Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Students and traffic cones

Can students please start thinking of pranks that don't involve traffic cones? Really, it's the most unimaginative thing I've ever seen: Oh look, there's an orange cone in the river, isn't that funny?

The best student prank I saw was a few years ago and involved a litter bin standing proudly on top of a phone box. That showed some originality, not to mention ingenuity. I still haven't figured out how they managed it without a baby crane. Of course, the next night they were back stealing letters from shop signs (take the n, o and n out of Clinton and what have you got?) and putting traffic cones in unexpected places, but that's just dull compared to the surreal sight of a heavy bin perched on top of a BT shower stall.

So, here's my list of student pranks that have been done too many times before, by students everywhere (trust me, I was one once):

1. Removing traffic cones from their correct position and putting them somewhere daft
2. Melting plastic litter bins
3. Rearranging the letters in shop signs to spell something obscene (rearranging letters to spell something witty is still unoriginal but at least entertaining)
4. Turning sign posts to point in the wrong direction
5. Stealing body parts from the department of medicine and putting them in the post
6. Throwing tied up pairs of shoes over telephone wires

What do you mean, number five doesn't happen everywhere? Dear god, what sort of university did I go to?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Is Dewey dangerous?

At the risk of sounding like a dour stereotype licking her lips at the sight of a dictionary and breaking a thin smile when a lost book emerges from the depths of the dusty shelves, I'm going to tell you that it takes very little to get this librarian excited. I practically cried with happiness when I found 025.431: The Dewey blog.

If I carried a copy of Dewey around in my head, this would be where I would make a list of my favourite Dewey numbers. But I don't, so I won't. Except to tell you that I'm a fan of the 320s, 092 is my favourite standard subdivision and the 810s make my head hurt. Oddly, that last sentence strangely conjures up an image of me being hit over the noggin with volume two, but I'm pretty sure that's never happened... has it?

Librarians across the world are today being urged to be on their guard after a rogue copy of DDC leapt up from the desk and attacked a librarian in Oxford, England. While the librarian in question was not injured, she has no memory of the incident and has since displayed some unusual symptoms, including reciting long numbers in her sleep, spending weekends sorting tins of food into complex hierarchies (of which everything is a subdivision of baked beans), and the inability to write any number without a decimal place after the third digit.

The Library of Congress have insisted that this was a simple malfunction and is not an intentional design feature of DDC, and have requested that any other librarians who feel their Dewey may be trying to influence their every day thought processes should return their copy immediately. No faults have been reported with the online version, but an inside source was quoted this morning as saying, "It's just a matter of 115."

Monday, July 11, 2005

No hatred or bitterness

I struggled on Thursday to get my mangled thoughts onto this screen, to express what I was feeling, which was sadness tempered with fear. But not fear of what might happen to me, to my family, or to any other innocent people - you can't live your live being afraid of what might happen. I would go to London tomorrow and get on that tube.

What I fear most now is that people will use the bombs in London as an excuse to perpetuate the hatred, to lash out at those who don't deserve it, and to feed the furnace of anger in those who do. There is no uglier human trait than the desire for vengeance, and particulary the desire to fulfill that vengeance with bloodshed. Leave those black thoughts to the terrorists.

Uncle Steve's blog contains a list of quotes about the bombings. Most are compelling anecdotes from Londoners showing the world that life goes on, with the aid of copious amounts of tea. It's brilliant to see people reacting with this gentle, exasperated humour rather than resorting to hateful tirades and overzealous flag flying.

The quote that stands out most though, is more poignant. It was originally by Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed by the Nazis in the second world war. Before she died, knowing her fate, she said,

"Patriotism is not enough: I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone."

Put the kettle on, then.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I don't know what to say.

What can I say?

It makes me sad to know that there are people in the world so consumed by hate. Make sure it stops here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Who said the Olympics are about sport?

London wins the Olympics and already people are moaning. One of the most prestigious, awesome and downright inspirational spectacles we could ever hope to see, and they complain. Can we make moaning an Olympic sport?

There seem to be two main reasons the killjoys use to argue that London getting the Olympics is a bad thing. The first is that they don't like sport. This is a flawed argument on several fronts. To begin with, lots of people do like sport. I like sport. All the people jumping up and down on the telly seem to like sport.

Somebody told me today, "English people don't like sport." I think what he really meant is "I'm English and I don't like sport. The fella sitting next to me doesn't like sport either. Ergo all English people don't like sport." Any philsopher can tell you this is an invalid argument. I can too, but without the equations. (Apparently, the "Gaelics" do like sport. But we all know there's none of them in Britain...)

Personally, I don't like Harry Potter. I'm a librarian you know, so this must be a trait in all librarians. Only people of less worthy professions (archivists, for example) like wizards. I think I'll go to all the bookshops in Oxford (there are quite a few) and moan at them. Why on earth do they bother selling them to anyone when it's clear no librarians want to read them? It's not like they're inspiring children to read or anything. I think I might tell JK Rowling not to write any more. I know, let's ban Harry Potter!

OK, so no one actually suggested we should ban sport. Not yet anyway...

Besides, anybody who thinks the Olympics are just about sport is sadly misguided and, quite frankly, a little narrow minded. It's like Field of Dreams. Everybody knows that film isn't really about baseball, but about following your... well, dreams. The Olympics are about people as much as they are about sport. We may remember the winners, but we remember those who persevered bravely and lost with dignity even more. Who will ever forget Eric the Eel? And who thinks eel looks silly with a capital E? The Olympics are full of human drama (what is this? Oprah?) and emotion and brilliant people.

The second reason people seem to be negative about the Olympics is money. Yes, we all know it costs a lot of money to host the Olympics. Billions of pounds will be spent on building an Olympic villiage that can be turned into low cost housing afterwards, on constructing a fantastic stadium that will bring sports facilities to local communities, on building a focal point for one of the most deprived areas in Britain. So much money that will do nothing except make life better for a lot of people. What a waste of money.

Yes, we need to make sure that the plans are right, that the money spent does create facilities and buildings that will be put to use in the future. Negativity won't do that. Let's look forward and bring something good to a new generation. There's seven years to get it right.

Of course, the real issue we need to start thinking about is: will Britain compete in the football in 2012? Yes, and the selection of players will become a sporting minefield against the background of FIFA pressure to make it a permanent arrangement. No, and Britain loses its perfect record - hosted twice, competed twice, won twice.

I think we should avoid the controversy by entering a crap team. A random mix of Sunday leaguers from across the home nations, because friendship is more important than goals. Maybe they'll lose twenty nil with bravery and dignity in a blur of human drama, which is of course the same as winning.