Friday 25 April 2008

The Big Announcement

So WhyNotSmile is about to be unemployed (although gainfully so, I hope) owing to my bosses deciding that they can't afford me any more (who can? - but that's the price of celebrity). So this is quite nice, since I didn't really like the job anyway, but on the other hand it did provide a convenient source of free internet access which was frequently abused in order to update the blog, and this will surely be missed.

Of course I will be looking for a new job some time (although not yet), and in case any future potential employers decide to track me down via Facebook and then The Blog, I didn't really abuse free internet access in work in order to update my blog; my company (bless them, lovely people) allowed me to use the internet, within reason, during lunch hours for my own personal purposes. But it's not comedy to say it like that, so I said I abused it. Not that I go around saying things just to be funny; I am, at heart, a genuine, honest and reliable employee, with good interpersonal and communication skills, a self-starter, who works well alone or as part of a team. Don't let the blog put you off.

Friday 18 April 2008

Windows Vista, part 3

I haven't said a lot about Windows Vista lately, and I just want to make sure that you don't all think that that means I've come round to it or anything. No, because my laptop has developed a new trick, which we'll call 'The Unexpected Update Process'.

What happens is this: I switch on the laptop, it all starts up etc., and then I maybe do a few things, update iTunes etc, and then settle down to watch a DVD. The DVD player takes up the full screen, so I can't see that behind the scenes it has conencted itself to the Internet and is downloading more Windows updates. No, the first I hear about it is when the screen goes black and then the laptop shuts down with a message saying 'Installing Windows updates...'. It spends a while doing this, and then reboots, and starts configuring said updates.

10 minutes later, and I'm free to start watching my DVD again.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Fields of green

So I have decided to go all organic, and to this end I have recently taken delivery of a range of seeds from an online organic place. I am also awaiting the arrival of an organic potato planter (the potatoes being organic, the planter not so much, presumably). This will enable me to become entirely self-sufficient in terms of potatoes, lettuces and a range of herbs, which I admit is a modest level of self-sufficiency, but at least it's a start.

If I'm honest though, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the seeds, now that they've arrived. A quick summary of what I've received/ordered:

1. A packet of cos lettuce seeds, suitable for growing in window boxes. These are not too complex; I just need to get some window boxes, plant some seeds in a seed tray, and then transfer them to the window boxes, preferably in stages, to extend the period of harvest.

2. A collection of herb seeds; 8 varieties in total. These are a little more complex. Incidentally, I already have a rosemary bush, so if anyone wants some rosemary seeds, you're welcome to them - let me know. But they came as a collection, so I had to take them. Anyway, these herb seeds have more complex needs, and I'm a bit confused by them all. Some get planted straight in the ground, others in seed trays, and so on. But I think I will make a chart or something, and organise myself that way. Hopefully it will all come good.

3. A collection of 'useful plant' seeds; 8 varieties in total. These are plants which attract butterflies and bees and so on. Now this is where it gets very complicated indeed, for some of these are to be planted now, and some in a month, and some as far away as September (for flowering next spring) by which stage my enthusiasm will likely have waned.

4. The aforementioned potato planter and seed potatoes. I think this is quite easy, but it does need a lot of compost.

5. Slug stuff. Organic slug stuff. I have my doubts about this, and have a feeling we'll end up with the little blue pellets that cost 1.99 in Wyse Byse and can treat an entire neighbourhood for months on end, but which are not at all organic and may kill any passing cats.

Obviously these things all come with instructions, but I'm never sure that they work exactly the same way in Belfast as they do, say, in Sussex or wherever they've come from, owing to the different climate and so on. I usually start off well, with seed trays and things, but then either (a) I go on holiday and the seedlings all die or (b) someone stands in the tray and everything flies all over the floor or (c) I plant everything out and the slugs eat it or (d) it all just dies inexplicably, so I'm not being too optimistic just yet.

I will of course let you know how this all works out.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Embarrassing Falling Over

Oh dear, how embarrassing. Last night I fell over a perfectly visible piece of wood in my garden, while just walking along. I would've gone head first through the patio doors, except that they were quite strong and I just sort of bounced off.

My escape back into the house was hindered by my slipper, which fell off and got left behind, so I had to go back to retrieve it.

Now my wrist hurts.

Monday 7 April 2008

A strange coincidence?

So we've just been informed that our (January) pay reviews have been done. No word on actual amounts yet, but we were told at the same time that an official complaints procedure has been drawn up for anyone who wants to take issue with them. Ominous.

Saturday 5 April 2008

I'm sorry, but I just can't not look

I have to admit that, as far as my attention is concerned, Richard Dawkins is in the same league as a massive train crash... you don't want to watch, because you know it's going to be a horrible mangled mess and you'll think of nothing else for days, but on the other hand you really do want to watch, out of sheer bloody-minded curiosity, and to see whether it's going to be as bad as you imagined, or actually somehow worse.

So I like to keep an eye (on behalf of us all) on what's going on over at the disturbingly absorbing, and this week it has thrown several treats in our direction.

We begin with a quote from Prof. Bright himself, featured on the front page:
"Leon Lederman, the physicist and Nobel laureate, once half-jokingly remarked that the real goal of physics was to come up with an equation that could explain the universe but still be small enough to fit on a T-shirt. In that spirit, Dawkins offered up his own T-shirt slogan for the ongoing evolution revolution:
Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators."

Aside from the way he curiously refers to himself in the third person, you have to say that the first thing that comes to mind is that Dawkins hasn't quite got a handle on how t-shirt slogans work, nor indeed of the requirements of the initial challenge.

Firstly, it says that the equation should be "small enough to fit on a t-shirt", and our freethinking friend has taken this a bit too literally. Yes, "Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators" fits on a t-shirt, but only in the sense that anything will fit if you write it small enough. You could squeeze the entire works of Shakespeare on, without going into the armpits, if you had a big enough t-shirt, small enough writing, and weren't too fussed about being able to read it at the end. But t-shirt slogans are supposed to be snappy and witty (my favourite: There are 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary, and those who don't), and this is neither, and should therefore be disqualified.

Secondly, it was supposed to be an equation. Any half-decent GCSE student will tell you that an equation has one essential component: the equals sign. Without this, it is simply not an equation. So, for example, "x=y+z" is an equation, but "octopus" is not. So, and I don't want to put too much of a dampener on things, Dawkins' suggestion again does not qualify.

Finally, it doesn't exactly "explain the universe". If I'm going to buy a t-shirt that explains the universe, I want to be able to see at a glance where antimatter comes into it, dammit. Call me nit-picking if you will, but I have questions and I want them answered.

Anyway, perhaps Dawkins' foray into the world of fashion has been disrupted by another little delight upon which my attention landed: this (bear with it, it takes a couple of minutes to get going). A brief explanation for those who can't access YouTube or who can't be bothered sitting through it: the clip shows Dawkins and Friends (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennet, a lady called Eugenie whose surname I've forgotten, Charles Darwin, and sundry others) performing a particularly splendid rap in honour of Dawkins, the King of the Atheists himself. The chorus is especially good:

Yeah he's the Dick to the Dawk to the PhD
He's smarter than you, he's got a science degree.
Dick to the Dawk to the PhD
He's smarter than you, he studies biology.

and has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it. There is an accompanying dance, but you'll have to watch it if you want that.

Now this little marvel has been brought to the attention of the good people on Dawkins' website, and they have been rather exercised in mind over it: is it by 'us' or 'them'? Is it for us or against us? Are we allowed to laugh or not? Does it advocate atheism, or is it secret creationist propaganda? Are creationists even clever enough to do something like this, and if so, should we be worried? Do the people who made it realise that Dawkins doesn't actually have a PhD? (and so onto a tangent - why does no one know the difference between a PhD and a DPhil these days, don't these people go to Oxford? - or are they letting any old riff-raff onto the web now?) And what does Dawkins himself think?

To this final question, we get an answer, for the Bright One descends to the site and leaves his thoughts behind him:

If anyone can understand a single word of this, don't bother to translate, just tell me whose side it's on. I get the feeling (same with South Park) that there are people out there who assume that something that is obviously MEANT to be funny therefore must BE funny, and they immediately shower it with accolades such as "Wow", "Hilarious", "Awesome" and, most side-splitting of all, "LOL".

Sorry, I seem to be showing my age. Enjoy yourselves LOLling away.


Thank you, Richard, we shall.

Friday 4 April 2008

Just some thoughts on the news, really

Surely the most disappointingly pointless news story of late has been the one about the "pregnant man".

You can feel the pain of the journalists who've been sent to cover this one - for of course, the man was, in fact, born female, and then had a sex-change op, which left his reproductive organs intact. So it's not actually all that impossible for him to have then got pregnant, and so the story sort of runs out of steam.

'Tis not even the first time this has happened - there was a similar case a few years back. So, other than that it looks a bit odd to see a bearded man with a very obviously pregnant tummy, it's not really that much of a shocker.

Without passing any moral or ethical comment on the situation, how disappointingly uninteresting. We shall spend no more time upon it here.

However, there is a rather pleasing row going on in France, regarding The Fate of the Semicolon (Le Point-Virgule), and this is getting a bit closer to the sort of thing I read the news for. They're blaming the English, but of course, they would; specifically, because they (les Anglo-Saxons) like their sentences short and unpunctuated, but more generally, because... well, just, because, really....

Une homme by the name of Fran├žois Cavanna has launched a full-blown attack on the hapless semicolon, describing it, among other things, as "a timid, fainthearted, insipid thing". Would he have had the guts to say things like this, we wonder, if he were dealing with one of the more robust forms of punctation? The full stop, for instance, or (*shudder*) the exclamation mark. We may never know. Une autre homme, Philippe Djian, goes so far as to say that he hopes to go down in history as "the exterminating angel of the point-virgule", which is an unusual ambition, but probably more likely than him going down in history as the author of "37°2 le matin", thus far his only other potential contribution to life as we know it.

Thankfully the semicolon has its defenders, and I number myself among them. For apart from anything else, it allows us to make the crucial distinction between a cup of tea, toast and marmite and a cup of tea; toast; and marmite, which could turn out to be critical some day.