Sunday, May 29, 2005


No, this isn't a post about saying bollocks to green issues, because I wouldn't do that. Nor is it a post about environmentally friendly testicles, as amusing as that might turn out to be. This is a post about every one of us contributing in our own small way to make the world a better place.

Yesterday, I discovered Ecoballs. These are nifty little things that you stick in the washing machine instead of using nasty detergents. Of course, it's easy to think that one person changing their habits will make little difference to the earth, so why bother? But imagine the difference if all of us made this one little gesture; change has to start somewhere. Did I mention they'll also save you money? So, really no excuse then. Mine will be on order soon and I'll keep you posted.

Mahatma Ghandi famously said you must be the change you wish to see in the world. Well, I'm always a bit slow to get off my backside and do stuff, but this will be a start. Who knows where I'll end up. I always did fancy a composting bin.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Where's the health warning?

You know that feeling when you're so tired you can hardly keep your eyes open, yet you still can't stop surfing?

I think if I sit here any longer my puffy eyes will disown me and my aching right wrist will go on strike. It's not like I'm even doing anything. How long before ISPs come with a health warning?

Warning: Excessive internet use can make you incapable of doing things that actually require effort. Remember to take a break every thirty minutes to remind your brain that it's still alive. 'The Internet' takes no responsibility for any sleepiness, irritability or sloth that may arise from the use of its services. Please take responsibility for your own laziness and don't sue us.

Yes, I think it's time to turn off the computer and do something less boring instead. Like sleep.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Macs, NewsFire, and simplicity

Macs are the best things in the world ever. Don't run away screaming now; a quick glance around will show you that this isn't the sort of topic I usually write about. Technophobes may want to look away, but those seeking enlightenment should stay and share in my joy.

I love my Mac. But last night I had a moment of sheer revelatory bliss that may never be acheived again in my life time. It all started when I was trying out some new rss readers. All the technophobes gone now? OK, I'll continue...

I was trying out new readers because the software I was using couldn't read atom feeds, and that was annoying. I felt like I was missing out on all the gems of wisdom being generated by other Blogger users (those who haven't discovered Feedburner, anyway). So I downloaded a new one, thought it looked pretty good, and started the process of transfering my favourite feeds. I did this by going into the feed details, copying the url of the feed and then pasting it into the url field in the add subscription window of my new reader.

However, when I'd finished the process I discovered a fatal flaw in the new software. It's icon in my dock didn't display the number of new items waiting for me. Grrrrrrr. So I found another piece of software and started the process again. Then, as I was in the middle of the second round of cutting and pasting, I thought to myself, Wouldn't it be cool if I could just drag each feed's title from the feed list in this reader and drop it into the list of feeds in the other one? So I tried it.

And it worked.

I've heard it said so many times about Macs and I'm going to say it now myself: they just work! Years of PC use clearly led me to overlook the most simple and intuitive way of doing things. I'm still astounded that it could be so simple. So astounded that I was inspired to write this post and share my experience with the world.

To top it off, I also discovered NewsFire. Everything about it from its functionality to its icon just oozes brilliance. It's fantastic, I'm even tempted to say perfect.

It's also only for Macs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Judge me by what I say

Someone recently told me that they'd taken a dislike to a person they didn't know because "she didn't look like she sounded on the phone." This seemed absurd to me, because surely you can tell more about a person by having a conversation with them than you can just by looking. A rational person, I thought, would realise in that situation that any snap judgements they had been tempted to make on the basis of the person's appearance were in fact erroneous, because they already knew something more real about that person from talking to them. You would hope this would then transfer into a realisation that any similar judgements they might make about people in the future could also be wrong.

Then it dawned on me. How she "sounded on the phone" was a reference to her accent and manner of speaking, not what she actually had to say.

Think of all the interesting people you'll never get to know (or vice versa, I suppose, be disappointed in) if you go around making judgements about them on the basis of the colour of their hair, their taste in clothes or what sort of accent they have.

A teacher at school once told us a true and telling story about someone he knew. Said respectable person, another teacher if I recall, was out shopping in busy city centre when he saw a sight that appalled him. Across the street, a punk, complete with brightly coloured mohican and black leather jacket (I can only assume this was sometime in the 1980s) was kicking and stamping on a little old lady who was lying on the ground. Naturally, being a good, upstanding citizen, he ran over to rescue the poor woman from the viscious beating she was receiving at the hands of the leather clad thug. Imagine his shock when he discovered that the old lady was on fire and the scary looking punk was doing what any good and decent person would do. He was trying to help her.

Judge people by their actions and their opinions, not by the style of their clothes.

The train of thought that led to this post was started, believe it or not, by this site. Basically, you have to look at pictures of two cats side by side and click on which you think is the cutest. After clicking, you can see what percentage of people agreed with you. There are also links to see which are the "winningest" kittens and which unfortunates are the "losingest". It it incredibly addictive, if I tell the truth. But as I was I was clicking merrily away, a nagging voice was telling me that if this was about people - and I know there are such sites - I'd be disgusted and start ranting about not judging others by their appearance. So I had the rant anyway.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Stealing time

Procrastination is the thief of time. Many people have said this before, and they have spoken the truth. He just sneaks in there and takes away hours, nay days, of your life without asking and without apology.

What does procrastination do with all this time? Perhaps he's a chronological Robin Hood, taking hours from those who have too much and giving them to those with deadlines to meet. The next time you manage to complete something that there's no way in the world you thought you could get finished on time, ask yourself if there's any way procrastination could have snuck in through the back door and left you someone else's extra time. In particular, if you think you have anonymously received any of my time, please let me know. That'll be procrastination getting his sums mixed up. I think he's left me with less then my fair share.

What do you mean, he's been stealing your time too? Is that true for everybody? Come on, hands up.

Hmmm, it appears I may have overestimated the intentions of our little friend. He's clearly just taking from everyone and keeping it all for himself. Even now, the last two hours have just disappeared. I must go and look for them; perhaps he just hid them under the bed.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Worst day of the week

The worst day of the week is Tuesday. Every other day of the week has something going for it, while Tuesday languishes in nothingness.

Wednesday is halfway through the week, so we feel some kind of symbolic acheivement when we reach that far. The last hours of Wednesday also have the added benefit of being nearly Thursday.

Thursday is a good day by association, because it sits right next to Friday. Friday's glory ebbs over backwards into it. When it gets to Thursday, we can start asking work colleagues about their plans for the weekend.

Friday is the last day of the working week. Do you need any more explanation than that? In fact, I've heard it said that Friday isn't a real working day at all, but that attitude won't get you anywhere. Except a three day weekend.

Saturday is the best day of the week, because it's neither a work day nor the day preceding a work day. Saturday also comes bearing football matches, for which we must ever thank it.

Sunday suffers a bit from being before Monday, but I can forgive it that for still being a day off.

Then Monday, the first day of a brand new week. The day that you arrive at work in bright optimism because nothing has had chance to go wrong yet.

And Tuesday? On Tuesday there's still more of the week in front than behind you. The weekend is still three days away, and a new week is nearly a week away. Tuesday may be next to Monday, but these things don't work in both directions. The worst day of the week.

Right now, it's nearly Friday. I don't think I need to explain why I'm smiling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Piano man

Found wandering around Kent in wet clothes over a month ago, traumatised and seemingly mute, yet able to play beautiful music. You've probably heard about the "Piano Man" and his mysterious and silent arrival from nowhere.

Me and Piano Man have a lot in common. He plays the piano very well, I play it very badly. He has blonde hair, I have almost blonde hair. He doesn't speak, I work in a library where no one's allowed to speak. He wears a suit, I own a suit. We're practically twins. Not identical, obviously - he's much taller than me.

Despite my obvious affinity with the man, I'm afraid I haven't been able to acheive a telepathic connection to ask him who he is. Actually, I haven't tried, but since I've never displayed telepathic tendencies before, I'm assuming a no. Let's hope more conventional methods reveal his identity soon, so that the film of his story can have a happy ending. It's going to be called Piano man - you saw that here first.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Too much to learn, too little space

Is there a limit to what we can learn? I'm not talking about the level of complexity of the information, but the amount. Will I reach a point in my life where my brain is full? Will learning new things mean forgetting others?

I think my train of thought here can be more adequately articulated by the master of wondering, Homer Simpson:

Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?

If Homer's theory is correct, when my new found enthusiasm for learning French takes off, I'm going to start forgetting English. I'll start saying fromage and forget that I used to call the yellow stuff cheese. When I get down to learning some Latin, my brain be so cram-jammed full that I start forgetting the French words I just learnt.

Then who knows what will happen when I finally get around to refreshing my biblical Greek and Hebrew. I may be reduced to a gibbering wreck who can only compose sentences in fragments of several languages, most of which no one speaks any more.

Ego pense that estin time aller el bed.

Friday, May 13, 2005

08700130624 again

Would you believe it, it seems people are actually reading my blog. The very fact that you're reading this now confirms it. Unless you're me, in which case stop procrastinating and get back to work.

So, am I dazzling people with my witty charm? Are you here because you want to be wowed by my amazing writing skills and entertained by my amusing descriptions of the quirks of the world?

Maybe you are. But if you are, then you're one of the few people who is here to be entertained. All the others are here to share in my loathing of the telephone number 08700130624, a number I had a little rant about on here a few weeks ago.

Considering so many people seem to be having the same problem as I did, I think it's time for an update to the story.

After writing that post, the phone rang again for the fourth time that evening. This time, I answered it. It was Sky TV, who had called me several times before to try and persuade me to subscribe to their services. Once more I told them I'm really not interested, thank you. Suprisingly, the salesperson didn't stay on the line to try and convince me, but politely said goodbye and put the phone down.

Still dazed from this unexpected revelation that not all sales people are impossible to say no to, I dialled 1471 and guess what? 08700130624. Of course. Now, whether this is really Sky's number or some bizarre shared telesales number thing (however that might work), I don't know. In any case Sky have certainly gone down in my estimation, which given the extortionate price of their subscriptions wasn't very high in the first place.

Feeling weary and frustrated at my disturbed evening, I sat at my computer again and hoped the tinternet could help me. At the back of my mind I knew there was some kind of service that I could sign up for that was meant to stop me getting these calls, so I did a bit of googling and found the Telephone Preference Service. Signed up straightaway and... worked! After a few days the calls stopped. Instead of one or two per evening (not all from Sky, by any means), I've had one in the last three weeks, and that was only one of those automated recordings that you can hang up on without feeling bad. Peace once again.

At least one thing came out of the whole saga, and that was that I managed to write a post that brought people to my blog. Now, if only they'd start leaving comments, because it's good to talk ;-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I admit it, I'm hooked.

The Da Vinci code is positively, irrefutably, completely deliciously unputtadownable. The prose bumbles along happily, with dialogue so contrived that you'd think you'd want to scream at the pages, but you don't. You want to keep turning the pages, because the plot is so magestically intruiging that you know you won't be able to sleep for wondering. Every chapter ends leaving you wanting to know what's next.

Yesterday, a young librarian was reported missing having been last seen with a copy of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci code clutched to her chest. Police fear the book may have swallowed her, and hope she will be freed from its hollow belly in a couple of days.

Seriously, you're lucky I even got as far as the computer to compose this post. I can still see the book out of the corner of my eye...

Composing this post has forced upon me the realisation that the world is in need of a campaign to get unputtadownable in the Oxford English Dictionary. Well, any dictionary will do really, as long as it's a real one. You know, with pages. Commonly found in libraries and on my bookshelf.

Unputdownable may already be in the dictionary, but as I was writing the first paragraph above it was unputtadownable that tripped of the ends of my fingers and on to the screen without hesitation; unputdownable just feels contrived. Bland and rhythmless. Unputtadownable is as it should be, without a doubt. It doesn't have quite the same ring to it as bouncebackability, but it's getting there.

All it needs is for people to start using it. What is a dictionary but a record of how language is used? If you use it, they will come... or something.

Use it. Please? Let's be rid of the boring unputdownable forever. I just can't cope knowing there are people out there using a five syllable word when six is so much better.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Da Vinci mode

So, I've finally sucumbed. Sitting at the foot of my bed, waiting expectantly for me to open its pages and be consumed by its brilliance, is my mother's charity shop bought copy of The Da Vinci code.

My expectations are that I will be gripped by the intricacies of mystery at once, yet at the same time be laughingly horrified by the factual inaccuracies and giddy with hilarity at the awkward, muddy prose. I imagine I will be left with the notion that, when it comes to creating a best seller, over the top plot is more important than literary skill.

I'm hoping my expectations are wrong. Except for the being gripped bit, because that's always good.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Skinny wrists

The worst thing in the world has happened. A tragedy so great that I'm still having trouble coming to terms with it. It's so terrible I'm not sure I believe it. What have I done to deserve this?

I've lost my white band.

One day it was there, decorating my wrist with its simple charm, spreading the message about ending global poverty and making me feel like a better person. The next day it was gone; my wrist was bare. It feels naked without it.

What is my wrist's purpose without its band? All it does is wear a watch and keep my hand attached to my arm. With its white band it had purpose. There's only one thing for it - I'll have to buy it another.

Do they do extra small sizes that won't fall off skinny arms like mine?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

You know you're a librarian when...

... you worry about punctuation
... you tell people to be quiet in bookshops
... you use acronyms more than you use real words
... you know what all the acronyms you use stand for
... people are amazed that you need two degrees to stamp books all day
... you read dictionaries for fun
... you know when you're breaking copyright law
... you've left your friends in the pub to go and look something up
... you can tell what someone is going to ask you by the look on their face
... 245 00 $a makes perfect sense
... you have dreams/nightmares about Dewey
... you know what the last digit of an isbn is for
... you pride yourself on not conforming to stereotypes
... you smiled at at least two of the above

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sod's law

Sometimes, things don't go right, and sometimes they don't go right in such a laughably ironic way that we pretend these events are governed by an imaginary law that we have no control over. This makes us feel better.

You've probably heard of Murphy's law. For anyone who hasn't, it's usually defined as the principle that anything that can go wrong will.

The most frequently cited example usually involves toast, but it works for bread of most descriptions. The law states that if you drop said toast on the floor, it will always fall butter side down, thus attracting a large covering of dust, colourful fluff, and cat hairs. Even if you don't have a cat.

Where I come from, we call it Sod's law. Who Sod is, I don't know, but he probably predated Murphy and then got quietly sidelined in most parts because people thought sod was a naughty word. SOD. Sod. Sod sod sod. Chunk of earth. Using a word that is often used as a swear word (see The best of British if you are of a non British English persuasion) is somehow appropriate, since the circumstances it prevails in often cause the protagonist to hurl a long stream of obscenities at the world in general.

Sod's law may be a fabrication, but in our imaginations it's real as a misplaced nail. It's also sadly misrepresented by the gentle anything that can go wrong will go wrong explanation.

It's not just that anything that can go wrong will. It's that the things that go wrong are the very things that you were hoping wouldn't. It's a cruel set of circumstances that seem so improbable as to cause exclamations of anguish and disbelief for weeks to come. It's that your toast landed butter side down when it was the last piece of edible food in the house and you were waiting until after you'd eaten it to clean the floor it landed on.

To give another example, it's not just that it rained today. It's that it rained today after three days of glorious sunshine. Three days of glorious sunshine that persuaded me to walk to work today without a coat. That's Sod's law.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chronological investigation

Is it only Tuesday? There must have been some mistake. Someone moved a couple of days from last week and is making me do them all over again. I won't stand for it, I won't.

I swear, I already did Tuesday! Who's in charge here? Because I want to make a complaint. What do you mean, not your department? This is the Department that Decides Everything, isn't it?

Don't worry, I'm skilled in the art of chronological investigation. Me and google'll find out who's responsible. Even if it takes all day.

Any information with regards to the theft of days from previous weeks and their subsequent abandonment in the middle of this and following weeks will be treated in strictest confidence.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

My white band

Handsome, isn't it? Now visit traidcraft and buy yourself one. Get one for all your friends. Your dog. Next door's rabbit. The tree outside your window.

Unless you don't want to make a difference, then don't bother.


Growing vegetables

My gardening exploits have today ventured into previously unchartered territory: vegetables. Tomatoes, chill peppers and plain old ordinary peppers to be precise. Hmmm, aren't they technically all fruit?

I think we need a new definition here, and I'm going to coin it. If it's sweet, it's fruit. Strawberries yes, tomatoes no. Apples yes, cucumbers no. An aside: strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the outside. I'm a mine of such gems, I swear.

As for my new plants, I think their chances of survival are quite good, all though time will tell. It seems to be house plants that I generally kill because I have to remember to water them. Having said that, with summer looming I imagine my outdoorsy veg will be needing a daily extra drop of the soft stuff too. They've received their dose by watering can today anyway, which is a good start. One day at a time.