Friday, June 30, 2006

Notice of intent to plagiarise

Last night I watched the season 2 finale (warning! Link contains motherlode of all spoilage) of the best misanthropy of the week, House. We pick up in the scene where the eponymous doc is nitpicking the way of the right and good with the dude who shot his wry patient-hatin' ass before the opening credits rolled.
Dude who shot House: I don't want to argue about semantics.
House: You anti-semantic bastard.
Fuck. Genius. Heads up, people. I am going to steal this line shamelessly at the very first philosophically relevant opportunity. So much the worse for any poor dolt who doesn't already worship at the House altar. Eat my bon mot-laced dust, purists with no TV!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why I wish I was Federer

In the interests of variety in my writing avoidance behaviours, I've been watching Wimbledon. Tennis is one of the greatest of all spectator sports, because it speaks to the Ur-desire of the gladiator-deprived spectator to watch great skill wedded to War, while simultaneously compensating for their sports-wise weaknesses. For many sports (say, cricket or curling) it is difficult to be captivated unless you have a pretty good idea what the hell is going on -- especially having any kind of clue about which team or player is particularly good or impressive. (Unless, of course, the source of your captivation is the very obscurity of the endeavour, and I confess that this is sometimes very captivating indeed. But let us bracket this particular kind of spectator fetish). In the first place, tennis is damn simple. And in the second, when watching Federer, you really don't need to understand anything much at all to enjoy the impressive and surpassing brilliance of his game. Wow! Fast! My goodness! Nimble! He hit that ball with his arm all the way out to here! Criminy! How many mph was that again? Etc.

I love watching the tennis.

Like most nerds, I was not a fan of competitive sports as a kid. I was intimidated by them and withering about those who played them, I waxed lyrical (quietly, to myself) about their arbitrary pointlessness. That's pretty rich, coming from a philosopher, but I didn't know about my future in professional arbitrary pointlessness back then. So maybe, in ye olde comparison with Worthy Persons Making a Real Contribution (eg doctors with Medecins San Frontieres, cancer research scientists, primary school teachers, you know the deal), I have something in common with Federer today. But in addition to earning more money (in the sense where "more" is stretched to the point where it ceases to mean anything particularly much) and being much fitter (ditto "much") and, well, being able to play tennis, the difference that strikes me between me and Federer, or frankly any tennis player with even a hint, the merest sniff of an ambition to play professionally, is their grip on themselves. They literally can't play until their understanding of their own disappointment, insecurity, motivation, drive, aggression, envy, ability, self-regard, frustration, anything that might tweak the 150mph serve one degree to the left where it ought to be on the right, exceeds the power of those things to ruin their chances of winning. Sportspersons may be the most self-aware people on the planet.

I suck at this stuff. Dealing with a certain disappointment for me might be the work of a couple of days of mooching around pouting and reading Cadfael mysteries in the bathtub. I can go entire weeks after talking to a particularly smart person, wondering if my overall smartness is enough to get me to wherever it is that I'm supposed to be going (alert! Side issue). On days when I'm feeling especially good about myself and my philosophical thinking, I have a tendency to go outside and look at flowers or browse bookshops and smile a lot, rather than actually doing any philosophy, which I end up having to do on days of abject self-hatred instead.

Tennis is thoughtfully organised to give you various periods of time to manage your thoughts. You have between points, between games, between sets. And I suppose you have the nano-second or two before you have to get the ball in the centre of your graphite racket head. You can watch the players yank their thoughts into line while matter-of-factly dabbing their sideburns with the commemorative Wimbeldon sweat-towel, just like realigning the strings in their rackets. Two minutes, tops. And then they wander back out there as though they didn't lose the first set to the unseeded player. They're trained to do this! Why aren't I trained to do this? Of course, part of the story is that philosophy is not conducted in nano-second intervals, so you don't have to learn to deal with your shit in world-record time. You can kind of spread it around into all the gaps. You can tell your work to talk to the hand while you (don't) deal. You can do that in this discipline and still do pretty well. In fact, I tend to think that academics are aiding and abetting one another by making sure that you can spend a lot of time (not) dealing with your shit and still get along OK, because academics are often self-selected in needing a lot of time for shit-wrangling themselves, so they'd better not make it a precondition of success that you can deal with your shit on a world-class timetable.

Another part of the story is that tennis players wouldn't be as good at it as they are if there wasn't a lot of money in professional tennis, enough that it supports an entire industry of people to teach them how to get a hold of themselves in the time in takes the dude on the other side of the net to toss the green felty sphere in the air before they smash it over. I don't do what I do because I want to make a lot of money, but it would be very interesting if philosophy were lucrative enough to make it worthwhile for professional coaches to get philosophers out of their heads. If you know what I mean.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rain dance

Yes! We have a rhythm! The crash cart was brought in and the laptop screen breathes again (I love this code blue-screen-of-death analogy, can you tell? Small pleasures, blogsters, small pleasures). A cause for celebration, n'est-ce pas? It would be, but I am suffering a profound explanatory anxiety. To wit: the damn thing was revived using precisely the same method as last time. I say precisely, and I mean that in the most unscientific and superstitious way possible.

I feel exactly like a member of those fictional ancient communities discussed by social evolution theorists and other nut-burgers (actually, I think traditionally speaking ancient communities don't have members, they have denizens. We'll go with that) who stumbles upon something really cool and useful, like say the production of crystal salt from seawater or fermentation or the use of penicillin moulds to treat ill denizens (I read a memoir of the West Country once which claimed that the local wise-woman-denizen used to keep a little bit of mouldy jam in the bottom of a jar and give it to sick kids. This is almost certainly apocryphal like this whole explanatory strategy anyway but it is still a good story). So anyway, naturally the story goes that the denizen has no specific idea about the causal relationships involved in the production of the cool outcome. I mean, she could make like Semmelweis and try to control the various factors to narrow down the instrumental ones, but that might be a pretty expensive epistemic exercise, especially if you can just remember everything you did last time and do it all again. Of course, you risk forgetting the one thing that actually did have an effect, and waste hours and hours stirring the water or waiting for the hummingbird you saw last time to buzz past again. But as long as you can remember the right part, and especially if you can develop a handy ritual for all the random parts, it's all good, right?

No way. I don't know how to handle the uncertainty. I lifted the screen bezel. I looked in there in a Laptop! Heal Thyself! kind of way. I kinda pressed a few things. I kinda blew on it a bit. I put the bezel back. And then it worked again. Was it even anything I did? Maybe it would have worked that particular boot-up anyway!

This would all be pretty minor but it provoked a mental cascade where now I'm wondering if I have a handle on the instrumental causal relations of anything in my life. I mean, maybe everything works because I sleep oriented north-south! Maybe I got the job because I licked that application pack envelope especially well that day! Causal angst, dude. I don't recommend it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fade to black

Well, fracking bloody frack. My motherfracking laptop screen just died again. I mean, at least you can see the Blue Screen of Death. It could have a footnote that read, but hey, dude! At least your cathode ray tube's still workin'! It does not help that I used my Jedi powers to heal it the last time, because my development is totally Empire Strikes Back and not at all Return of the Jedi. Unpredictable at best.

I'd be having a goddamn breakdown right about now, but fortunately I've already got one going on. That's what philosophers call overdetermined. Not that I can be one right now, because I can't see any of my own bitted-and-byted philosophizing to check if it's like, you know, insane or inconsistent or not yet up to the ever-loving mofo word limit. I need to start doing this shit the old fashioned way. Hand me a chisel.

Mental space

Recently, a friend of mine had to help a student who had an undiagnosed mental illness. Unsurprisingly, that was a pretty significant challenge for both her and the student, and I think they both handled it as damn well as you can handle it when the universe propels shit at you at high speed.

Later, my friend said to me, "Here's something I learned from that experience. Neither you nor I are mentally unstable." I knew what she meant. We worry about it, but being around people whose reality really is fragmenting between their own thoughts is a humbling and chastening experience, and you feel arrogant and self-absorbed for ever entertaining the thought that you were losing your mind. Because we both worry about that quite a lot. It's a special worry for me. It's THE worry. Forget Death or Abandonment. The dark, terrifying thing that observes me from the corner of the room at night is Going Insane.

I have the sort of overthinking, never-off, boredom-prone, many-tracked, volatile, highly invested, intense temperament that often generates speculation about whether or not I'm losing my mind. Reality has a sort of mosaic, technicolor, neural structure for me that is sometimes too bright, or suddenly the links seem thin and fragile, or the dark spaces between the gleaming arcs of Things threaten to swallow everything. I want reality to have a sort of tightly-packed, continuous, homogenous flavour about it, but instead it has a diffuse, vaguely webbish, extremely heterogenous splinteryness. I am going to fall into the open spaces or my thoughts will upset the balance of the weave of things and the threads will suddenly dissolve and derealise before my eyes.

My great friend H, who is a terrifying savant in these matters, always knows when I am doing this -- floating in reality with my arms and legs tucked closely against my body and my eyes scrunched shut, trying desperately not to touch anything, not to think anything, because I'm going to stab myself on a reality-splinter or break apart some crucial web between two reality-bits. She looks at me and says, "Put your feet down. There is ground there."

When she says this, I know why we are friends. That sense of groundlessness, of no contiguity, of nothing linear or stepwise, is exactly what frightens me. And she always reminds me that there is nothing to be afraid of. See? There's the ground. Step down.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday haiku

Photograph © Fraser S Simpson

Duckdiving blackbirds
dead daffodils tindery
Woodlouse for breakfast

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Thoughts on no thoughts

Yesterday, at a lovely picnic involving unpasteurised camembert and some very fine olive ciabiatta, my friend Dr T told me a brilliant joke:

Q: What's red and invisible?
A: No tomatoes.
I love this joke. It is a pretty decent distillation of the kind of thing I find funny -- a happy meeting of the absurd, a slighty giddy mismatch with everyday assumptions and a kind of ruthless internal logic. But it also struck me as a miniature story of Xtin's Everyday at the moment -- and best of all, a teeny-tiny story with a wee message of hope for Xtin! Good lord, a joke that doubles as an After School Special. But we all know how much I loves me a metaphor. Or three.

My favourite metaphorical thing about the No Tomato Joke is that it's a crack about nothing. Or more precisely, some not-things. Just for some laughs, indulge me in a philosophical sidebar that brings out this contrast nicely. Pop quiz: what's wrong with the following?

(1) Nothing is better than true happiness.
(2) A peanut butter sandwich is better than nothing.
Conclusion: A peanut butter sandwich is better than true happiness.
Heh. Good one. Anyway, the thing that's wrong here is the same thing that makes the No Tomato Joke work. My life is full of metaphorical not-tomatoes right now. It gives me a spark of glee to think that there is a glimmer of humour in it.

I've been struggling pretty vainly to get out from under the stifling weight of Having To Have Ideas. You know: Thoughts. The Big Ones. The Interesting Ones. The (erk, cringe) New Ones. Pardon my attack of Germanified nouns.

I mean, you know, just an idea or two for the fracking blog would be fine, dude! But the inside of my mind has smooth, uninterrupted edges like a dimple in granite worn smooth by ten thousand million raindrops; the echo in an amphitheatre with the atmosphere of loss that comes from a millenia of no audience. Only they're both too damn majestic. It's really more like wandering the aisles of a huge supermarket, each shelf lined with a capitalist cornucopia of comsumer goods, where each one varies from the one next to it only by the shape of the New And Improved! starburst-pattern.

As a matter of fact, I am mercifully over the stage in my dissertation where I need to have any new ideas. There is enough to thrash out the pages and sprinkle The Big Idea(s) judiciously among them. But the plastic-wrapped monotony of my mega-mart mind is depressing the living hell out of me. There isn't enough time to learn a billionth of a percent of all the things that I'd love to know about, and right now I can't even remember why any of it is interesting -- or how I might take it apart and put it back together so that I can make a different Lego spaceship. All I'm having are no-thoughts. Thoughts about the no-thoughts. Thoughts about how all the non-thoughty stuff later turns into some thoughtish stuff. No-thoughts that stand around the edges of the skating rink, tottering on their rented skates and taunting me with their excruciating inelegance.

But remember our After School Special? To hell with the bourgeoise limits of non-existence! If no-tomatoes can be red, then no-thoughts can be ... something. And, dear reader, do you want to know the best part of this story? I just tracked down this lovely Platonic ideal of a nice red tomato to grace the opening of this post. Because no-tomatoes are invisible, and Google Images doesn't handle that well.

But Blogger won't upload it.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Green eggs and spam

Spam is already the great comic motherlode of the modern age. Every day millions of women get told how their manhood can be rock hard. Something that the magical fairy Nigerian wrote long ago has been filtered and morphed and leetspeaked so many times that it verges on Beckettesque. Making jokes about spam is like watching those blooper shows which splice 450 home video clips into 22 minutes. You're thinking, yeah, but that kid smashing into the pool fence on his yellow plastic tractor wasn't as funny as the grandpa falling backwards off his lawnmower. That was funny.

However, I was actually moved to a snerk this morning. This particular bit of spam is the super hi-tech kind that uses (drum roll!) mail merge (gasp!) It strips out the part of the the email address before the "@" and uses it as the greeting. So check out the addressee on this little number:

Yo [name of my department]-phds!!!

A Genuine Univers1ty Degree 1n 4-6 weeks!

Have you ever thought that the only thing stopping you from a great job and better pay was a few letters behind you name?
All the time, dude. All the time.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Question hour

And, inspired by Tom Bozzo's Question hour over at the brilliant Marginal Utility, here begins a series of occasional posts on the search keywords that bring webpolloi to Xtinpore.

This week's Beautiful Insanity award goes to:

"pink spider" poetic analysis
basketmaker's related injuries
The first of these landed my post on the Swedish overachiever from hell. Genius. Bostrom is now codenamed Pink Spider.

The Sorry I Wasted Your Time, Dude consolation prize to:

mini-razor northwest
I'm sure Roger Thornhill would know exactly where you could get one of those.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Happy birthday EIIR

I'm watching the BBC1 live coverage of the service of thanksgiving for HRH the Queen's 80th birthday. Her actual birthday was on April 21, but the deal, set up before central heating and goretex cold weather gear, has always been that if the monarch's birthday falls in the winter the official knees-up is in the summer so that the subjects can get out and par-tay.

For a republican, I love the pageantry and sweetly enthused deference of these occasions far too much. Fortunately, like most academics I'm disturbingly gifted at managing internal conflicts. That also helps with compartmentalising the God Factor. The cathedral is beautiful, the choir raises the roof with gorgeousness surpassing understanding, and the Archbishop cuts an impressive figure and is an accomplished and intelligent speaker. I just hum over the one-true-god-wretched-sinner parts.

At the end of the service, there is the blessing.

Be of good courage.
Hold fast to that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Support the weak.
Help the afflicted.
Honor all people.

Well. Dare I say it? Amen.

Silver lining

Yesterday's problem (another feature of Displaced Importance syndrome as mentioned in my previous post) was that I couldn't get any pictures to post with Blogger. This is very annoying. I love pictures. They make me feel like I'm publishing in Vanity Fair or something. Plus, I get to mess around for hours with Google Image and Flickr and Wikimedia Commons and all those other fabulous online toys which are the digital equivalent of a huge pile of your mother's old magazines, a pair of scissors and a bottle of paste. Admittedly, nothing can really replace the bottle of paste, the touchstone of every childhood, but I've gotta keep my regressive tendencies in check. Or something.

In my efforts to fix this issue, among other things I thought I'd clear the cache, which I haven't thought to do in, oh, a couple of lifetimes. I actually had to go and make myself a cup of coffee while my poor little P4 chugged through the job.

Well, gee whiz, Batman. I pimped my browser! It's running like a hotrod with giant exhaust, flaming cannonball decals and red leather racing steering wheel!

Can I paste post some pictures now?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Filename incomplete

Browsing New Kid's blog today, I noticed she sported a lovely word counter in the sidebar. So now I have one too. Mine doesn't look as nice as New Kid's, because the border feathering doesn't work on my Doom-'n'-Gloom® black background. I find that disproportionately disappointing (in keeping with the law of nature which governs the fact that things like the formatting on your blog and the ordering of your cutlery in the kitchen drawer become Very Very Important during the writing of theses). This makes me wish I was more of a hacker. Or anything of a hacker, for that matter.

So in the interests of full disclosure, the number controlling the level of the mercury in my little temperature gauge there is pulled directly out of my ass. OK, so no PhD student is surprised. But the thing that got me was the idea that anyone would be able to make sense of the progress of their dissertation in this way. Are there really people who start at 0 words, and then by some process akin to the geological, reach N words? That sounds so soothing. I wish I were fossilising the dinosaur bones of my ideas in this way. As it happens, I have vastly more words written than the N required for submission. But in my world, that has almost nothing to do with the neat, linear, soothing incrementalness of the schematic in the sidebar.

My writing is much more like one of those little plastic hand-eye co-ordination games we used to have as kids -- the ones with some small steel ball-bearing type beasties inside and a corresponding set of little dimples that you had to get the little ball bearings to sit in. You'd tip and turn and nudge until all the ball-beasties were sitting in their allotted spots. Your nudging and tipping had to be juuuuust so, because otherwise you'd get one beastie in the dimple, and then in the process of getting the next one in, the first one would be knocked out of position. And so on and so on until you stuffed it under the car seat in frustration and played I Spy with your brother instead.

It's pretty clear when you're finished with one of those games. All the balls are in the spots. But the point of this analogy, roundabout though it is as always, is what you're going to say before you're done. Suppose your mother says to you from the driver's seat while you're messing with one of these things, 'Say, honey, how are you doing with that?' So far, you've got five beasties in the dimples, and there are seven left. Do you say, 'Great mum! Five down, seven to go!'?

Maybe you do, because it's a dumb question and you just want your mum to stop talking so you can concentrate on perfecting your nudges. But the truthful answer would be, 'That all depends.'

Two minutes from now, you might have no balls in the dimples.

But this doesn't mean that you don't have any ability to know how close you are to finishing. If you know you're very good at this game, then having five out of twelve is closer to being done than not, because you can make a reasonable assumption that your skill will prevent you from going back to square one before you get finished. But you know that there are some random factors you have no control over, you know that your skills aren't perfect, and you also know (this one's the real kicker) that your assessment of your skills probably isn't perfect either. So there's lot of noise into your judgement about how damn close you are to finished.

So you've got some vague, fuzzy-edged, unreliable information about how done you are. But to the nearest helpful approximation, there are only two states you can know you're in: not done, and done.

My word counts are just balls in dimples. Tomorrow they might be spinning pointlessly around the edges again, waiting for a nudge. Or flung out the car window. So don't ask me how close I am to done, because the answer is "That all depends".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tuesday haiku

Raindrops spot puddle
the news. Small round lenses on
A letter or three

Blinding flashes of the obvious jitsu

I am a form of ninja. My martial art is exploding minds by my otherworldy ability to state the obvious.

Me in the garden last week, picking a huge bunch of pink sweet peas from the explosion that has appeared in the British sunshine:

Xtin: [holding the sweet peas to her nose] MmmmMMMmmm. Hey! They smell like peas! Only kind of sweet!


Housemate Extraordinarie: [cocks eyebrow]
Xtin: Uh ... yeah, um. Of course.

Stay tuned for the story of Xtin deciding that a chocolate-coated coffee bean tasted amazingly like mocha.

The awesome ninja graphic copyright the genius minds of preshaa.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I've been thinking about some maligned emotions. Of course, emotions generally are pretty maligned -- particularly any real breadth of emotions. We're apparently supposed to exist in a constant state of moderate satisfaction or vague annoyance. No big emotions, please. Big emotions aren't emotions, they're overemotional. Kindly stop overreacting. Pardon me? I'm reacting too much? Heaven forfend.

Which brings us neatly to those famous sins. The one that's been exercising me lately is that gleaming, metallic-flavoured behemoth, Envy.

I keep hoping that over time, life will gradually wear away my various and spectacularly robust kinds of cluelessness. Progress is slow. My skull apparently supports sanctuaries where it will always lurk. A few years back, however, while wondering in that diffuse sort of way about the diffuse sort of malaise I was labouring under, I managed to uncover the interesting fact that I was bored out of my mind. Gadzooks! So simple! I rubbed my clammy palms together, cackled like a sugar-hopped fiend, donned my supervillain alterego duds and set about un-borifying my life.

Success has its perils.

I have tracked the interesting people down. I live in a world of wall-to-wall smart people. And I have some friends. Friends who've written prize-winning books, who've thought thoughts, who've, you know, Done Things. Some have money. Some are famous. Some have written works which are on the syllabus at this very university. Some understand things of which only two or three people in the world have any sort of grasp. Some are the sort of people who are so brilliant, so charismatic, such human works of art that even when they are standing around minding their own business eating a sandwich and looking at the clouds, they attract others like them, so that you know people who know people who run countries and sell the movie rights and hang on the walls of the Tate and inform governments and are members of secret societies and good god knows what else. Some of these people are the same people. And they're such people. There are some assholes around here, and these people are not they, I assure you. They're so sweet, so warm and real and funny that seeing them is like discovering that out the back door of your house is a huge garden full of trees and flowers, bees and flashing-eyed wild creatures, that somehow you've never been able to get out into before.

Sometimes I'm so envious I can feel the oxygen in my lungs prickle up and turn to microscopic snowflakes of desire. I want what they have! The effortless brilliance, the casual irony of complete mastery, the mild-eyed matter-of-factness about the mosaic of genius and general stratospheria that has become the wallpaper of their world. I drink tea and coffee and talk about something-or-other and breathe gently through my frosted lungs and long to make the air hum as they do.

Deadly sin! If strength of feeling goes for anything, I should be eating my heart out over this. But I don't believe it for a second. My envy is big, but with little fangs. The kind that chew slippers or maybe old tennis balls in the garden. It bites fast, and holds on tight, but it doesn't want to tear out your jugular. OK, once in a very long while it wants to tear out your jugular.

Maybe if I was feeling happy-clappy I'd say that all this is just a kind of generous admiration for the wonderful and accomplished starlets I know and adore. But that would be a crock of shit, it really would. I want want want. I don't want to take it from them, but I still want it. Oh, how I want it. And how frightened I am that somehow the garden gate will be closed and I won't be allowed in any more!

But still. It's the last and sincerest word in flattery. Not that any of them will know that, because in the first place my snowflake-lungs are a secret. And in the second, even if they read this they'd never suppose that it was about themselves.

They're way too bloody unassuming. Bastards. Anyone would think they have insecurities and envy of their very own.

Childhood hero

This, dear readers, in case anyone needs a primer, is Linus van Pelt, friend to Charlie Brown and Peanuts' resident philosopher.

My childhood home contained a complete and warmly dogeared collection of the paperbacked Peanuts anthologies from the 60s, accumulated by my mother, and Peanuts was an inextricable component of the vernacular of our family. Our language and humour was larded with references to it. There is an immortal photograph of my father in the early 70s, perched naked in a tree with his knees against his chest and his eyebrows beetling fabulously. Sometimes I worry that an anthropologist of the future will find this photograph and have no idea what he is doing up there, and there will be no-one to tell her. Naturally, he is doing an impression of Snoopy's impression of a vulture.

Linus has always been my favourite, and sometimes I wonder if my identification with him wasn't hopelessly foreordained. My mother knew she'd spawned a tiny Linus before I could even read, much less understand the comic genius of Miss Othmar and the eggshells.

Linus quotes DWMs, endures his parent's high expectations, wants to be outrageously happy when he grows up (or maybe a great philanthropist with someone else's money) yearns for love, and notes that sometimes it is easier to keep things in the language of the layman. He knows that he is never quite so stupid as when he's being smart. And in perhaps my mother's and my most favourite strip of all, his heart sarcastically bleeds for the Snicker Snack Company. Linus loves to think himself into a puddle, but he's never at all sure that he can think himself out of one. Linus, my hero.

As it happens, I wasn't thinking about Linus when I was inspecting the de rigueur chic baby section of one of the terminally tasteful homeware-vintage-beads-cards-and-Cath-Kidston type of store we have around here. It contained a selection of security blankets. Yes, indeed. Just like Linus. They were inspired. Soft and creamy coloured and with nubbly bits and fringy bits and creatures embroidered on them and really just exactly the sort of thing you'd want to wrap around your nose if you were feeling a little freaked by, oh, I don't know, life in general.

I played with them, nonchalantly not wrapping one around my nose. I cast around in my mind for likely infant suspects of my acquaintance, and came up blank. No zwanger homegirls, either. Curses! I wandered away and toyed disconsolately with silly coloured-glass candle holders and faux rustique herb pots. And then, criminally slow on the uptake for a lifelong Linus-lover, it comes to me like a snowball to the side of the head. I can have the blanket for myself.

Mock if you will. But this here Linus worshipper and stressed-out dissertation writer went to sleep twice as fast that night with her blanket wrapped tightly around her nose.

How to win friends and influence people

So after my recent petulant return to the blogosphere, I would that I throw some lightness into the mix. But after housemate extraordinaire H brought my attention to this tasty little piece of rank hatred, apparently I am sticking with the bile-spewing theme.

I'd very much like to be able to comment articulately, sanely, and in detail about exactly how offensive this craven piece of spin is, because I wouldn't want to lower myself to simply devising more and more creative ways of hoping that everyone responsible burns in hell. Because, don't you know, that isn't very mature. Not to mention perilously close to the conspicuously braindead self-righteousness of said persons.

Suffice to say that the part which overtaxed my relucantly suppressed hellfire impulses is the pearl of oxymoronic blithering act of assymetric warfare.

You mean, when one of you is wearing battle fatigues and an assortment of automatic weaponry and the other is wearing a hood, an orange prison jumpsuit and ankle restraints? Well, naturally the guy in the restraints counts as a combatant. This is war. But well, my goodness! How can he engage? Wait -- I have it! He kills himself! Genius.

You murderous bastards. I hope you all burn in hell.

Yeah, I know. But my self-restraint sucks right now.

[edit] What she said.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tuesday haiku

Wrinkled pillowcase
an escaping feather and
one or two loose thoughts

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How beastly

Well, I've been hiding under a rock. Even from my blog. But who could resist Antichristmas as a return to ersatz-public life? So. Piece of cultural information. The emergency services number in the UK is 999. Bet you never really thought about what the emergency service number would be somewhere else, did you? I thought not. Me neither. Culture shock is the combined impact of ten thousand things like this. Plus, I have the added bonus of being Australian, the culture for which British people have a complex and rich stereotype. So my culture shock is actually the tasty chocolate crust of British culture, plus the creamy centre of what British people think Australian culture is, neither of which bear any relationship to me. But I was going somewhere with the 999 thing before my raging expat issues distracted me.

Joke based on piece of cultural information:

Q: What do Australians dial in an emergency?
A: 666.

Uh-huh. Hilarious. You mean, you don't call Beelzebub when things go to hell?

So today, I got carded. Say what? Recall, dear reader, that the age of majority in this country as it applies to alcohol, purchase and consumption thereof, is eighteen. It had to have been at least conceivable, in the mind of the minion in the tasty Sainsbury's orange-fleece corporate wear, that I was seventeen years old. It is important to keep in mind, while I tell this story, that lately I have been feeling aged in the extreme. My eyebags are so big they cast their own shadows. My face holds up little placards which read "Gravity: Operating here for thirty-two years". So the right response to to the orange minion is surely, good heavens, how wonderful! How dewy, how fresh and carefree I must look today! I am not the crumpled kleenex of a human I thought I was!

Instead, I wanted to tear off her eyebrows with my teeth. Are you kidding me? I was making a newspaper cutting scrapbook project about the Challenger disaster before you were even born, sunshine! And now you won't let me have this cheap-ass bottle of New Zealand semillon blend which has too many damn food miles on it but I wasn't giving a rat's furry buttocks about that right now because I just want to get home so that I can keep trying to get this stupid degree, which by the way is my third? Fine! Go shove it up your multimillion dollar corporate conglomerate nickel-and-dimed ass!

If this is not evidence of the presence of the Beast, I don't know what is.