Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Second Thing I'd Do With a Time Machine

The first thing I'd do with a time machine is, of course, obvious.

The second thing is this:

I'd skip forward in time and collect the next few months' worth of National Lottery* draw numbers, skip back to 'my' time and set about winning vast quantities of cash every week until people started to get suspicious. I would expect the media to start flinging accusations and making flagrant remarks and allegations about my private life after the third week**, and the authorities to get properly interested after around a month's worth of jackpot wins. Once the media had started to kick up a storm and the authorities come knocking, I'd simply disappear for a few months***.

I'd then play on the media's continuing interest and announce that I would prepare and announce a press conference in order to release my secret. I'd then disappear once more for a month or two, popping up only to announce a live, in-person press conference for a given date and time. Every English- speaking country in the world would be led to believe that the press conference was to be hosted by their capital city, and the date and time in question would be some weeks in the future to allow time for debate, argument, speculation and fisticuffs.

On the date and time in question I would arrive at every venue in question simultaneously and give the same pre-prepared speech outlining my 'system' for winning the lottery. The 'system' would, of course, be a complete lie, utterly useless to everybody, and immediately obvious as both. I would finish the conference, leave and move on to item number 3 on my List of Things to Do When I Get My Hands On A Time Machine.

* I refuse to call it 'Lotto'. Stupid name.
** This, of course, doesn't include the Daily Mail. They'd probably find a way of backdating their unfounded rumour-milling to a point before I'd even started winning.
*** Of your time, naturally. I'd just jump a few months into the future- for me it'd be no time at all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Freddie Day!

Today, as if any of you didn't know*, is the 19th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury from AIDS related bronchial pneumonia.

Given this, you might be wondering why I'm proclaiming 'happy' Freddie Day. Well, why not? Why not celebrate the life of a man who made a great contribution to popular music throughout the 70s and 80s and, arguably, beyond, rather than continuing to mourn his passing. He is one of those musicians, along with John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and others, who have achieved near-immortality as a result of their talent and extravagances whilst alive and the untimely manner of their death.

I wanted to write a longer post this year, but the Ofsted bomb has dropped this week, and I'm typing this whilst taking a break from feverish marking. Oh well, there's always next year, and that's a round number and therefore more important anyway. Here's Freddie telling it in his own words (and you can scroll down further if you just want the ROCK!):

And because I'm good to you, here's something that you may not have seen if you're not a hardcore Queen fan. It's a medley of tracks from their third studio album, Sheer Heart Attack. Forget your 'Greatest Hits' collections, this is raw Queen at their greatest (the only thing I'll say against it is that the tape-to-digital transition hasn't gone well: you'll realise that this feels a bit slow, and if you know Queen you'll be able to hear that they're singing a little deeper than usual...)

From later in their career and showing their lighter side, here's their version of Tutti Fruitti from 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium. Awesome.

* What do you mean you're not all as freakily obsessive as me?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Photography - Weddings and abstract

Two friends of mine, Steve and Rachel, got married this weekend. It was a lovely wedding- one of the nicest I've been to- dispensing entirely (as far as I could see) with the religious aspects often associated with such a union and focussing entirely on the relationship (past, present and future) of the happy couple. It was a charming and unique occasion (which is only fitting) and will, I am sure, be memorable to both the new Mr & Mrs and their guests.

But this post isn't about the wedding itself: I took my Nikon D60 along and took a few snaps that I'm pretty pleased with. I'm only including non-human subjects in the pictures below because I haven't asked the permission of any humans I've snapped, and they'll have better things to think about right now!

Anyway... on with the show:

I rearranged a few of the things on our table at the reception for this one, lit with the ambient light of the venue. The colour scheme for the wedding was a gorgeous vibrant erm... reddish colour. What? I'm not a Dulux paint chart.

This is the roof space at the wedding venue. I loved the angles, colour and texture of the wooden beams, and the positions of the lights caused some really nice shadows. Shame about the ceiling fan, though.


These are the newlyweds. Steve's likeness is disturbingly accurate.


This is a small display made up of the shiny silver plastic stars that often seem to turn up on the tables at wedding receptions. I took this using the D60's flash, which gave the image a washed-out, almost supernatural look that I kind of like.


Here's the same structure taken from different angles. The lighting source this time is my phone's LED flash light, wielded by my beautiful assistant, Nick. I should probably point out that Nick is also responsible for creating the mini palace-of-light in the first place.


And one more of our crystal castle. Well, I like it.

And then Abi did this.

Gone was our creation, so we went back to doing what you're supposed to do at wedding receptions: dance, drink, eat (boy, did we do a lot of eating), and take silly yet thematically linked photographs with the requisite disposable cameras dotted around the room. I may share one or two of those if they make their way into electronic form in the near future.

Oh yes: Emma made a snowman out of sparkly bits. I've upped the contrast on this one, and think it looks pretty nifty. That could just be me, though.

Looking back through this post it appears that the photos got progressively less sensible as the evening progressed. I wonder what could have caused that.

Answers on a postcard?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why do they put peanuts on a bar?

In more up-market pubs you often see bowls of peanuts placed at regular intervals along the bar. Many people wrongly assume that these are for eating.

Accompany me, for a moment, as I drift off to a Chinese restaurant: at the end of the meal (and often at different points during the meal) a bowl of warm, slightly lemony water is brought to the table. cue much joking along the lines of "this soup's really watery" etc. Some ignorant or uninitiated diners do actually assume that it's another course, an accompaniment to something already on the table, or a palate cleanser such as the role sorbet occupies in high western cuisine.

Exactly the same thing happens with peanuts on a pub's bar, although the mistake of actually eating them is one that is made far more often. If you do take up a handful of peanuts from the bowl in front of you and throw them into your mouth you are actually committing a gross social faux pas, and if you look carefully you will see other, in-the-know patrons laughing at you from behind their pint glasses.

So what are they actually for?
It is well known that people in pubs, particularly men, perform only a cursory handwash after spending a penny in the smallest room, and properly drying the hands after this is almost unthinkable. The peanuts on any bar are salted, and salt is an excellent absorber of water. Dipping the fingers into a bowl of peanuts and having a bit of a rummage allows the salt on the peanuts to absorb excess water, reducing the lubricating effect it has on fingers, decreasing the likelihood of glass slippage and therefore droppage and spillage.

But why are the peanuts necessary?
If this was the case, I hear you think, surely a bowl of salt would be all that was necessary? Why the peanuts?

There are a few of reasons why the bowls include peanuts:

  1. Aesthetic reasons: In much the same way that a bowl of pot pourri is much more attractive than a bowl with deodorant sprayed in it, a bowl of peanuts usually compliments a pub's bar in terms of colour and texture much better than a pillar of salt would, especially when damp.
  2. Cost & efficiency:
    1. The peanuts are coated with the salt, which allows the bowl to be more full whilst actually including a minimum of salt.
    2. Usage time: The salt absorbs water from the fingers, but can only hold so much. A salted peanut allows water to be absorbed by the salt and then passed through to the encased peanut, which stores the water and dries out the salt. Salt by itself would quickly become saturated and need replacing. Also, the shape of the peanuts means that there is a certain amount of airflow through the mixture at all times, which allows excess moisture to evaporate from the surface as well as being stored inside the peanut.
  3. Disposal: The salt sticks to the peanuts. When a given bowl of the salt/peanut mixture has reached the end of its operational life, it is much easier to dispose of and then replace. A bowl of wet salt is far more fiddly to deal with. Also, if a spillage is to occur, salt that is attached to peanuts is far easier to clean up than a bowl full of salt all over the carpet.

A final point
You may have heard the assertion that studies have revealed traces of an average of twenty-seven different people's urine in a bowl of bar peanuts. This gives a reason beyond simply avoiding a display of social ignorance as to why you shouldn't eat the peanuts from a bowl in a pub.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Social poll: Fireworks displays

It's Friday the fifth of November, and time for fireworks, frolicking and fun with friends and family.

Enough of that... Here's a poll for you: How do you take your fireworks? As always, comments are welcome from whichever point of view you choose! free polls
Where will you be watching fireworks this year?
At a private venue, with just friends and (or) family;  At a public event;  Both!  Neither.    

Actually, come to think of it, it'd be nice to know why you're letting off fireworks (if, of course, you are): for Guy Fawkes, or for Diwali, or another reason altogether?