made out of his skull, and perhaps a set of cutlery out of his bones.

This is all much more environmentally friendly than burning people, and uses up less space than burying. No, in the future recycling will be the thing to do. This is very much in keeping with religious traditions as well - after all, the bones of saints are often revered.

It's also sort of in keeping with much older traditions, where people carved things out of bone.

I've given it some thought, and I'm considering suggesting that my bones get used to make the keys on a grand piano. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, it's probably the only way I'm going to get a decent tune out of a piano, and secondly, it'd be nice after a fairly selfish and uneventful life to be able to play a part in making people happy.

What about you?

Friday, 27 June 2008

Pie in the Sky?

Thursday's Ta Nea paper had a report about an 80 storey rotating skyscraper. This is being designed by an Italian called David Fisher. More about him later.

There are wind turbines between each floor, and solar panels, and allegedly the building will generate ten times as much power as it needs. The floors will rotate once every 1-3 hours. If you go for one of the villas, then you have a whole floor to yourself and can rotate it at will. And you'll have your own private lift, which I think takes your car to your floor. Oh yes and a swimming pool, a sauna, a garden...

There' s a suggestion that as this building is wind-powered, they might build one in Chicago. If so, those of you who live in that part of the world will be excited to know that the price for a 1,300 sq ft luxury flat in the Dubai buildling is only $4m, with a 13,000 sq ft villa available for a mere $38 million. That's pretty good - the way fuel prices are going, it won't be long before it costs you $4m to fill up your Merc. And we're talking Dubai. Presumably the Chicago one will be even cheaper.

I wonder if this will ever really get built. It all sounds a bit ambitious. In particular there's something that's bothering me. Supposing you have a dump. The sewage pipes are in the middle bit of the building that doesn't rotate. The toilets are moving constantly. How does the brown matter get into the sewer? I won't believe it until someone shows me a 3-d turd's eye view. And even if it works in theory, what happens when it all goes horribly wrong, and 80 floors worth of shit literally hits the fan, or rather the turbines?

Anyway, here's the video:

Does this guy look like a phoney, or is it just me? Apparently, he hasn't been active in the field of architecture that much lately, and hasn't designed a skyscraper before. He also claimed to have an honorary doctorate from a US university, but that claim was retracted when someone checked with the university.

I hope that everyone who says that this is just a scam, or a computer-designed dream are wrong, as I think that it would be great if all buildings were rotatable.

Time will tell...

Thursday, 26 June 2008


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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Quote of the Week
I write to have quick you. He’d drown! Now, I don’t kno, he hatessed I again? VE, I mean pee/poop system? AAAAAAAAGGG... with the disting motion. Ith the dungeon. I put hot I mean gorgency evaculties before I was ting subject fore I was diag, stuffed against a generat freakince I havery step? Married I'm martners in lunacy logsitting at Ording too much would M-eye. Oh wait, I their business do not like to ask to WHY you wer since I waiting for the a little sing to music in my comfy car. [From Bee's Musings]

I was playing with "dissassociated press", which is a silly computer thing that takes text and mangles it randomly. The above is part of the result when fed a couple of day's worth of Bee.


I've been spending the last few evenings doing geeky stuff with my laptop. I was up until around 3ish on Saturday night, and I still haven't finished tinkering. I was thinking about going to the pub tonight, but then Jean Knee complained about there not being any Wordy Wednesday, so I decided I'd better stay in and do one. Not that I mind, of course, Jean Knee. Don't feel guilty about depriving me of a social life or anything...

Actually, before I feel guilty about making Jean Knee feel guilty, I probably wouldn't actually have gone. Well, maybe not.

Spot the Difference

I'm sure you've seen this already. Some lumps in the bottom left hand corner of the trench vanished. I think this might be mischievous Martians, but the boffins reckon that it was ice that melted, and that this might indicate that there is or was life on the Red Planet. Now, if the ice had been in a glass of Gin and Tonic, that would definitely be a sign of civilisation...

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Firemen, Cheese Sarnies and Ig Nobel Prizes

Bee's post about her narrow escape from a fiery fate and her close encounter with some allegedly "hot" firemen was very entertaining. Perhaps she should follow the example of the British woman had to be rescued by firefighters from a laundrette when she got her hand stuck in a dryer. It doesn't say whether it was Dryer 13 or not, nor does it say anything about the hotness or otherwise of her rescuers. One word of warning, Bee. They're not always firemen:

Not far away from that laundrette, at the University of Bristol, scientists have come up with an equation for making the perfect cheese sandwich:

W=[1 + ((bd)/6.5)) - s + ((m-2c)/2) + ((v+p)/7t)] (100 + l/100).

Actually, it's an equation to work out how thickly you should cut the cheese once you've decided things like the type of cheese, bread, how much salad, margarine and mayo to use, etc.

I hope that the British Cheese Council, who funded this, are happy with the result. They could have just asked me, of course. My equation would involve strong mature cheddar, pickled onions, Helmann's Mayonaise and a bit of pepper. But what do I know. The scientist who worked out that equation won an Ig Nobel prize for discovering the best way to dunk biscuits in tea.

If he'd asked me, I'd have suggested that he stick to dunking Ginger Nuts in Coffee, which is by far the best way.

Anyway, this got me looking into the Ig Nobel prize. In 1999, the year that Dunking Doctor Fisher picked up his award, the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature was won by the British Standards Institute for their 6 page BS 6008, which describes how to make a cup of tea.

Last year three Spaniards won the Prize for Linguists for discovering that sometimes rats can't tell the difference between someone speaking Japanese backwards and someone speaking Dutch backwards. Clearly research that will change our lives.

I'm hoping that I'll get nominated, just as soon as I publish my forthcoming paper "Analytic Methods for Calculating the Optimal Ingredients of Soy Sauce to Make the Perfect Green Bean Casserole". Unfortunately, I'm having some difficulty getting funding for this important research...

Thursday, 19 June 2008

On the Buses

As Tracy suggested in her comment to yesterday's post, public transport plays an important role in British tradition. Unfortunately we're not talking about what passes today for transport, but what they had in those ever-elusive "good old days", and we're going back before my time, since all my life I've found public transport to be a total nightmare.

Not being an anorak, I can't really do the subject justice, but I'll have a go at talking about a very special type of British Bus. The Routemaster:

You will recognise this from a picture in yesterday's post, if you weren't too busy staring at the eye-candy.

This particular model of double decker was built in the 50s and 60s for London Transport. Buses in London were (are?) red, hence the colour, and their popularity makes them the archetypal London Bus, even though there have been plenty of others over the years.

When I was a student in South Manchester in the late 80s, the Didsbury - Town Centre route used Routemasters for some reason. They were still painted London Transport red, and they were the best.

The reason is that they had a conductor. The driver sat in his cabin completely shut off from the passengers, and a conductor took the fares. This meant that the bus only had to stop long enough for people to hop on and off. There was no waiting around for people to find the exact change. It made them safer at night, too.

They were nice and warm in the winter - their heaters were a lot more effective than in modern buses, for some reason. They were too warm in the summer, though...

Nowadays buses look more like this one, which is in Stagecoach colours. Stagecoach is the Microsoft of the bus world:

I'm sure these buses are much safer, wheelchair friendly, etc, but sometimes progress seems to have no soul.

I'll leave you with the following. Contrary to the commentary this kind of event isn't very common, and people amazingly are rarely hurt. We'll prove this when Tracy comes for her tour by putting her in the front seat at the top.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Struck Down

I've been off work the last few days with a cold. Usually I go in anyway, but I did that on Monday and couldn't concentrate, so I gave up and have spent the last couple of days feeling sorry for myself.

I read somewhere that doctors are increasingly googling their patient's symptoms to find out what's wrong with them. The National Health Service probably can't afford to buy them textbooks these days.

Anyway, I spent some time looking up "cold".
I didn't get much useful information. I already know that the condition is incurable, though I was surprised to read that they don't think vitamin C is much use. It's true though, I drank orange juice, ate clementines and lemons, and OD'd on Lucozade without making a miraculous recovery.

I wondered if I might have a temperature. I've got one of those forehead thermometer things, and it told me that my temperature was 36, which is a little low for a fever, but not so low as to indicate death. Which was a relief.

Apart from a sore throat, sneezing, the kind of cough someone has who's been chain-smoking cigars, and a headache, I'm fine. I think I'll be well enough to go into work tomorrow.

Mystery Picture

Can you guess what this is?

Ever since Jean Knee did her famous horse-food post, I've been slowly working up an appetite for some muesli. I got some this afternoon. Mine isn't the teeth breaking variety, but I've just had a bowlful. I'm sure it'll help banish my cold.


On the back of the muesli packet is the following environmentally friendly message:

I'm amazed. I didn't know that they made double decker buses out of recycled cereal boxes. Isn't technology wonderful?

Who ever invented the cardboard bus, I bet they were influenced by watching Blue Peter as a child.
This is a British Children's TV programme, which has been going for around 50 years. I don't know what it's like today, though apparently the lady below is or was one of the presenters:

I've studied this picture very carefully,
but I can't see her Blue Peter badge anywhere.

Maybe I should start watching it again... It used to look more like this:

They had a craft bit where they showed you how to make amazing things out of ordinary household objects, especially washing-up-liquid bottles, glue, cereal boxes, etc. I bet they're not allowed to do that nowadays - we need to keep our cereal boxes so they can make them into buses...

Saturday, 14 June 2008


I regularly browse a Greek news site called They're a bit of a down-market operation, so they have lots of interesting stories, like the one about the Japanese house-hider, and so on, which make great blog material.

They also love any story that lets them put up pictures of naked women, which is probably the only reason that anyone in Greece is likely to know who PETA are. I don't think those women are a good advert for vegeterianism, though. They look rather emaciated. Then again, you're not going to thrive on a diet of chillis...

Anyway, I was reading the other day about a special Japanese Vase. The idea is that when you're so angry that you need to let off some steam, but you're worried about offending people, you shout into it as much as you want, but the vase stops the sound so no-one can hear you.

What he is actually screaming is "This vase is stuck! Help! Someone, please!". Still, any new invention is bound to have some flaws...

We have to bear in mind that Japan is incredibly crowded - after all, people live in other people's cupboards, so this invention is probably very useful.

It wouldn't be so popular in Britain, where people don't say what they think anyway.

A little while ago, at the supermarket, I'd broken my normal rule (See: Why I Prefer Older Women) of only going to checkouts where the operators aren't under the age of 21. The girl asked me, as they all have to these days, if I needed any help packing. Like everyone, I said "no, I'm okay, thanks.", but what I thought was "What makes you think you can pack shopping as well as me? I've got a lot more experience than you."

On the way home, I did the sums and realised that, assuming she was under 21, I'd been a customer at that particular shop since before she was born. Which makes me feel old. Even though I'm not, of course. Are there vases that will make thoughts like that go quiet, I wonder?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Wordy Wednesday


Our summer weather here continues to hold up - I thought there might be some rain today, since there were actually some clouds in the sky, but no. Of course, I'm lucky.

There was a big earthquake in Western Greece on Sunday. In the worst hit villages houses were destroyed, and many of the others have sustained some damage. The quake measured 6.5 Richter, and its epicentre was on the mainland, so there have been a lot of smaller aftershocks, and hundreds of people have been unable or unwilling to sleep in their houses, instead staying in their cars, tents, or going to stay with friends and relatives elsewhere.
Two people died and hundreds were slightly injured.

It's awful that anyone died, but it's also lucky that it happened in the afternoon when a lot of people weren't home. One report showed a massive boulder - as big as two or three people - which had rolled from the top of a hill right into a village, demolishing someone's house on the way.

Then last night I saw the news about the MidWest USA, with pictures of a house being swept into a river. Yes, I feel very lucky with our weather (and sorry for those who are having such a bad time of it)...

Hider in the House

Helena watches a children's TV show that features a supposedly famous personality hiding out in someone's house for a period of time. The idea is that everyone except one of the parents is in on the "game", and must make sure that the hider isn't caught whilst doing various challenges.

So she was fascinated when I told her about the man in Japan. He wondered why he never seemed to have as much food in his fridge as he thought, so put hidden webcams around the place, and when he was out watched them on his mobile. He saw a woman in his house, and it turned out that she'd living in one of his cupboards for a year.

That explains my food situation - it's not that I eat too much after all. Instead, there's probably a woman living in my attic, which is somewhere I never go. And I thought that those noises were birds on the roof...

She obviously doesn't mind hearing Agatha Christie novels read out loud in Greek, or terrible piano playing. Maybe she's deaf.

I don't mind, but it would be nice if once in a while I got home to find my fridge full of food...

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Solid Engineering

Today I bought myself a new mobile phone. Now, you might ask why I would want to do such a thing. After all, I hardly ever use my mobile. I can't remember the last time I topped up the credit. I don't want a phone with a camera, or a phone I can use to access the web. I have a camera to take pictures with, a computer to access the web with, and a phone to call people.

This is my old phone, which I got in 2003:

The problem is, that dispite getting a new battery, it simply runs out of power too quickly. My main reason for having it is in case I break down somewhere. Unfortunately, there's a good chance that the call for help would get cut off before I could tell them where I was.

So, I've replaced it with a new one:

It's almost exactly the same size and thickness as the old one. That's because it's not one of these slimline girly ones that'd probably fall through a hole in your pocket, or your handbag. Nor is it some cute shade of pink, or scarlet.

No, this is a man's phone.

It's called the "Samsung Solid", and like me it is rugged and dependable. It's water resistant, dust resistant and shock resistant (it will survive being dropped onto concrete). It even has a flashlight. Yes the "Solid" can work hard and play hard. It's the phone that Sir Edmund Hillary would have used to call the Queen from the top of Everest. Except that the reception is probably rubbish up there.
Can't see many mobile phone masts... [License]

When it comes to playing hard, the "Solid" has everything: A colour screen, FM radio, a camera, WAP, bluetooth, lets you send picture messages to your friends. And a manly "bell" (as in Alexander Graham) ring tone.
A Bell

Oh yes, and somewhere at the back of the manual, it even tells you about making phone calls. Should I break down, the battery will allow me to stay on the phone for up to 8 hours.

I've worked out how to unlock the keys. This took me about 15 minutes. Of course, if I'd asked my 9-year old Gadget Tech Support, she'd probably have done it in about 15 seconds.

In a few more years, I might have worked out how to send emails, or even blog from it (I've no idea if that's possible). Then all I'll need is the rugged lifestyle to go with it. Maybe I should follow Dan's example and become a cowboy...

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Who's Round Is It?

It occurred to me the other day that we've not been to the pub for a drink. This is very remiss of us, and I think it would be great if you and your other halfs could come to my local next Wednesday for a few jars. Shall we say 8? Fine.

I'm told that the British Pub is an institution, and that they don't have such things in America, where bars are pretty much pick-up joints. I'm not sure I believe this, since I've been to bars in the US and I've never been picked up.

Of course, things aren't the same as they were in the good old days. They never are. In the good old days people were moaning saying that it was terrible that things weren't the same as they were in the good old days before that. When I started drinking 20 years ago, pubs were full of people drinking. Many didn't serve meals, though you might get a sandwich at lunchtime. Nowadays almost all of them do a wide range of food, and fewer people are going out just for beer.

A few years ago pubs tried to appeal to families. They put in ball pits and children running around were at risk of ending up being set on fire by a stray cigarette. Nowadays a lot of the play areas have been removed. As have the cigarettes. Smokers can now been seen outside pubs having a fag break, and where there is enough land, smoking shelters have been constructed in pub gardens.
You will of course want to sample the real ale. When I was working as a barman years ago, a group of Americans came in. They'd obviously been here for a few days, since they had learned to say "please", rather than "Give me a beer", which is impolite in this country. One of them had a look at the pumps and chose a real ale. Then he asked for salt. I thought that maybe he was going to do some kind of party trick, probably involving matches - most pub tricks do - but instead, he put it in his beer. And drank it. Then came back for another...

I hope that none of you are fans of cocktails, or of those shots they serve in the US which seem to contain very little alcohol. Pretty much the only cocktail you'll get here is a Gin and Tonic. If they have any tonic. If you're lucky you might even get a slice of lemon in it. You will be pleased to know that these days bottled drinks are chilled, and that ice is readily available. Although, you usually get about 2 lumps, not half a glass full.

We might get the chance to play some games. I'm embarrassed to say that I have never played shove ha'penny (nor do I know what it is), though I did once try bar billiards, which is a bit like pool, in that you have to hit balls into holes, but the holes have scores, and there are mushrooms on the table which you musn't knock over. There is also "table skittles", which involves knocking pins over with a ball on a string.

Pubs tend to have pool tables, and a dart board, though I wouldn't trust myself not to hit some unfortunate bystander.

My local doesn't have a skittle alley. Skittles is a bit like 10 pin bowling, except that there are only 9 skittles, they're wooden, there are gaps between them, and the ball is smaller.

However, the main activity is of course conversation. Solving all the world's problems, and complaining that you can't get a proper ploughman's lunch any more...

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Highlights for Busy Readers

I'll keep this short, as I know you're all very busy. Jean Knee's crusading against starvation and boredom, Tracy has a puppy trashing her house, Bee is traumatised from misshapen models' arms thrusting chocolate at her, and Dan is so busy he's not posted all week - he's probably taking a crash course in horse riding.


Thought so...

Great Guns

We watched the Laurel and Hardy wartime film Great Guns at the weekend. Considering it's one of those propaganda films about joining the army to help Uncle Sam, it's not bad, though I suspect Uncle Sam would be better off without L&H...

That's a lot of Dirty Dishes

A restaurant in Syria has just entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest in the world, with 6014 covers. I bet they wouldn't notice the odd stolen plate, Jean Knee. Apparently one chef can produce 25-30 portions of houmous in a minute. Helena and I should go there, perhaps.


The weather yesterday was so wet that people were worried we'd get flooding. Then today it's been gloriously sunny - I didn't even wear my coat. Which I suppose averages out to drizzle, or something.

There's much more I could say, but instead I'm off to the pub. See you later...