Monday, 22 November 2010

Survival Tips

Once again this winter the environmentalists have somehow managed to turn off global warming. Here, there's apparently even talk of snow. So as a public service, I give you my top tips for surviving the cold weather.

Keep on the Move

One of the best ways to avoid getting frozen is to keep moving - Ice rarely forms on non-stationary objects. This is why your car doesn't freeze up whilst you're driving it. People used to have to sit for hours wrapped up in blankets reading Charles Dickens, but these days with laptops, tablets and e-books, you can keep reading and blogging while you're walking around, doing star jumps or whatever.

Stay in Warm Places

The biggest mistake that many people make at this time of year is staying at home. It might be nice and warm with your central heating or your log fire, but heating costs are astronomical and rising all the time. You should get into the habit of using other people's heat. Shops are open for a large proporition of the day, and you can spend hours wandering round them. Ones in the US that have free wireless are especially good, as you can avoid the boredom that normally accompanies shopping (for men, anyway). Another option is to sell insurance or double glazing and take advantage of the fact that old people keep their houses particularly warm, as well as possibly being gullible enough to buy whatever you're peddling. If you think this is immoral, you could just pretend to be a salesman.

Eat Well

Calories get their name from the fact that our body burns the food we eat. Not being a biologist, I'm not completely sure how this works, except that we use the oxygen we breathe to keep the fires going. I don't really understand what happens to the smoke, unless that's expelled as some form of exhaust gas... Anyway, in order to maintain a healthy temperature you will need to eat plenty of combustible material.

Drink Well

Naturally as you're eating more, you will also have to drink more. No doubt a biologist could explain why the fluid doesn't put these internal fires out. The only problem with drinking more is that you might get too bloated. In order to avoid this you need to consume plenty of diuretics. Coffee and alcohol are ideal, preferably mixed together.

Waste Electricity

When you do finally go home after a hard day shopping, dining and pubbing, you will still need to keep warm. Remember the wise words of the environmentalists who'll tell you that electrical appliances can pump out tons of heat. Replace all of those energy-saving lightbulbs, leave your TV on standby and don't bother turning things off. You'll find that your heating bills drop dramatically.

That's a few ideas, but if you have any more please let me know.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Murders, Hats, Senility


I spend quite a lot of my time involved with murders. Not real ones, you understand, but the more enjoyable* kind that can be found in the pages of a book. The vast majority of the books I read are crime novels, and a good proportion of the DVDs I watch are TV and film adaptations of these, such as the wonderful Joan Hickson Miss Marple series that Helena and I are currently watching.

I've just finished reading Murder Behind the Scenes by Giannis Maris. This was a classic locked room murder. The leading lady is murdered just before the premiere of her new play. This rules out the film critics in the audience, who generally wait until after the performance. To complicate matters, she is found stabbed to death in her dressing room, which is locked from the inside.

Various ideas are suggested to the detective. Maybe the lock was tampered with? No, it doesn't look like it, and the key was still on the inside. There's a small open window above the door. Not big enough to fit a person, but perhaps the knife was thrown at the victim? The angle of the wound rules this out.

Perhaps it wasn't murder but suicide? The doctor examining the body says that this is impossible. So how did the murderer do it? Perhaps there's a way to get into the adjoining dressing room? A wooden partition or some such thing?

Yes, there is. And the planks of wood are fixed with nails from the other room. So the murderer could have got out that way and nailed them back on when he was finished. Providing that the murderer was the actress in the next-door room, or an accomplice which as the story progresses doesn't seem that likely.

The most interesting twist in the story is that our hero Captain Bekas doesn't solve the murder. The man who seems certain to be the guilty party is killed whilst trying to resist arrest, and everyone is satisfied that the case is closed. The real culprit confesses to a reporter, but swears him to secrecy so that his children won't have to face the social stigma of having a murderer for a father, and then kills himself. Thankfully for the reader, he explains what really happened with the locked room.

Bekas (centre) from a TV adaptation.

Now I'm reading Che Killed Himself by Petros Markaris, which involves a series of suicides which are really murders. The first one is carried out live on TV watched by millions of viewers, which seems to make the locked room problem look easy by comparison.

* At least, I assume it's more enjoyable to read about it than actually do it as I have never in my life had first-hand experience of the latter. Not so far, anyway.


This won't interest anyone else, but I like to record Geeky landmarks in my blog so that I can look back and see when I did this or that to my computers. Having had the 2008 edition of Ubuntu on my desktop for a couple of years, I decided to do an upgrade. Instead of the 2010 Ubuntu, I downloaded Fedora. This is a distribution of Linux related to the enterprise Red Hat Linux. Which is why it's named after a hat. I put Fedora on the computer as a learning exercise, but I've decided to keep using it. Ubuntu is still the easiest Linux to get up and running, and I am still using it on my netbook, but I'm really happy with my shiny new Fedora desktop.


I'm sure I had something else to say, but I've got a terrible memory these days - I must be getting old. Which reminds me - Happy Birthday, Bee!