Sunday, 25 December 2016

Humbug

FFS, it's taken over an hour of fannying about with an inexplicably slow laptop to get to the point where I can actually get on with writing this blog post. I forsee Windows 10 being replaced with Linux in the very near future.
The only trouble is that I've completely forgotten what I was going to say, so I'll just wing it and see what happens.

We took ourselves off into Ely today for a walk, expecting it to be pretty well deserted, and apart from a few people who had booked their christmas lunch at assorted pubs and restaurants, those determined to get a bit of fresh air and the occasional dog walker, it was.
It was almost spooky how quiet it was, and I was taken back to those days before the country became a 24/7 culture, when it was like this EVERY Sunday.
How nice it was back then to have just one day a week when the world didn't run around like a toddler who's eaten all the blue Smarties.
Why do people have to wait for the annual commercial festival of greed and gluttony to be able to chill out for 24 hours. Is it too much to ask for just one day off a week from all the bullshit?
Of course it is, because almost everyone insists on continuing to go along with the whole christmas bollocks even though they're not christians and don't go to church, but the idea of having a day of rest more than once a year has become alien to the masses.

In a world where we now expect everything to be available at any time of day, and you can order something from Amazon on Saturday afternoon and it be delivered to your door by a man in a van on Sunday, any notion of actually stopping and just spending a day doing nothing fills the average person with dread - hence people reacting to the supermarkets being closed for one day by panic-buying enough food to feed a small country for a month.

As I've said before, I don't do christmas. Nothing, zip, zilch, nada.
In fact I find the whole thing tasteless, with my biggest bugbear being the rampant commercialism involved.
It usually starts around September with all the adverts for restaurants wanting you to "book now for xmas dinner" and gradually increases in intensity until about mid November by which time the shops are stacked to the gills with all sorts of shit nobody needs.
From then on it's full-throttle in-your-face "BUY! BUY! BUY!" until the big day finally arrives and everyone's faced with the fact that it's not like it's portrayed on the telly and all that's really happened is everyone has eaten so much they feel ill and is vowing to go to the gym in the new year, even though they won't be able to because their massive credit card bill won't allow it.

I'm sure back in Charles Dickens' time when workers earned barely enough to pay the rent and eat one meagre meal a day, went to church every Sunday and christmas was the only day they got off in a year, things would have been very different. It would have meant something and the run-up to it would maybe last a couple of days.
But today, when we can have a big fuck-off roast dinner pretty much whenever we like, don't have to save for a whole year to afford a kid's bicycle, and hardly anyone goes to church - what place does christmas really have?
Tradition? Yeah, right. We used to have Sundays where all the shops were shut, but that got in the way of businesses making more money, so there's one tradition that went out the window easy enough.
Saying something is tradition is no different from saying "we've always done it this way" and ploughing on regardless of the alternatives.
Sure, it's nice to have a few days break in the depths of winter when you don't have to go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, but we can take a week off without the excuse of some outdated religious festival that was supposed to celebrate the birth of the 'son of god' despite the belief that Jesus wasn't even born in December (if at all), and it only happens then because the church wanted to lure people away from the feast of Saturnalia etc to join their cult instead.

As it will have become clear by now, I am not religious, but I do respect other people's right to believe in whatever they like as long as they don't inflict it on others.
I'm not a christian so I consider it wrong for me to celebrate a christian festival.
I despise the way christmas has been turned into a shameless money-making machine, backed up by such a tidal wave of commercial propaganda that nearly everyone gets swept along without questioning why they're doing it.
It stinks.
You don't show your family you love them by giving them a pair of slippers once a year, but by your words and actions every time you see them.
If you see something you know a close friend would really like, just buy it for them as a surprise gift - it will be far more satisfying than running around Debenhams on christmas eve desperately looking for inspiration.
Want a family get-together? Why not arrange a barbecue during the summer?
Like twinkly fairy lights around your windows and a selection of glittery tat on a plastic fir tree? Fine - have it all year round if you like; why sit there clucking like a junkie waiting for his next fix until December 1st rolls around again so you can drag it all out of the loft?

In these supposedly enlightened times, it surprises me that people continue to employ the sheep mentality over christmas, seemingly unable or unwilling to get over the "we've always done it this way" attitude and make their own choices based on reason, but there're little sign of rebellion except for a few individuals who're generally shouted down and accused of being a Grinch or Scrooge.
So although I wouldn't stand up and shout that christmas should be abolished (though it would be nice) I would love to see more people take a step back from it all and think carefully about what christmas really means. How much comes from the bible, and how much comes from big business?
We've been given brains and the ability to use them, so why not do so?

See? Forget the plan and it turns into a rant. Oh well, whatever....




Sunday, 18 December 2016

Oscar

On Thursday eight small satellites were put into orbit by NASA to study hurricanes.
They were delivered by a Pegasus rocket which was launched at around 40,000ft from a modified Lockheed TriStar.
A colleague walked up to me with his iPhone saying "Look, this is really cool" and I was surprised by the familiar sight of N140SC.
I had my reasons for being surprised. Firstly that it was still in operation after all these years, and also that there should still be media interest in it. After all, these launches have been going on since the late nineties.



More than surprised, however, I felt a sense of pride.
That's because I was part of the team of fitters and electricians who carried out the modifications to that aircraft.
All media coverage surrounding these launches focuses on the Pegasus delivery vehicle itself and its payload, with at best only passing mention of the converted TriStar.
Hardly surprising I suppose because big American companies like NASA and Orbital Sciences are unlikely to say "Special mention should go to the men at Marshall Aerospace in England, who made it possible for these high altitude launches to take place", are they?

While my own input was pretty minor in the scheme of things, it was still very necessary.
The Pegasus weighs 18,500kg plus payload (over 23,000kg for the Pegasus XL), so one thing that had to happen was that the TriStar needed to go on a serious diet to be able to lift it safely.
Myself and others were tasked with making this happen, so we set to stripping out the whole interior of the cabin. Everything had to come out, back to a bare airframe with just ducting and wiring looms left in the ceiling. Even the mid to rear passenger door mechanisms had to be stripped away to save weight - now they're just bolted in place permanently.
Apart from the two front cabin doors and the first twenty feet or so of cabin which houses crew seating and monitoring equipment, everything else is an empty shell. There's a lightweight partition separating the two areas, which me and my mate built.
I remember we ended up getting to know the design engineer pretty well during that part. We kept calling him over because his drawings didn't match up with the aircraft, and in the end he just said "Look, you build it, and when you've finished I'll come over and draw it", so that's what we did.
It may only have been tertiary structure, but we did our bit.

Towards the end of the job, there were countless drop tests carried out. With the aircraft on jacks, a huge steel cage full of concrete blocks to mimic the Pegasus was attached to the new release mechanism in the aircraft belly. With wooden blocks under the cage to absorb the impact and reduce the drop to a minimum, it was quite a sight to watch, with the whole aircraft shaking as over eighteen tonnes was released in a split second, accompanied by the deafening bang as the cage landed.
When Oscar (as it became affectionately know by the team, as it belonged to Orbital Sciences Corporation) went for its first test flight with a Pegasus attached, we went out to watch it take off with a distinct sense of collective pride.
As a team-building exercise, going to the woods to shoot your colleagues with paintballs had nothing on this.
We even had t-shirts made thanks to one of the guys who had a bit of artistic talent who drew a neat caricature of the plane with 'Oscar' under it.
So, as impressive as the Pegasus may be, this post is a shout out to everyone at Marshall Aerospace who made it all possible.
Cheers, guys!


Monday, 12 December 2016

Some people.....

This weekend I decided it was time to start making a bit of room in the shed by getting rid of some stuff I didn't want any more, so I logged in to Gumtree.
First was the original alloy wheels from the Beemer, which I recently replaced because they had rather a lot of corrosion on, including on the bead which meant one tyre wouldn't seal and kept losing pressure.
There was also my model railway layout. I started this about 18 months ago with great enthusiasm and the usual sort of expense that seems to go hand in hand with any new hobby, but the initial desire to produce a realistic railway quickly waned and it hadn't been touch for about six months.
So with photos taken and adverts posted, I got on with the day, checking periodically for any messages.

A bloke called Mike emailed about the model railway, and the conversation started as follows:

M: I'm really interested in your N Gauge layout and would like to buy it.
Please could you email me or phone

D: Thanks for the interest.
When would suit you to have a look?
Any evening between 6 and 9 is fine with me.

Later on I got a call from someone else who wanted the railway and would come out right away to buy it. Naturally I said OK and went to gather everything together and await the arrival of the buyer, who turned up, had a look and went away a happy man with his new acquisition, leaving me with the asking price in my pocket.
Got back in the house to find another message from the first guy:

M: Thanks for the quick reply.  How does Tuesday evening at about 6.30 suit?

D: Sorry Mike, it's just gone.

M: Ok. No problem.

You'd think that would be the end of it, but a few minutes later he came back at me and this is how the remainder of the exchange went:

M: Just looking at the messages between us, I said that Id like to buy your layout.   You then said when would I like to come and see it.
I said Tuesday at 6.30. You then said that it's now gone!!
How can that be, when I said that I wanted to buy it right from the onset?  All I was going to do on Tuesday was pay for it and pick it up.

D: Nothing had been set in stone, no promises made. Another guy has bought it and taken it away.
I realise you're disappointed, but that's that.

M: So when I said in my first email that I'd like to buy your layout, surely that meant that I'd like to buy your layout for the asking price.  How much more setting in stone would you have liked?  Very disappointed in you.

D: Seriously?
Look - between my saying it was still available and me getting your email saying you would come and buy it, I had a call from someone else who came straight out and bought it for the asking price.
It's quite simple.
Now, I suggest you stop getting yourself worked up over nothing and move on.
This is the last time I shall reply, and any further communication from you will automatically be deleted.
So much for 'No problem', because suddenly it had all become a very big problem for him.
It's a bloody model railway layout, not a perfect tissue match for a kidney transplant.
Why on earth would someone get so pissy about such a trivial thing?
It's unbelievable sometimes, the way people can get so obsessed about trivial little things and blow them so far out of proportion that they lose all sense of reason.
This bloke had lost nothing more than the time it took to write a couple of short messages, but he felt it necessary to get all uppity and self-righteous. Well, tough shit.
The worst bit about it all is that him getting on at me has pissed me off enough to spend half an hour writing a blog post about him. Twat.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

OCD

What is normal? Are any of us truly normal, or is there really no such thing, and we all simply exist on a sliding scale of weirdness?
I like to imagine that for the most part I'm fairly ordinary, but at the same time that could also mean I'm rather dull - which is probably not too far from the truth.
It's the little quirks that make a person interesting, but it can be difficult to identify your own quirks because to you they seem normal.
So I've had a think about this and decided that in my own little way I do a have a bit of OCD about certain things. I suspect most people do, and it would be interesting to hear about the things that others obsess over.
Here are a few examples of my own personal weirdness:

The volume control on any device, whether it's the car stereo, TV or whatever, must be set to a number that can be divided by two or five. 15 is fine, but 17 is a big no-no.
If the volume control has no numbers I can relax.

CDs must be arranged in alphabetical order by artist, and in chronological order within each artist.
While this is also a matter of convenience (making it easy to find the one you want), it's still something that winds me up immensely if I find something that's not in its correct place.
Also, when replacing a CD in its case the label must be the right way up, which is fine most of the time but there is the odd one where you can't tell which way is up. The internal turmoil this generates is disturbing.

When the car is parked, the steering wheel must be in the straight ahead position - unless parked on a hill of course, but we don't have many of those in the fens.

My square bedside lamp must always be square with the bedside table it sits on, along with the coaster and any books.

The kitchen knives must be arranged on the magnetic holder in size order, evenly spaced, points upwards, with the tops of the handles all at the same level. Any deviation from this could destroy the space-time continuum more effectively than a teenager with a modified DeLorean.

Any set of drills in a rack must be complete. Empty spaces are not permitted under pain of death, because sod's law dictates that the one you need is the one that isn't there. Therefore when buying a set of drills it makes sense to buy extras of the ones most likely to be used and lost / broken / worn out.

Now I've written these things down I realise that maybe I'm a bit of a freak. This is not all bad because if I'm even a tiny bit of a freak and everyone else has similarly weird issues, then perhaps that means I'm normal.
Whether that's a good or bad thing, I have no idea.




Friday, 2 December 2016

Talking to God on the big white telephone

The boy went out last night (shocking as it meant giving up valuable Playstation time) saying he was meeting his friend at the pub for a drink and would be home around 11pm as he still had to be up for work in the morning.
The wife and I retired to the welcome comfort of bed just before 11 and thought nothing of it.
After reading a couple of chapters I went to sleep, but woke up a short time later with her fidgeting and sighing beside me - fretting that he still wasn't home.
He's normally pretty good about sticking to the times he says, so a bit of worry was creeping in and I texted him to check he was still alive and to prompt his return.
He finally rolled in at 1:30am and stumbled into his room before rushing back to the bathroom in the first of several extended and rather noisy visits - the price one pays for overindulgence.

With all that going on, any chance of sleep evaporated, so the wife made tea and we lay there reading and pondering what's to become of the boy and his worrying relationship with alcohol.
By the time things quietened down, time had moved on significantly, and as a result I only got about two hours sleep last night and am definitely not feeling my usual morning self - mostly because my brain still thinks it's about 2am.
It's easy now to be disapproving of such antics, but I can't be too hard on him because I remember doing the same things myself at that age.

When I was about 15 or 16 my parents went on holiday by themselves, leaving me with the house to myself for a week.
A mate came round and we spent the evening sampling our way through the drinks cupboard before moving on to mum's selection of homemade wines while watching a Tom & Jerry video which by that point had taken on a whole new dimension of hilarity.
Then it happened. The inadvisable cocktail of questionable homebrew, Bacardi and who knows what else had decided to head for the nearest exit, so I stood up, fell over, and commenced crawling towards the smallest room.
I didn't make it. Halfway up the stairs I could restrain it no more, and the hasty application of a hand over the mouth did nothing but change the stream into a spray.
I did my best to clean up but I must have been fighting a losing battle. My parents never said anything, but a new stair carpet was installed shortly after their return.

At 18 the pub was no longer out of bounds and of course became a frequent destination - especially as it was literally about 200 yards from the house.
One fateful evening I went there with my brother-in-law and his neighbour and indulged in a few pints of snakebite & black.
I vaguely remember getting home and going up to bed, but the next thing I knew was being naked in the bath, throwing up down the plug hole, wondering what all the red stuff was and why it wouldn't run away.

At a friend's birthday party everything was going well - I was enjoying the company of an older woman while discovering the interesting taste and effects of a bottle of Pernod.
It was all fine until I sat down on the sofa and promptly passed out.
I awoke suddenly with the now familiar feeling of impending doom, and rushed to the living room door, aiming for the downstairs privvy.
It was shut. "Strange", observed my Pernod-addled brain. I tried to open it and found it locked, so I turned the key and flung open the door and looked out in confusion at the back garden.
At this point I felt my mate's hand on my shoulder as he asked "What are you looking for?"
"Err... bog..", I said.
Suddenly I was flying, as my mate picked me up and ran with me to the toilet, getting there just in time for a technicolour yawn of epic proportions.
When I finally emerged I was given the choice of going back to the party or bed. There was no way I could show my face after such an exhibition, the older woman probably would have gone off the idea, and in that state there was sod all I'd be able to do about it even if she hadn't, so bed it was.
I was ill for two days and I've never touched Pernod since.

So with three almighty alcohol-fuelled fuck-ups under my belt, I finally learned where to draw the line by the time I was in my early twenties.
I only hope it doesn't take the boy long to figure it out either.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

University of life

As Michaelmas term draws to an end, and I begin to feel a sense of relief that the worst bit of the academic year is behind me, I look around at the stupids and realise that although the faces and names change from year to year, the characters are always the same.
I've been doing this job for over twenty years now and seen all sorts from 'normal' everyday people, through shy retiring types too afraid to speak up or look you in the eye, to arrogant loud-mouthed wankers whose very presence puts me on edge and makes me start looking around the workshop to see which tools would make the most effective weapons.

My direct involvement with most is fleeting, but it's surprising how quickly you can form a first impression that turns out to be right on the money.
I have nothing to do with first or second year students beyond trying to avoid moving around the department between lectures when there's the risk of being caught up in a tide of smelly bodies clutching rucksacks and cycle helmets, all talking at once while staring at their phones.
Those who I have more to do with are in the third year of their bachelors degree, when they carry out a series of lab experiments as part of their coursework.
At this point I start to notice those that stand out - the late and disorganised, the lame excuse inventors, the keen but misguided, those who don't really want to be here but also don't know what else to do with their lives, and of course the obligatory in-your-face fuckwit. Every year has one.

As soon as the year's arrogant tosser has been identified, he's a marked man (not had a female pain-in-the-arse yet), and the whole team keeps a careful eye on him.
We try our best to be professional and treat everyone the same, but as with life in general, you tend to treat others the way they treat you. So when some 21-year-old upstart struts in and starts talking to you like you're something nasty they've found stuck to the sole of their shoe, it should come as no surprise when their attitude comes back to haunt them.

Every year we have a few students doing projects for their Masters degree, by which time most of the unpleasant troublemakers have been carefully weeded out to avoid the risk of getting blood up the wall. The occasional one slips through but thankfully it's a rarity, with most of them being the best that the previous year had to offer. There's still the odd one who doesn't know their arse from their elbow, but we do our best to guide them through the process.
By the time we get to those doing their PhD, we generally find ourselves dealing with pretty good people. Most are hard working, determined individuals who quickly achieve a rapport with the technicians.
Some need a bit of firm house-training in terms of their understanding of what is involved in making things; the physical processes and the time they take. Most things they need are prototypes that need to be designed and built from scratch, and as the average engineering student doesn't even know which end of a hammer to hold, it can all come as a bit of a shock to them.
By the time they've done their three year stint and been 'doctored', the majority leave here with a good job in industry. Over the years I've seen them go on to research jobs with companies including Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin, and Renault and Ferrari F1 teams, and it's a good feeling to know that I've been a part of enabling them to achieve that.
I've also witnessed them develop as people and got to know them reasonably well, so by the time they leave I'm sorry to see them go.

Of course there have been one or two that it was a relief to see the back of, but it's impossible to avoid every over-confident dickhead with all the social skills of a honey badger on crack.
If it was, the world would be a better place.
It would also be a better place if members of the 'Cambridge University Engineering Society' refrained from wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the phrase 'Trust me, I'm an engineer'.
No you're not, you're just good at maths.

Schlieren image of a Mach 1.5 shockwave
taken during the 3rd year teaching lab.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Bright light, dark room

After last weekend's disastrous trip into Cambridge we vowed never to do it again unless we absolutely have to.
It's just not us. We derive no pleasure whatsoever from battling crowds of people to wander aimlessly around shops that have nothing of interest to offer us.
The wife pointed out that we'd be better off killing time by going off some place where I could take my camera and try to get some good photos.
I enjoy photography immensely but recently it seems to have taken a back seat, so perhaps this wasn't such a bad idea.

Yesterday we needed to go to Ely early, and having awoken to a world under a blanket of fog, I decided to take my camera - fog can produce some quite atmospheric pictures.
As we walked towards the town centre, the sun was just starting to cut through the fog, shooting rays of light around the silhouette of the Cathedral, so while the wife went to get her hair cut, I wandered around taking photos.





When we got home I reviewed what I'd taken, saving the good ones and deleting the rubbish, before uploading a couple of favourites to Instagram.
Having managed to drag himself out of his festering pit of doom with the lure of a cooked breakfast, the boy looked at the pictures I'd taken that morning.
He then shocked me by saying he was considering buying himself a good camera and taking up photography himself. Having been tempted by recent deals, he is after an entry-level Canon DSLR.
This is wonderful news - that he might actually find something more constructive to do with his leisure time than swearing loudly at the Playstation and drinking vodka.
His job is giving him sufficient income to afford such toys, so no problem there, but given the fact that he hasn't yet grasped the basics of shutter speed / aperture / ISO etc, I can see that it will take a fair bit of guidance before he achieves the sort of images he wants.
I'm tempted by an SLR myself, but every time I get close to going for it I get put off by the idea of lugging a bag of bulky gear around with me.
I currently use an Olympus XZ-1 which has served me well for the past few years. It has all the functionality of an SLR apart from the interchangeable lenses, and it fits in a jacket pocket. On the down side, some of that functionality is difficult to access due to a fiddly menu system.
There are a few things I would like to be able to do that only an SLR can achieve, such as a usefully shallow depth of field and use of graduated and polarising filters, so I'm sure I'll make the move to an SLR eventually - it's inevitable.
In the meantime, I'll carry on with what I've got, while doing what I can to encourage my son to pursue his own enthusiasm.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ooer, missus!

My original intention for this post was to delve into the world of euphemisms, but then I hit a snag.
I couldn't see a way of writing it without it turning into just another list of words and phrases that most of us know already.
We often use euphemisms when we're talking about subjects we might be slightly uncomfortable with, and using alternative words that inject a little humour into the proceedings makes us feel happier and more relaxed.
For example, other than the medical profession and parents trying to do the right thing, few people refer to sexual organs by their correct names because they're such horrible sounding words. For this reason alone we now have more words for vagina than Eskimos have for snow.
So whether it's about 'kicking the bucket', 'driving the porcelain truck', or 'bashing the bishop', we all have our own collection of preferred euphemisms that we use on a regular basis, and for the most part everybody knows what we mean.

An extension of the euphemism which does deserve a bit more discussion is the double entendre.
This is where an ordinary statement can be twisted around in such a way that it acquires a smutty alternative meaning.
For examples of this we need look no further than episodes of 'Bottom' or 'Up Pompeii', or better yet, Viz comic's 'Finbarr Saunders'.



The beauty of these double meanings is that with an appropriately inappropriate mind, even the most innocent statement can be reshaped into something to inspire amusement - usually accompanied by a barely-suppressed snigger or a blatant "ooer!".
Yes, I know it's all very immature and nothing more than schoolboy humour, but provided you don't have your head up your own arse it can be very funny indeed. Much like farts really - some people get all holier-than-thou about them whereas others find them a constant source of hilarity from the cradle to the grave. Including me.
In our house we'll all well practiced in the art of the double entendre, and when the mood strikes it can turn into a sort of competition to deliberately create them and see how long it takes the others to catch on.
The same thing happens at work. Myself and a couple of the other chaps can have each other in fits when we plunge into the murky pool of double meanings.

It's all just a way of injecting a bit of fun into the drudgery of everyday existence, and when you have a strong inclination towards depression like I do, it's important to hang on to the things that amuse you in some way.
I avoid watching the news because it's always about bad shit that's going on in the world, and I'm happier being at home than out in the big wide world where I can be subjected to the levels of aggression and self-interest that pervade society.
Finding entertainment in the little things is what keeps me going, and if they happen to be a bit simplistic then so be it. If I'm out, I like to sit by the window of the coffee shop watching the world go by and passing judgement - "What the hell is she wearing?" or "Jesus, look at the size of that!".
I find fun in farting competitions after a particularly effective dinner, I like to arrange the fruit in the bowl in such a way that a banana and a couple of plums are in pride of place, and I like finding unintentional dirty meanings for things people say.
It's not big, it's not clever, but at least it doesn't hurt anyone.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

I've started so I'll finish

I find cooking one of the most enjoyable things in life, and as long as I'm not being subjected to the restrictions imposed by whatever diet the wife is currently enslaved by, I can spend hours creating something that will be wolfed down in ten minutes flat without feeling like I've wasted my time.
This evening I was allowed the freedom to create my signature lasagne in all its waistline-expanding glory, so I set myself up with the usual things necessary for a session in the kitchen - namely a large glass of red wine (major abstinence fail, but I've resigned myself to it) and the iPod and Bose bluetooth speaker to provide the musical accompaniment.

Having started off with a Madonna compilation to satisfy the eighties urge, I switched to INXS's fantastic 'X' album. Once it started, I was along for the ride. With no loss of enthusiasm and no desire to change to something different until the last track had finished, I lost myself singing along and dancing around the kitchen leaving assorted splodges of ragu and bechamel sauce in my wake.
While everyone has their own particular favourites, that album has to be one of my personal all-time greats.
One of the things I love about it is the fact that it's one of those albums I can listen to from start to finish without getting bored, and that's something that seems to be pretty hard to come by these days.

Back in the days of vinyl records, an artist was restricted to around 45 to 50 minutes within which to fit an album, which meant they had to be fairly picky about the tracks to be included.
As a result, it was generally pretty easy to listen through the whole album without wanting to miss out anything. Okay, there might be one duff track from time to time that spoiled the experience, but on the whole you could put on an album and listen from start to finish with no interruption apart from turning the LP over halfway through.

When CDs came along we were blessed with a far cleaner sound, free from the characteristic hisses and pops associated with vinyl. Purists still argue to this day that vinyl is superior to CD, and they may have a point, although the hardware required to provide that level of reproduction is beyond the pockets of most people.
The CD also gave artists 80 minutes of potential play time, which although useful for compilations, meant that they felt obliged (or the record companies pushed them into doing so) to fill the available space. What this meant was that instead of putting out an album with seven or eight great tracks, they were padding it out with sub-standard stuff just so they had the requisite twelve to fifteen tracks.
What this means is that the most important function that CD players provided us with over and above turntables became the 'forward skip' button.
Now, instead of sitting down with your eyes closed and immersing yourself in an album for three quarters of an hour, you sit with your thumb hovering over the remote, poised to jump past the next crappy infill track.

Listening to that INXS album got me thinking. How many albums can you truly sit through from start to finish and enjoy every single track without skipping a single one?
And how many of those were released since the late eighties when CDs were becoming the dominant format?
Apart from the album mentioned above, such albums in my own collection include the following:

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
Supertramp - Breakfast in America
Marillion - Misplaced Childhood
Enigma - MCMXC AD
Dire Straits - Love Over Gold
Depeche Mode - Violator
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
U2 - The Joshua Tree
Roxy Music - Avalon
Michael Jackson - Thriller

While some of these were released since the rise of the CD, the rest come from the days when vinyl was king.
I also have many albums that came out before the CD, but have been re-released with 'bonus extra tracks', which without fail roughly translates as 'stuff that was too crappy to make it on to any album, but we can't resist filling that bit of empty space on the disc'.
These include Ultravox's 'Vienna' and 'The Pleasure Principle' by Gary Numan.
It's hardly surprising then, that younger generations have grown up without the pleasure of listening to a whole album to the exclusion of all other distractions.
They're living in a world where music has become nothing more than aural wallpaper; a disposable commodity that's here today and gone tomorrow, or as soon as something newer and just as mundane and uninspiring arrives on Spotify.
That's not to say that good music is no longer being made - it's just harder to find, and harder still to find an entire album you like rather than just picking out a couple of decent tracks and ignoring the rest.



Sunday, 16 October 2016

Northern wankers Vs Southern poofs


Not that many years ago there was a very strong belief that people from the north of England were in some way of a lower class than those from the south.
The assumption among southerners was that anyone north of Birmingham was a poor cloth cap-wearing, whippet-fancying dipshit who calls everyone 'pet' or 'lad' and likes to drink very dark beer with twigs in it.
Those in the north however, believed that all those soft southern poofs with their banking jobs and their poncy wine bars had an overinflated sense of their own importance and wouldn't know a proper day's work if it jumped up and bit them in the arse.
I like to believe we've moved on a bit since then, and I for one find people in the north to be no different from those here in the south apart from being more friendly and less self-centred.

I may not be the world's most travelled man, but I'm sure those attitudes are far less prevalent in society today. Sure there will always be those who want to make themselves feel better by suggesting that someone else is in some way inferior to them, be it due to their geographical location, the colour of their skin or whatever, but for the more enlightened majority it's just about people. You're a person, I'm a person, and all that matters is how we treat others.
From my point of view I couldn't give a flying bollock if you're black, white, christian, muslim, atheist, hindu, conservative, liberal, straight, gay, American, Russian, Chinese, and god help me I don't even care if you're French. If you treat me like a decent human being then I'll do the same.

That's not to say that divisions don't exist - of course they do. But the most obvious area where the battle lines are most often drawn is that of rich vs poor.
My brother went to India a few years ago, and what struck him above all else about the people was the vast gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.
While our own financial inequalities may not be as clear cut, there remains a yawning chasm between the extremes. There are company directors with salaries in the millions, private yachts, multiple dwellings in assorted countries, and a fondness for shiny things that would put a magpie to shame, and at the other end of the spectrum we find those who have to go to a food bank just so they can put some sort of meal on the table, or indeed may not even have a home in which to put a table.

I find myself somewhere within the great expanse of grey which is a sort of sliding scale between these extremes.
I consider myself fortunate to have a small but comfortable home, a decent job, and an income that is roughly around the supposed national average. It's nice to be in a position where if the washing machine packs up I can just wander into Currys and buy a new one, and if we fancy dinner at Prezzo, that's not a problem either.
I don't get my groceries helicoptered in by Harrods, but I'm not having to hang around waiting for the final reductions on end of life food at the supermarket just before it's thrown in the bin either.
But while those at the top of the food chain are eating caviar from a supermodel's navel at 20,000 feet in their Gulfstream executive jet, there's a queue of hapless unfortunates waiting for handouts because they don't even have enough money for the rent, let alone be able to provide a nutritional meal.

It's not as if I have a problem with the rich as a rule. OK, I think it's disgusting and immoral that professional footballers should be paid so much for kicking a bag of air around for 90 minutes, but on the other hand I think surgeons deserve everything they get and more besides.
What I don't like is public displays of wealth. If I was to see a Bugatti Veyron on the road my first thought would be "How many peoples lives could have been improved for what that cost?".
And when I see people on the street who are carrying everything they own, their faces etched with hopelessness and faded dreams, I can't help but feel guilty that I'm unable to change things for them.
Some social divisions like the whole north vs south thing may be possible to consign to the history books, but it seems unlikely that the issue of economic inequality will ever go away.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Helping hands

There's an expectation these days that when someone is given help they automatically assume that they should repay that assistance, whether by cash, goods, or by doing a favour in return.
Indeed, a lot of people do expect to be compensated for their help, even if it's just a matter of a couple of beers.
I'm not like that. If I can help someone, I'll do it because it's the right thing to do.

There's a movement known as 'Pay it forward' which is about doing things for others with no reward other than the hope that the person who has been helped goes on to do the same thing for others.
This is all well and good, but sometimes the attitude of those who practice this is that if they do these things, they will be repaid in some way in the future; like collecting on some sort of cosmic debt.
I have a problem with this way of thinking. To my mind the whole concept of 'Pay it forward' should be completely selfless. Sure I have no problem picking and choosing who or when I help, but when I do it's never with any expectation that it will come back to me.
While I firmly believe in karma, I certainly don't see it as a sort of savings account where you put good deeds in so you can draw them out later when you're going through a bad patch or just fancy a bit of good luck.
If I did, I'd be out there helping the needy every weekend in the hope that one day I'll have saved enough credit for Melissa Fumero to suddenly appear at my door feeling horny and wearing nothing but a big smile.
Nice idea, but I don't think it works like that.

I like it when I'm in a position to help someone because it makes me feels useful. I like being able to make a positive difference to someone's day. Not because I enjoy basking in some warm glow of self-righteousness, but because I believe that in these dark days of rampant me-ism it's good to spread a little humanity.
There's far too much greed and self-interest around - so many people who frankly couldn't give a toss about anyone else as long as they're alright, and I find that very sad.
So when I decide to help someone, the only thing I hope for in return is that that person goes on to help someone else in whatever way they're able to, thus passing on the good deed.
Under all the world-weary cynicism I wear on the outside, I still cling tightly to the hope that there are enough decent people around to ensure that all those bastards who devote their lives to being shitty to others don't ever win.


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Radio Ga Ga

The other day I was listening to a Scissor Sisters album, and heard the lyrics "There ain't no tits on the radio".
It occurred to me that the Scissor Sisters have obviously never heard Chris Evans on Radio 2, because if they had they'd know that there most certainly are tits on the radio.
Not that Chris is alone.
Turn on the radio at any time (especially the local stations pandering to a younger audience) and there's a good chance you'll be aurally assaulted by some overenthusiastic idiot who thinks the way to keep people listening is to shout a lot and talk bollocks between records that all sound the same.
I used to think BBC Radio 1 was the one station that adolecents with no taste could have to themselves, but the rot is rapidly spreading and I can't help but wonder if the days are numbered for radio as a form of entertainment. Mind you, they've been saying that since TV was invented.

I do still listen to the radio, but only in the car. Radio 4 on the way to work for a bit of news and current affairs, and Radio 2 on the way home because Steve Wright's show seems to have just the right blend of decent music, interesting guests and friendly banter.
But I never listen to it at home, and I suppose it's mostly because I don't bother to look to see if there's anything on worth listening to. It's a shame really because I could be missing out.
I sometimes hear a trailer for a programme that's on later in the week - Craig Charles does some really good shows but I always seem to forget when they're on.
I remember as a kid I'd go to bed at night and listen to whatever comedy show was on Radio 2 - something like 'The Grumbleweeds', or 'Hinge & Bracket' or whatever, but I don't even know if such programmes even exist any more.

I think there may be a number of reasons I lost interest in radio, such as the inexhaustible supply of inane shite that spills from the mouths of so many DJs, the severely limited playlists which mean you quickly begin to hate songs because you've heard them so many damn times, and if it's not a BBC station then you get bombarded with incredibly annoying adverts that seem to have been devised by someone with the IQ of a suspiciously crispy Kleenex.
You can try flipping around the stations but if you do, you'll just end up getting angry at all the crap on offer and just turn it off. Much like television really.
The popularity of streaming services like Spotify is no surprise when you consider the alternatives, but for my part although I'm happy to dance around the kitchen while making dinner with the ipod and bluetooth speaker on the go, or if I have the place to myself I'll slip a favourite CD into the hifi and indulge myself for a while, but most of the time I prefer to enjoy whatever quietness I can find.

A tit on the radio

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Easy as f**k

There are many words that have become overused, often in the wrong context, such as 'like' which is commonly used by the hard of thinking as a sort of filler in place of 'um or 'er' while they try to remember which word they intended to say next.
Another victim of this kind of misuse is the word 'literally' which has been noticeably on the rise over the past couple of years.

One word that has been in common usage for countless years is of course 'fuck'.
Perhaps its popularity is down to its versatility. It can be used to express so many things including frustration (Oh for fuck's sake), confusion (What the fuck?), defeat (Fuck it), hopelessness (I'm fucked), and many many more. Just Google uses of the word fuck and you'll find plenty of sites with lists of examples, but I suspect most readers will have an extensive repetoire of their own.

More recently however, it has come to my attention that there is a whole new use for fuck, and that is as a unit of measurement.
Now, while standard measurement units are related to a specific property like velocity (metres per second or kilometres per hour) or energy (calories, joules), fuck appears to be capable of being used as a measurement of anything at all.
Examples include speed (fast as fuck), temperature (hot as fuck), intelligence (dumb as fuck), and fighting ability (hard as fuck).
This makes fuck pretty much a universal unit, although its actual value is clearly very flexible as it only seems to occur in single units, with one exception. It appears that when used as a unit of caring, its default value is nil, as in 'zero fucks given'.

The opportunities this all provides for confusion are countless, so I suspect that for the purposes of more important things like designing aeroplanes and nuclear reactors, more traditional units of measurement may need to be adhered to.
On a day-to-day basis however, it's good news because it allows us to get out of having to be specific about anything ever again, while giving zero fucks about it.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Time for sausage

Just got back from the cinema having been to watch 'Sausage Party' at Vue in Cambridge.
Met up with the boy in the Grafton Centre, bought the tickets, and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a bacon double cheese XL meal from Burger King until it was time to go in.
The big surprise was the seats - enormous leather electric recliners - a far cry from the usual bum-numbing flip-up rubbish in the Cineworld we usually go to in Huntingdon.

Sausage Party is definitely not for those of delicate sensibilities. It's crass, vulgar, stupid and in-your-face outrageous, not to mention being full to bursting with peurile sexual innuendos.
I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed it even though the cast includes Seth Rogen who I find so obnoxious I firmly believe there's a whole new circle of hell waiting for him, and if I'm unfortunate enough to see him in a film a disturbing homicidal urge begins to rise within me.
Luckily Sausage Party is just an animated film so I didn't have to look at him.

The story (such as it is) is pretty pathetic, and some of the jokes are a bit close to the mark for comfort even for me, but provided you enjoyed things like 'South Park', 'Paul', and perhaps the 1975 film 'Jungle Burger', it's worth a look.
However, if you're part of any sort of minority and a bit thin-skinned about it, or if you're a bit of a prude, or object to a movie that possibly contains more fucks than any other, then it's probably best avoided.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Clubbed to death

Yesterday, the most exciting thing I did was to bake a fruit cake (Mary Berry's pound cake recipe with a couple of alterations to use up the glace cherries and chopped dates that had been hanging around the cupboad for an eternity), and I have to say it turned out fantastic.
The boy, on the other hand, had more adventurous plans.
As it was a friend's 18th birthday the other day, he and a bunch of others were going off clubbing in Cambridge last night. It wasn't the boy's first clubbing experience, and as it went well previously (rolling in at 4:30am) we weren't particularly worried.

Unfortunately things ended up going a wee bit Pete Tong, and having been left on his own apart from his friend's extremely inebriated sister after everyone else in the group had buggered off without warning, he ended up with a fifty quid cab fare to get them both home to their respective villages.
Sometimes he surprises us with his ability to deal with awkward situations, especially as he so often appears to have all the common sense of a used teabag, but when all around him is turning to shit he seems to be the one that keeps it all together, looking after those who are beyond looking after themselves.
Despite all this he's still enthused with the whole nightclub thing, and in this respect he's very different to me.

On a few occasions over a couple of years between the ages of around 18 to 20, I did try my hand at clubbing, but it really wasn't for me.
There were a couple of nights out with guys from work, which basically involved a couple of pints and a curry before heading off to Ronelle's nightclub above Lion Yard in Cambridge.
Once in the club it was impossible to communicate with anyone unless you were literally shouting right in their ear, the drinks were too expensive, and for someone as hopeless with the opposite sex as I was, even a meat market like a nightclub was impossible to pull in.

I also went to a couple of clubs in Sunderland while visiting with friends.
I admit one of them wasn't too bad, because the music was pretty good and it was at a volume that at least allowed you to talk to someone without making their ears bleed.
I got dancing with a rather attractive girl who seemed quite friendly until my half-drunk brain got the better of me and made an inadvisably blunt suggestion to her.
Surprisingly this did not result in me waking up in the local accident and emergency department - instead she said "Maybe later" before sidling off to dance with a bloke who apparently did not have sexual tourette's.

The last club I went to was in Newmarket with a girl I'd just started dating. I really thought I'd struck gold there - she was really hot and unbelievably she seemed into me, but as soon as it started to feel like things were going to move on to the next level she went cold and it abruptly ended leaving me confused. In hindsight it wouldn't have gone far anyway - when I heard her say to someone that whenever a guy bought her jewelery she'd look it up in the Argos catalogue to see how much he'd spent, I knew it wasn't a good omen. The last thing I wanted was a gold-digger, no matter how gorgeous she was.
I remember it being Easter and I'd bought the most enormous Easter egg for her. I put it in my bag, strapped it on to the back of my Yamaha TZR250 and shot off to take it to her. Halfway there a worrying sound came from the back of the bike and I pulled over. The bag had slipped sideways and been dragged into the back wheel.
The expensive Easter egg was now in kit form and in no fit state to give as a gift; a fitting metaphor for how the relationship would turn out just a couple of weeks later.
I gave her a box of chocolates instead, and ate the disassembled chocolate egg myself. Waste not want not. Anyway, I digress.....

I did give nightclubs a shot - desperately wanting to be an outgoing person, desperate to be part of a group and most of all, desperate to get laid.
But no matter what, I just couldn't do it. I hated the music being too loud to be able to talk to people, I didn't like being ripped off for watered-down drinks, my dancing was so embarrassing that no girl in their right mind would come near me, and even if they did I'd only have messed it up by either not knowing what to say or by saying something stupid. Such is the folly of youth.
Nightclubs are definitely not my thing, but if the boy gets enjoyment from getting just the right side of paralytic and babysitting his mates while having his head stoved in by 1.21 gigawatts of amplifiers, then that's up to him.

"Sorry love, my bike ate your present"



Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kryptonite for everyone

We all have our weaknesses. Junkies like a bit of smack, arseholes buy Audis, those who value style above all else are drawn to Bang & Olufsen stereos, and orange women with too much makeup and bleach-blonde hair need extra large wardrobes to house their collections of shoes and handbags.
Some of these weaknesses can have a profound effect on others, whereas others are more discreet and may not be obvious to anyone other than the person involved.

I'm certainly not without my vices, but leaving aside things like the pink and moist side of the internet and the countless hours spent playing 'Farming Simulator 15' on the Playstation, the really big one for me is alcohol.
Don't get me wrong, I don't drink to excess, but the urge is always there. I'm fortunate that I possess a great deal of self control because otherwise I'd be in a pretty bad way.
I just find great enjoyment in wine, whisky, rum, beer, port etc, and if it's in the house it'll be calling to me. The urge I really have to fight is when I get home from work, at which point the desire for a beer is huge, and when I'm cooking it only seems right to have a glass of wine on the go.
I like the taste, and I enjoy that slightly fluffy feeling that seems to knock the corners off the world, but I also know when to stop.
Even though I enjoy it and I manage to keep my consumption within sensible limits (nobody wants one of those big strawberry noses or to damage their liver) I still feel that alcohol has a grip on me.
A few years ago I went teetotal for about a year, and at the same time I also stopped drinking caffeine. During this time (after the caffeine withdrawal had abated) I felt better than I could have imagined. I was happier, I felt healthier, and the world seemed like a better place.
Eventually I caved in, although I don't remember why, and alcohol and (to a far lesser extent) caffeine found their way back into my life.

I regularly beat myself up about the drink, but somehow never quite make the break to quitting it.
I tell myself that a large glass of wine or a triple measure of rum a day, with a day or two a week without alcohol to give the liver a break isn't a problem but I know that if my self control were to weaken, there is the potential for things to go very pear-shaped.
At the moment there are three or four bottles of wine in the rack (including a bottle of Barolo and a nice Chablis) and there's a little bit of Captain Morgan spiced rum left, and it strikes me that what I need to do is finish up what's in stock and then quit completely.
It will be tough - I've done it before but this time I just need to stick with it. The only question is, can I find something more wholesome to fill the hole left by the alcohol?
One can but try.



Monday, 29 August 2016

Eat, sleep, repeat, bored.

When I was a wee kid, my parents took me to Linton zoo. It wasn't far to travel, it wasn't particularly expensive at the time, and as it turned out I enjoyed the experience.
On the strength of this I was taken again the following year. And the year after that. And the same again the next year and so on until I was old enough to rebel against doing the same shit over and over again.
At that time it was a similar story with camping holidays. Forget any notions of spending a few nights under canvas in the glory of the lake district - oh no. Due to a lack of funds and an even more catastrophic shortage of imagination, for several years we went camping at Landbeach Marina Park, which was a staggering seven miles away from home as the crow flies.
The first time I was too young to know any different and was quite happy to spend the days playing on the adventure playground, looking for fish in the shallows of the lakes (read: old gravel pits) watching the water skiers, and maybe having the odd game of Space Invaders in the clubhouse.
But of course once wasn't enough, and it ended up as the go-to destination every year, with the only exception being when the parents decided to go all Edmund Hillary and dragged me off to the deepest reaches of lesser-explored Comberton (four and a half miles from home) to spend the weekend in a field where the most exciting attraction was a very small toilet block.
Fortunately Landbeach Marina Park was sold off and the land used to build a commercial research development, which has saved countless children from the same experience that I endured.

I think we all do this to varying degrees. You do something, you enjoy it and therefore want to do it again to revisit the same good feelings.
This is not always a bad thing of course - sex somehow manages to avoid becoming boring enough to not want to do it any more - but for many other things the novelty wears off very quickly.
Sometimes it's not even things you enjoy. I can be terribly clumsy and frequently end up leaking red stuff, whether it's from a sharp piece of metal at work or removing the skin off the end of my thumb with a cheese grater like I did yesterday. This sort of thing happens with alarming regularity and the fact that I never liked doing it in the first place should encourage me to be more careful, but so far it hasn't happened. The repetitive nature of this issue generates not boredom, but frustration.

Today we went to the Fenman Classic bike show in Wimbotsham which I first attended a few years ago when I still had the Yamaha FZR1000. The second time was when I had the BMW F650, and I was riding the Bandit 1200 the last time I went.
This year was the first time I've been without owning a motorcycle, and although lots of people turn up by car it does take something away from the experience when you're not rocking up on two wheels - and to be honest, the Beemer isn't built for driving on a farmers field like that provided by the organisers to serve as a car park.
I've enjoyed the experience of being at this show in the past, but this time it wasn't long before I'd had enough and was ready to go. I daresay part of the problem is that my motorcycle involvement is now in the past and as much as I still appreciate bikes, this kind of thing just makes me reflect on the past rather than enjoy the present, so to be honest I doubt I'll go again.

For several years now we've taken our holidays in North Yorkshire which we both love. It's nice to go to that region with the incredible scenery of the Dales and Moors national parks, and the more familiar we've become with it, the more comfortable it feels. Yet even this is beginning to feel a little tiresome, making us feel that perhaps we should broaden our horizons. We've talked about getting passports and trying holidays abroad, but although the idea has enormous appeal, the prospect of having to deal with airports and countries where English is not the first language somehow feels overwhelmingly scary.
Perhaps Scotland should be next. Baby steps and all that....

To keep everything fresh and exciting would mean constantly trying new things and going to new places, which although fine for the more adventurous people of the world is rather more difficult when you're about as outgoing as a hermit with one foot nailed to the floor.
Being such a person means that doing things you've done before gives you a sense of comfort, and the prospect of doing something different or going somewhere new brings on at best a major case of butterflies in the stomach and at worst a blunt refusal to do it.
This is what makes me a creature of habit which means that I'm usually quite happy doing the same things because they're within my comfort zone, but eventually I find that the repetition has made me bored shitless and I have to face up to the anxiety associated with doing something different.
Once I've done that and enjoyed the new thing I'll keep doing it until it becomes mundane and the cycle repeats.
I know what I'm like but I can't help it.


Monday, 8 August 2016

I'm a bit bored now - think I'll invent the wasp


After a number of false starts, summer has finally dragged herself out of bed leaving just enough time to have a quick shower and throw on a small cotton dress and strappy sandals before autumn comes knocking at the door.
A lot of people love summer and as soon as the clouds clear and the mercury in the thermometer shoots upwards they're in their element, with exclamations of "Ooh, isn't it lovely?".
Me? I prefer to stay in the shade, taking advantage of any opportunity to bring my body temperature down even if it means hanging around the chilled food section in the supermarket, trying not to look suspicious.
I don't function too well when the temperature goes up, which is why my ideal foreign holiday would probably be in Norway, not Spain. The hotter it gets, the more useless I become, with a steady decline in physical and mental function as it sweeps beyond about 22 celsius, and by the time it gets to 30 I'm good for absolutely nothing beyond sitting in the fridge with the beer until it goes away.

The heat isn't the only unwanted thing that summer brings out with her in her little sequined clutch bag.
Tucked away behind the bright red lipstick and a spare lacy thong, she keeps all manner of bugs specifically designed to make our lives unpleasant.
Probably the most useless creature in this little menagerie of meanness is the wasp. The idea of al-fresco dining is an attractive one, but the reality is that any attempt to do it will be spoiled by the arrival of a squadron of wasps with the sole intent of hanging around everyone's heads and stinging for no reason other than the fact that they can.
Depeche Mode said "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour", and they were spot on. If indeed creation is real, then it would take a pretty twisted mind to come up with something as despicable as the wasp. Either that or wasps were one of the last things to be made and by that time the creator was so bored with making nice things like giraffes and meerkats that his frustrations came out in designs that expressed his grumpiness.

Like mosquitos. Last night I'd just switched off the light when my dog-ears picked up the distinctive whine of a patrolling mozzie in the room, so rather than spending the night being a three-course meal I put the light back on and went hunting - knowing I'd be unable to relax until the bitey little bastard was dead.
Summer provides us with an abundance of flies too, with one of the greatest annoyances being those tiny little fruit flies that aimlessly circle the light fitting for a while before committing suicide by drowning themselves in my glass of Italian merlot.
During the summer every sip demands a quick inspection to ensure the glass doesn't contain more protein than it's supposed to.

Then we have ants. During the winter their miniature armies remain below ground where they belong, but as soon as summer gets her party frock on they despatch themselves to every corner of their kingdom, and on the hottest days they send out the air force to conquer new territory. There are few things as disturbing around the home than the sudden appearance of a wave of flying ants, You squish what you can before making an emergency run to the shops to stock up on Raid because the can left in the cupboard from last year only contained enough product to mildly inconvenience three ants with asthma.
If ants were the size of dogs we would not be the dominant species on this planet.
They appear to have no purpose in this world beyond expanding their numbers and territory at the expense of everything around them, including other colonies.
Much like humans when you think about it.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Wisdom unhinged

Leaving aside the fact that much of humanity seems hell bent on causing as much chaos, death, destruction and tax evasion as possible before they die, I like to believe that there is sufficient good left in the world that it's not yet time to duct tape a plastic bag over my head.
Feeling better about the world can come from a greater understanding, acceptance of the many different types of people, or simply being able to have a bloody good laugh at the absurdity of it all.
We're taught that age brings wisdom, but that's clearly nonsense because most people continue to make mistakes their entire lives. Though you may learn through experience not to do something again, there's bound to be another opportunity to make an idiot of yourself just around the corner.
People try many sources in search of wisdom such as religious texts or the writings of the Dalai Lama who I personally have a lot of time for, but there are others who have the ability to put life's little mysteries into perspective, and as examples I've listed below a number of quotes from a couple of often overlooked sources - Terry Pratchett, and the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes'.
Hopefully some might put a smile on your face or give you something to think about.


Terry Pratchett quotes:



1. Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.

2. A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.

3. Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.

4. An education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.

5. Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.

6. Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

7. In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this.

8. Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.

9. The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

10. It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done.

11. Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.

12. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.

13. It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.

14. Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.

15. Inside every sane person there’s a madman struggling to get out.

16. The entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.

17. Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to.

18. The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

19. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

20. There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.


Calvin and Hobbes quotes:


1. A day can really slip by when you're deliberately avoiding what you're supposed to do.

2. There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse.

3. I'm killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.

4. Reality continues to ruin my life.

5. Life's a lot more fun when you aren't responsible for your actions.

6. Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

7. Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one.

8. So the secret to good self-esteem is to lower your expectations to the point where they’re already met?

9. God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.

10. In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.

11. I don’t know which is worse: that everyone has his price, or that the price is always so low.

12. Nothing spoils fun like finding out it builds character.