Sunday, 21 September 2008

Garden Gourmet: WhyNotSmile Investigates

By now we all know that if something is happening in Belfast, WhyNotSmile will be there, with smiles on, so of course Garden Gourmet was no different, except that this time Mama Smile came too.

Garden Gourmet happens every year in Botanic Gardens, and is basically a food and flower show, jazzed up and with things for kids and that. Mama Smile had expressed an interest in going, and WhyNotSmile is always up for anything in this sort of vein, so off we set and of course left ridiculously early, because we always do (when we used to go on family outings, say on Easter Monday, we would go so early that we'd end up getting there before the car park opened, eating our packed lunch in the car for want of anything better to do, heading home as everyone else started to arrive, and being back in the house for elevenses). So we killed some time in Dunnes, which was nice, and then proceeded onwards in the wrong direction, meaning that by the time we actually got there the thing had already started (not that this mattered - there was no schedule or anything - I just mention it because it's unusual for us).

So we joined the queue and a debate ensued as to whether my mother is a Senior Citizen or not; it turned out that she's not (by Belfast City Council standards anyway), and she was so pleased that she was actually glad to hand over the extra pound that they charge the young.

Anyway, the event itself was marvellous - there was much world food, which could all be sampled; the stalls were nice (although a lot of them had been at the Green Show last week); there were many displays of giant carrots and so on; and there were also the results of a 'make animals out of vegetables' competition, my favourites being these:

There was a stall on recycling, at which we took the opportunity to interrogate the girl about what can and can't be put in recycling bins; they also had a smoothie maker which was hooked up to a bike, so you could make your own smoothie by choosing some fruit and then pedalling hard to smooth it all; you also got a free mug thing to put it in, which made us almost unfeasibly excited.

We muchly enjoyed the cookery demos, although when it came to trying the muscles neither of us was brave enough.

And finally, I picked up a leaflet on how to build a wormery, about which you will no doubt hear more presently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Yearbook Yourself

This is hilarious... see yourself as you would've looked in the past.

Mine are here. Oh how I laughed.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

An Apology, A Grand Day Out, and The Son of Spider-Horse

So, I know I promised that things would be hotting up here at WhyNotSmile now that I have broadband at home, but frankly I've spent far too much time playing this, a lot of time watching this, and more time than is strictly necessary trying to get to the top of the pack in Scramble ladder mode (eventually achieved). So, sorry about that.

Anyway, yesterday I took time out of this hectic schedule for two cultural events: the Lifestyle Green Show (Castle Espie), and Proms in the Park (City Hall). The Lifestyle Green show is a kind of eco-living show, which is held in Castle Espie and where you wander round and get energy saving advice, free apples, a look at FairTrade stuff and it's all generally very good fun. You also get to see the ducks, and you get a free energy saving light bulb and a shower timer. And you also get to park in a muddy field, which Fifi was not at all keen on. I signed up to be a ranger for Sustrans, which will no doubt crop up again in these pages. Anyway, the point is, it was all splendid, and thanks to my friend Philip for giving me a ticket for free admission.

And then in the evening we went off to Proms in the Park: this is the same basic principle as Opera in the Gardens, except that it wasn't raining. Having been mindful of the Opera in the Gardens drenching, we were well stocked with coats and gloves and so on, but in fact it was quite a warm evening, and all was well. We had a very nice picnic and enjoyed much excellent music.

So that was the Grand Day Out, and I would recommend something similar to all of you.

This was a useful end to a weekend which did not start auspiciously: long-term readers will recollect Spider Horse, who paid me a visit about this time last year, and lived in the bath for several days before being unceremoniously removed by Dave. It seems he (Spider Horse, not Dave) liked it, for he has clearly spread the word and his descendants have, well , descended.

Friday afternoon, I was about to do some dishes when I spotted the tangle of legs under the basin. After shrieking, whipping the basin out of the sink, and then retreating to the far end of the room, I decided not to panic. I sneaked back upon the sink, where Son of Spider Horse was now running freely. I doused him with a convenient bottle of water, but this was no lie-down-and-take-it spider, for this is Son of Spider Horse, and is made of sterner stuff. So I used the bottle to flush him into the plughole, and then turned the tap on. After a couple of minutes under the water, I was pretty sure he was dead, so I turned the tap of, thus allowing him to uncurl and crawl out of the plughole. So I turned the hot tap on (and our hot tap is HOT). Then he died. And I felt really bad. But not as bad as I felt a moment later when I realised I now had a dead spider in the sink.

Forward a couple of hours, and Dozavtra comes home. I confess about the dead spider in the sink, hoping she will volunteer to remove it; she does not. In fact, she says she's not touching it, and since I was stupid enough to kill it in there, I have to deal with it. So I decide to just leave it and let it decompose. Dozavtra is not a fan of this idea, and suggests it might start smelling bad. So I get the vacuum cleaner and try to vacuum it out of the sink, but it's too bad and too yucky and I end up screaming.

So I retreat, to consider alternative plans, muttering things about how unhelpful Dozavtra is being. I do not come up with any viable alternative plans, and Dozavtra continues to make threats. Eventually bed time comes, and I go in to say goodnight to the dead spider, because I feel bad about killing it. And it's not there.

Panic ensues, until Dozavtra confesses she chucked it in the bin a few hours ago, but decided not to let on, just to see what I would try next.

And this is what I have been doing since the last time I wrote; hopefully you now understand why it has taken me so long.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Science, And What It Might Do To Us all: Part Deux

So tomorrow is the day and we may or may not live to witness it: the Large Hadron Collider is being switched on (see my previous post on this for full background details) and by this time tomorrow we may all be livin' it up in the greatest black hole the world has seen since the Big Bang.

The LHC has split the world in two: those who believe it will blow the world up, and those who think it won't. No one on either side really has much of an idea why they're on the side they're on, but WhyNotSmile has laid her cards on the table and made plans for the weekend. The reason for this is that WhyNotSmile is less concerned with being right and more concerned with being demonstrably right, which is only possible if she confidently announces that we're all not going to die, and then we all don't. The only scenario in which this cunning plan could be foiled is if we do all get sucked into the black hole of doom and then discover that the Hindus had it right all along and WhyNotSmile has been reincarnated as a snail while the rest of you come back as, like, nice things.

The other reason for such a confident assertion is that if I thought I had 24 hours to live, I'd feel obliged to fill it with activity, and I can't be bothered (although I think I read that Martin Luther once said that if he had 24 hours to live, he'd plant a tree, so maybe I should sort out the garden).

The media, of course, has been making much discussion about the possible outcome of tomorrow's switch on, and some people are getting a bit concerned. I suppose that, on the face of it, trying to recreate the Big Bang is one of those things that sounds like a good idea until you actually think about the implications - it was, after all, an event of fairly impressive activity, and centering the reenactment on Switzerland (a land not known for much else happening) seems a little like recreating the Battle of Hastings in your living room - you invite a few mates round, stock up the fridge, get the camera ready, and settle back on the sofa to watch the action, at which point you get decapitated. It's a worthy project, but has potential to get a little out of hand.

There's also the fact that this entire thing is being overseen by physicists. Now, I have nothing against physicists; I've just been to enough physics conferences to wonder whether they have an air of authority that's not always entirely deserved. For instance, when I was doing my PhD I had a friend (who we'll call Fred, to protect his identity) who coined a concept which we referred to as the 'Fred Factor' (except we used his real name), defined as "the number (or numbers) by which you multiply your actual results in order to get the results you were supposed to get". Einstein himself was no stranger to this: see 'cosmological constant'.

And so I maintain that anything might happen tomorrow, but probably won't, and ask only that if it does all go pear-shaped and then we get reincarnated, that you don't step on any snails.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


Richard Dawkins makes me want to pray, the same as Homer Simpson makes me want to exercise - for fear that I, too, will end up like him, a whining pub bore with the prose style of an internet conspiracy theorist.

(Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Guardian)

Thursday, 4 September 2008


Well, I have thus far established that YouTube is mainly weird, and that the internet isn't all that much more exciting when speeded up and available more consistently. But I have discovered Skype, so if you have a Skype user name, please email it to me!

If you don't know my email address, then you don't know me well enough to Skype (I don't talk to strangers).

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Broadband has landed

Well, the Broadband stuff has arrived (right about the same time that Jayspero and kids turned up, so it was a little bit eclipsed), and been set up and activated, and WhyNotSmile now has free right to roam the internet.

This is very exciting, because I have only ever had dial up at home, and therefore free, speedy access was limited to the library (in 1 hour slots, which had to be made to look at least vaguely useful), and work (where, technically, I was meant to be working).

So, what does one do on the internet? I've never really explored YouTube, so that might be the first port of call. But what else is out there? All suggestions are welcome: it'll be like another holiday.

In any case, I have no anti-virus stuff yet (I have the disc, but I was too excited about getting online to wait for it to install), so I'll likely be wiped off the face of the planet before I get to do anything.

Anyway, I'm off to explore...