Monday, 31 October 2011

All Hallows Eve Survival Guide

Dear Reader,

I was watching a haunted house-type horror flick over the weekend (Insidious - quite good actually!) and I was amazed to see that no-one seems to know the rules of survival and what to avoid. As it is now Halloween I have compiled a list of DON'TS that should allow you to survive the witching hour. 

Innocent pumpkin attacked again!
A fair observation regarding this survival guide is that it is a little late. Keep it handy, you can always use it next year. If you have committed any of these then you probably have enough on your plate at the moment.

So, to the list. Avoid all of the following this All Hallows Eve (and generally) and all should be well with your world.
  • If there is a noise emanating from the attic, DO NOT investigate. It may be a trapped bird, or mice, but it is probably something far more sinister that will result in broken bones, possession of loved ones, death, or worse. Amityville HorrorInsidious and almost every over film involving a house.
  • Ditto for the cellar.
  • Ditto for recessed cupboards.
  • DO NOT inhabit a house where the previous incumbents have met a sticky end due to a family member going crazy with a shotgun. This applies to any weapons, knifes, bats etc. Amityville Horror and many others.
  • DO NOT inhabit a house built on an ancient American Indian burial ground. Very bad things will happen. Poltergeist, specifically.
  • DO NOT bury a recently deceased pet in a pet cemetary built over the top of an ancient American Indian burial ground. The subsequent return of the roadkill that used to be Tiddles may seem like a good idea at the time but trust me, it isn't. Pet Cemetery.
  • Just to be sure, avoid anything to do with ancient burial grounds, regardless of the race of the deceased incumbents.
  • If you should happen upon a charming gentleman with icy white skin and pointed teeth, DO NOT invite him in. He is not cool, it is very unlikely that he is Marilyn Manson. Dracula (1931), Dracula (1992) and many more.
  • If you happen to be a priest or wearing priests' clothing, I would strongly suggest not standing near a flight of steep stairs. Also avoid churches (ironically) during thunderstorms. The Exorcist, (steep stairs), The Omen, (churches).
  • If your husband is a frustrated writer, DO NOT choose to take a three month sabbatical in a hotel that will cut off from the world by snow. The Shining.
  • If you happen to purchase small fluffy creatures from a dubious Chinese curiosity shop DO NOT get them wet and DO NOT feed them after Midnight. Similar instructions may also be applied to my good wife's hair. Gremlins.
  • If you happen to be going to a party resist the urge to drop a bucket of pig's blood over the Prom Queen's head. Bad things will happen. Carrie.
  • DO NOT leave the telly on static on Halloween and expect that somebody won't get sucked into it. Poltergeist
Hopefully these handy little tips will help you survive this and upcoming Halloweens.

One last thing: if you have followed all of the above and hear a knock on the door it's OK to answer it. If you are greeted with a motley bunch of zombies, witches, vampires and werewolves shouting trick or treat DO NOT respond as follows,  "Oh Trick please, can you make a rabbit appear from a hat?"  

Happy Halloween dear reader.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Libya - A Prayer Answered?

Dear Reader,

In a previous post Libya - A Prayer for the People, in February, I blogged about my feelings regarding the beginnings of the uprising in Libya. The response from Colonel Gaddafi was brutal. So brutal in fact that NATO was forced to act.

Such a charmer...
Now we are in October and Colonel Gaddafi is dead and buried, along with at least one of his sons. Clearly this is a pivotal moment in the history of Libya. The small children of Libya will absorb this in history classes. To a lesser extent this will happen worldwide.

There has been some controversy over the cause of death. Just in case you have been buried under a rock I will explain the facts as I understand them...
  • Gaddafi and his cohorts fled their stronghold in Sirte and were tagged by some quite serious aerial ammunition.

  • Gaddafi hid in a storm drain. He was found by representatives of the National Transitional Council on the ground who were, to put it mildly, very pleased to see him.

  • At this point he was very much alive, albeit carrying some minor wounds.

  • Then there is some confusion, regarding the transport of the very much alive Colonel Gaddafi.

  • He was after capture, transported to Misrata, during which an incident occurred which resulted in a cross-fire.

  • He was fatally wounded during this exchange.

  • Although still breathing upon arrival at Misrata, he soon died and it was apparently impossible to resuscitate the Colonel.
Gaddafi's body has been on display for a few days in a Misrata refrigerator, which would normally be selling vegetables. He has now been buried along with the son that also perished at an undisclosed location in the desert.

NATO, and it's partners have questioned with a degree of pressure regarding what occurred on the road between Sirte and Misrata. The National Transitional Council to date have not come up with a conclusive answer more concise than what has been related above.

And why should they? After recent disclosures regarding the demise of Osama Bin Laden I think I know what the issue might be. So, to recap, a merry party happened at the White House where President Obama, dear lady wife (his, not mine) and aides watched the operation that resulted in Bin Laden's death. This was live and via satellite. They even had direct audio contact with the Special Forces dudes. I have previously blogged about this in Bin Laden - My Part in his Downfall. Maybe NATO wanted to a more multi-media type event and are a little annoyed things went down the way they did. Who knows?

On a more serious note, the NTC now have a task before them. Convince the rest of the world that things are good and that Libya now is a country worthy of doing business with. When the oil money starts to flood in, use it to build a stable democratic country and build all the good things like education, healthcare etc that the people of Libya have been robbed of by a dictator who kept all the cash for himself and his family. No more gold plated handguns please.

Above all else, make the country safe. Ensure that the good people of Libya do not have to live in fear and give them a brighter future. Is that too much to ask?

More soon dear reader.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

When Cats Adopt or a Quest for a Suitable Pot Plant

Dear Reader,

Once upon a time there was a cat who haunted us. Not in the ethereal sense but physically. This cat had decided that we were going to look after it, no matter what we did. This cat hung around in our garden for extended periods and upset the status quo of our house cats. None of our house cats liked this cat so we resisted. Then it got cold. Then it got really cold. Then it snowed (a lot). We watched this very determined cat sit on our lawn, as the snow fell around it. The snow got deeper and and it still sat. In the end we gave in and welcomed this strange animal into our lives. We called it Darren.

Darren was an old cat, this much was clear. The teeth, fur and claws told us this much. Once part of the family we sent this cat for a checkup with the local vet. The one surprise from this visit was that Darren was an inappropriate name for this cat as she was a girl. Consequently she became Derina. She was disliked by all the house cats, and she ignored this. She just sat around, in a warm place and ate lots of food. She was painfully thin, but lovely all the same. She had no collar identification or chip, so we had no way of tracking down her previous owners, if she had any. So, for a short while, we adopted Derina. Actually a more accurate description would be that Derina adopted us.

After about a year she passed away, much to our discontent. We were sad to see her go, but pleased in the knowledge that at least the last days of her life had been comfortable and warm.

Derina, in happier times.
The vet explained some of the options regarding burial... there were several. We opted for ashes in a box, as we intended to scatter the ashes somewhere suitable at a point in the future.

Herein lies my problem. The events described above happened a year ago. The ashes remain in a box, well two boxes actually (it's a box within a box) sitting on our hall table. She is quite happy there, although a recent visit from our parents suggested that maybe not everyone is happy with this arrangement.

We thought that it would be nice to place her ashes in a pot plant, so I visited a number of garden centres seeking inspiration. This proved to be an interesting journey.

Garden centres are staffed by two types of people it seems. 16-18's who lucked out at the supermarket and the over 65's who lucked out in their investment plans.

My first conversation involved the latter and went like this:
  • Excuse me, I am looking for a nice, portable pot plant that is big enough for a cat's ashes. Can you help?
  • Oh, I am so sorry to hear that, I feel your pain. We had the same dilemma when Toby passed, God rest his soul. Now, he was a big dog so we couldn't get him in the orchid pot. In the end we planted a hedge for him.
  • So, a hedge? Seems a little over the top for a small cat.
  • A small patch of hawthorne wlll do the job.
  • OK, have you any in stock.
  • Unfortunately the last one has been sold to a gentleman who sadly lost his hamster just the other day.
On to Garden Centre No 2 then...

This time I met the younger generation:
  • Excuse me, my cat has just died; I am looking for a pot plant suitable to bury him in. Can you help me?
  • DUDE, you are sick.
  • Ah, yes it may seem that way. However, I am aware that the word sick can mean a number of things. Am I cool or am I unwell? Can you provide me with a suitable pot plant?
  • SICK, man
I walked away. I have no pot plant, no resting place. Derina remains on the hall table. My parents are concerned. Any suggestions dear reader?


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Stupidest Invention Ever

Dear Reader,

Whilst purchasing a cup of coffee the other day I was struck once again by the presence of one of the most pervasive and useless inventions of our time. Not the cup of coffee, that would be silly. Without coffee I would be more tolerant, less stressed and more likely to accept the failings of the object in question without complaint. Where would the fun be in that? 

This invention is far more irritating than any other object to be found in the vicinity of a coffee provider; it has a simple task, no moving parts and attempts to replace another object that has been doing the job perfectly well for hundreds of years.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give to you the Plastic Coffee Stirrer.

In all it's glory...

£4.99 for a thousand, a mere £0.049 for a single stirrer. A bargain surely? No, I would rather send £4.99 to one of my numerous Nigerian friends on e-mail (filed under spam) in the hope it might cover the administration fees involved in releasing the unfeasible amount of money owed to me by the Nigerian government. I would rather poke my own eyes out with plastic coffee stirrers except that this endeavor would undoubtedly prove impossible due to one of the myriad of flaws present in this astonishingly pointless object.

So, some of the problems I have so far identified with this object are listed below:
  • Size: The Plastic Coffee Stirrer comes in one size; shorter than the cup of coffee you have just bought. Of course what I wanted to do was buy a cup of coffee and then whilst holding the ineffectual paddle between thumb and forefinger stir the coffee and burn the tips of aforesaid digits to a crisp whilst pretending to enjoy the experience.
  • Rigidity: If bent beyond 1 degree from straight the stirrer will snap, rendering half of it an unwanted addition to your coffee and the remaining stub too short to poke out your own eye in frustration.
  • Heat resistance: None. I have found, however, that if held long enough in a cup of coffee the plastic will soften enough to negate the risk of snapping. Unfortunately this also render the object useless, as now it is so soft that it can no longer provide the required downward pressure on the wodge of sugar at the the bottom of the cup to disturb it.
  • Aerodynamics: Pointless. Surely the point of a stirrer is to stir the coffee. To do this, it must first disturb the liquid it is stirring. Why therefore are there holes in the bottom of the stirrer specifically designed to ensure the lowest amount of aerodynamic resistance possible. Hmm, I may have answered my own question here, this feature is to negate the risk of it snapping.
  • Biodegradable: Not a chance.
  • Cheap: If being able to buy one thousand completely useless things for not very much makes them cheap then yes, but, being in possession of most of my faculties and not being a complete fucking idiot I would have to say no.
Further exhaustive research has found me happening on a rather more simple and effective alternative, encountered at more up-market coffee providers. I am of course talking of the wooden coffee stirrer.

This looks interesting...

This has a number of advantages over the plastic coffee stirrer, a couple of which I will list below:
  • Size: Approximately that of your purchase, unless you buy really large drinks.
  • Rigidity: It has some.
  • Heat Resistance: It has some of this too.
  • Aerodynamics: Possesses an uncanny ability to disturb a liquid it is passed through.
  • Biodegradable: Compostable, apparently.
  • Cheap: Cheaper than the infinitely more crap plastic alternative.
Which begs one question, why does a sane human being who sets up in business to sell coffee provide these plastic nightmares as stirring implements when an infinitely better, cheaper and more ecologically sound solution appears to be at hand? Does the ultimate salesman represent the plastic stirrer manufacturer? The type that not only sells fridges to eskimoes, but convinces them that the occasionally combustible nature of the demonstrated device is a design feature to be cherished? I wish I had an answer.

Yet more exhaustive research uncovered someone who may have an answer, or if not an answer, at least a love of plastic coffee stirrers not shared by me. Check out RubberMullet, a dedicated collector of plastic coffee stirrers and possibly the only person in the world that cares about them. This site will be added to my sites of note, it is a gem.

Whilst rooting around in the dusty arse-end of my cutlery drawer the other day I found an interesting object nestled between my much loved plastic miniature nutmeg grater (impulse purchase, never used) and a mouldy Toffee Crisp (sentimental value). It was one of these...

What could this be?
I don't know what it is and why it and a number of it's friends are in my cutlery drawer, but it seems to be capable of doing the job of both the plastic and wooden stirrers. After some experiment I also found that if you fill the bowl part with sugar it delivers approximately the same amount as a sugar cube from our up-market coffee providers and also about the same as those pesky paper sugar tubes provided at other establishments.

Got to go, on the phone to the patent office, I may be onto something...

More soon dear reader xxx

PS , I  became the first to review the product in the first picture...

That told 'em!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Steve Jobs - Thank You

Dear Reader,

Whilst a little tipsy a few months ago I was wandering back home through St Pancras train station in London with a friend and for some reason it occurred to us that it would be great to re-enact (rather badly) the Digby Chicken Ceasar sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look. For those unfamiliar with the sketch an example below:

We didn't steal anything, but we did run headlong through the station singing the song whilst recording the event simultaneously through front facing cameras on our iPhones. When we stopped, we also simultaneously uploaded the event to our respective Facebook profiles, much to the despair (and occasional amusement) of our peers. More importantly, we laughed, long and hard. It was the highlight of our evening, I still remember it to this day.

Without Steve Jobs, such a moment may not have happened. 

It has been said that one of Steve's greatest achievements was making technology more accessible and personable. My experience above (although somewhat inane) is a classic example of this. 

The future is less exciting without you. 

Steve Jobs RIP: 1955-2011
More soon dear reader xx