Saturday, 24 July 2010

Saturday's Site

Sometimes it's easy to get bored of the same old fonts on your computer. I mean, comic sans is okay for invites to a child's party, Book Antiqua is what it says on the tin, and Times New Roman should be left for, well, The Times. If you want to jazz up your letters, add some bling to your booklets, make your newsletters new, go to

Okay, that sounded like a really cheesy advert. Sort of like this one.

Just a small disclaimer. I haven't uploaded any fonts onto my computer as of yet. It's getting a bit old and doesn't even like to be turned on at the best of times, so I'm trying to do as little that will exacerbate it as possible. But the fonts do look really good, and, although I'm no huge typography expert (I do know the difference between a serif font and sans serif font, and about the interrobang), I can say I'm impressed by some of them.

In the last (and only other) Saturday's site I mentioned I finally got round to releasing the book and I did so on a park bench in quite a busy park. I watched it for a while before I had to leave; and it made me realise something: how unobservant people are. Quite a few people passed it, and one woman sat on the same bench as it, but failed to pick it up. Hopefully it got found before it rained that night, and not thrown away. I went there the next day and it was gone, so something has happened to it.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Factual Friday

Atacama DesertImage by Philip Morton via Flickr
With this weekend's weather set to be hot the Met Office has issued a health warning, as well as there being a housepipe ban in Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside. For advice on how to stay cool despite the high temperatures you can visit the NHS website.

In 2003 Europe found itself in the grips of a heatwave, killing over 30,000 people, nearly half of which were in France. Temperatures of over 40°C were recorded for more than seven days during July to August that summer. The UK was also affected, and record temperatures of 38.5°C were recorded in Kent.

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 57.7°C, and this was in Al'Aziziyah, Libya on 13 September 1922. This does not, however, make this the hottest place on Earth.

This title falls to Dallol, Ethiopia, which had an annual average of 34°C between 1960 and 1966.

The driest place on Earth is an area that have the somewhat unoriginal name of the Dry Valleys, in Antartica. This area has not seen rain for probably 5 million years. Second is the Atacama Desert, Chile (image above). If meat is left out in either of these places it is unlikely to rot. It will either freeze or dry out completely.

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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Saturday's Site

Back in the days where life was carefree and easy I use to write posts about random websites. This included Ian's Shoelace World and Land of Marbles. What fun was had. I've decided that I will recontinue this under the new name of Saturday's Site.

The first site is going to be This is a bit like GeoCaching meets the Hay-On-Wye festival. The premise is that you register a book on the website and then set it free to be found and enjoyed by someone else.

So I thought I'd give it a go. I registered The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, stuck a little notice inside the cover and all I've got to do is release it into the wild. I'll keep you updated on what happens. Why don't you give it a go and tell me what happens?

Friday, 2 July 2010

Factual Friday

This week's Factual Friday is dedicated to typography. This is because I have a bizarre obsession with the interrobang. The interrobang is a symbol that is a combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark and looks like this . If the name interrobang is not good enough for you (and who wouldn't it be good enough for‽ I mean, it sounds like something out of a comic strip), you can also call it a quesclamation mark. Despite its amazing names it hasn't gained popularity and the ?! is favoured. However, it was popular in the 1960s and it even found its way onto typewriter keyboards.

Another interesting, but more widely used, piece of punctuation is the asperand, also known as the at sign. The at sign, @, is not a recent phenonemon that appeared with the rise of the emails, as you would probably presume. It was used on keyboards as far back as the 1880s and the symbol was used for other purposes before that. An @ was found in a document from that land of Ikeas, Sweden in 1674 (image below). However, not even this is the first recorded usage.

In 1448, the @ symbol was being used in the Kingdom of Aragon.

In order to honour its rich and long history, I think that when giving out our emails we should say 'asperand' instead of 'at'. On that note, feel free to email me at bookwormsblog asperand gmail dot com.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Book #9: The Père-Lachaise Mystery

My ninth book done and dusted. And I'm only four books behind. Four? Four‽ If you're curious as to what that strange symbol is, it's a little used piece of typography known as the interrobang. I think I'll write a post about it. Yes, I'll get onto that.

The Père-Lachaise Mystery by Claude Izner is a murder mystery that follows a bookkeeper, Victor Legris, through the streets of nineteenth century Paris, trying to find the whereabouts of his former lover Odette de Valois. When I say we follow Victor Legris, that is not entirely true. And when I say through Paris, that's not entirely true either.

The story begins in Columbia, with a dying man being suspiciously buried in a remote village and then we sweep to the Père-Lachaise cemetry where a widow is visiting the tomb of her late husband. From here on in we explore the lives of the maid of Odette de Valois in her frantic response to the disappearance of her mistress; a strange old man; and Legris' employee at the book shop.

Throughout most of the novel you know more than Legris, yet obviously he still gets to the conclusion before you do, despite the fact that there is a very limited cast of suspects. As a matter of fact, you are never really presented with a bill of suspects like you do in other mysteries, such as by Agatha Christie. The distinction between who is a suspect and who is just an extra to place the novel in a dark, bleak Paris is never clear. I suppose that could be seen as a clever aspect of the novel, disarming the reader into not reaching the solution. I see it as annoying. I expect that is because I found the whole narrative style irriating. You spent too much time trying to work out who you were now following (Was it the nervous servant girl? Was it the guy with the dead cats?), and where abouts you were heading. They do provide a map at the front of the book, but that isn't really any help, I'd keep losing my page and then I'd not finish the book.

The book was quite feminine. Although it says it is by Claude Izner, it lies. It is infact by two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre and it shows. It gets a bit Mills and Boon in some places and Victor Legris is obviously their fantasy man. Korb and Lefèvre are also booksellers, just like Legris, and they present an idealistic idea of what it was to be one.

If you are into slushy romances and want to read a murder mystery this is probably for you. However, I'm not a slushy romance kind of guy. You can make as many aspersions about being insecure in my sexuality as you want, but it is not going to change the fact, I don't like romances.

There is a series of Victor Legris mysteries (I think this may be the second).

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is a very special day. It is Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday. Aung San Suu Kyi is the President-elect of Burma. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is an amazing woman and has inspired many. So surely she'll be celebrating her birthday in style. Well, no. She has spent 14 of the last years under house arrest, and this is where she will be spending her birthday. So it won't be much of a birthday.

However, you can do something for her. You can help her people beat the junta and establish the government they voted for twenty years ago. It is quite simple. All you have to do is buy a radio. The junta heavily censor the media,. however, they cannot control the airwaves. The Burmese people will have access to independent radio broadcasts and will help them beat the junta in the first election for twenty year. Click here to buy a radio.

Happy Birthday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Factual Friday

It is possible that on this day in 1178 five monks in Canterbury witnessed the formation of the Giordano Bruno lunar crater. They reported to their chronicler, Gervase, that they saw two horns of light coming from the shaded part of the moon. Theories suggest that when a meteorite hits the moon there would be plumes of molten rock, which may have been what the monks were describing. Also, the ray system (the bits blasted from the impact) is unfaded and the rim is still visible, suggesting it is quite recent. Well, less than 350 million years young. However, an impact of this size on the moon would have affects on Earth, but nothing of the sort was recorded in any civilisation at the time.

Earth has its own mysterious impact sites. One of these is found in Russia, and is known as the Tunguska event. It happened on 30th June, 1908 at thirteen minutes and thirty five seconds past midnight, Greenwich Mean Time. What is thought to have happened is that a meteorite or comet fragment exploded between 5-10km above the Earth's surface. The explosion felled about 80 million trees, over an area of 2150km². Although there is no crater, a lake may have been formed by a fragment of it.

These two events, although 730 years apart, may be linked. They both could have been caused by the Beta Taurid meteor shower that occurs during June and July each year. However, there's no point in trying to go out at night and observe them, because the meteors approach from the day time side so the sunlight renders them invisible.

However, if you want to see an astrological event the Comet McNaught is visible in the UK's sky at the moment. It will be at its brightest on June 22nd. Comet McNaught, or C/2009 R1 as about fifty comets are called 'Comet McNaught' (Mr McNaught keeps on finding the things), is not one that will be coming back, like Hale's Comet, so this is the only opportunity ever to see it. It's most likely to be spotted at dawn or dusk.

That is the end of another Factual Friday.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Never miss a post

If you're anything like me, which I hope you're not because then you have problems, you often forget to check who has posted a new post and find yourself spending every Saturday afternoon catching up on your favourite blogs.

So it is unlikely that this is your favourite blog, but if it is one that you want to keep up to date with I have a solution. I can make it so you get emailed every new post, complete with pictures and all, as soon as it is published.

To do that, I only need one thing: your email address. You can email that to me at or by clicking here. You can also use that address to email me blog related things or offer me lots of money as long as I give you all my banking security details. I'm pretty gullible, so it's likely to work.

With this new fangled emailything, it also opens up lots of possibilities. Like, you can be a guest reviewer and send me reviews of your favourite or recently read books. It means I get all the work for half the effort. It's a win-win situation.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Factual Friday

On this day in 1962, the most elaborate escape attempt from Alcatraz was made. Clarence and John Anglin; Frank Morris and Allen West began planning an elaborate escape by at least September 1961. Using ordinary objects they burrowed through the walls, finishing their escape route in May 1962. They constructed an inflatable raft from raincoats and made dummies out of papier-mâché, which they left in their beds during the attempt on July 11th, 1962. Allen West never took part in the actual escape because he didn't manage to remove the false wall he erected to hide the tunnel in time. By the time he had managed to the other three had taken the raft and gone. The whereabouts of the others are unknown, and they presumably drowned in San Francisco Bay. Therefore, it can still be maintained that there were no successful escapes from Alcatraz Island.

A more successful escape attempt was made by the famous womaniser, Casanova. He was housed in the famous jail adjacent to the Doge's Palace, Venice. Using a sharpened iron bar, he and a priest in the cell next door cut through the ceilings of their cells and made an escape over the roof.

Colditz was apparently 'escape-proof' but over three-hundred escape attempts were made, and over thirty managed to reach friendly territories.

This is only a small part of the long history of prison breaks. Wherever there are prisoners, there are also potential escapees.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Factual Friday

Welcome to another 'Factual-Friday-but-actually-in-the-early-hours-of-Saturday-morning' post. It's always a bit of a challenge to do a Factual Friday and to make it interesting, but a bit random.

Yesterday I went to Thorpe Park so today's topic is roller coasters.  Be prepared to go on a speeding, swerving, spinning journey of rollercoaster trivia.

Obviously, as a logophile, I'm going to first look at the name 'roller coaster', but, this time, not in English. The French and Spanish name for rollercoaster give a hint to the roots of this form of 'entertainment'. In French, they are called montagnes russes and Spanish, montañas rusas, which both mean 'Russian Mountain'. Russian Mountains were winter sled rides that were constructed out of special made hills of ice. This idea took of and went through various stages until the complete loop track was finally born.

A lot of people think that rollercoasters are unsafe. Although some studies have claimed that the more extreme rides may cause brain damage in rare cases, or trigger previously undetected heart conditions, death or serious injury by rollercoasters is unlikely. Only one in  about 90 million guests to theme parks die, and often it is due to the negligence of the guest (i.e. jumping from a moving vehicle, climbing onto a track or going in prehibited areas) or a previous medical condition. When about one in a thousand die whilst riding horse in the US every year, it sort of puts it in perspective.

Kingda Ka, despite it's rubbish name, holds the record for being the tallest and the fastest ride and having the biggest drop in the world. The longest rollercoaster is Steel Dragon 2000, which is 2479m long. It was the Ultimate, in Yorkshire (which I have ridden on), and it is the only UK rollercoaster to rank in the top ten of anything rollercoaster wise.

  1. Do you like rollercoasters?
  2. Which is you favourite/ least favourite rollercoaster?
  3. What topic should I cover in my next 'Factual Friday'?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Children's Books and Sell-out

Okay, I admit it. I'm a sell out. A dirty sell-out. Basically, when I write about books, or other things, I may or may not add a link to the product on Amazon. If you were to click that link and then buy the product, I may or may not get a small amount of money.

Please don't hate me for it. Basically, I see it as a way for me to share my literary gems with you, and for me to be rewarded for the time and effort I put into this blog. I am also hoping that it will encourage me to write more and write better.

Anyway, I'm going to return to writing about (or shamelessly promoting) books. I've been adding books to My LibraryThing list so they appear in the widget to your left. They have been mostly children's books and have given me that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. It was interesting to look back on what my reading habits were, and which authors have influenced my love of books and words.

The likes of Roald Dahl (whose name I still can't spell without checking), Enid Blyton and Michael Morpurgo crop up, but if you were to ask which author was my main influence I would have probably said J.K. Rowling. I read all her books avidly as a child (I think I read The Philosopher's Stone more than ten times).

But there is probably one author that has had an equal influence in my like of literature and books: Terry Deary. My brother and I were huge readers of the Horrible History books. Somewhat unsurprisingly, my favourite probably was Wicked Words. It goes through various aspects of the English language and its literature, from 'Chaucer's chicken' (the Nun's Priest's Tale) to 'Vile Verse'. In true Horrible History style it doesn't skimp on the rude, gross or obscure.
Quick Questions
  1. What was your favourite book as a child?
  2. Which author has had an influence over you?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dear Software...

Dear software,

You seem like a good idea at the time. You promise such things. A virus free computer. Being able to play tetris on the internet. Podcast streaming. Oh, how you wooed me.

But let's get one thing straight.

If you require another piece of software to run: I will uninstall you.
If you add any toolbars to my web browser: I will unistall you.
If you automatically open at start up and slow down my computer: I will uninstall you.
If you update without my permission and crash my computer: I will uninstall you.
If you take too long to download: I will uninstall you.
If you so much as have one ugly icon, I WILL UNINSTALL YOU.

Got that?

Yours cordially,


Monday, 31 May 2010

Book #8: Great Expectations

Now, there's a book. It took a long, long, long time to read. But it was worth it. Everyone of the four hundred and sixty odd pages contained fantastic descriptions of its people and places. You believed in the homely forge, the misty marshes, the decrepit Satis House and the dismal London. Pip, the main character, was earnest but flawed; Miss Havisham was awful and pitiful, and the change in Wemmick from when at work to when at home was always convincing.

However, somewhat troubling was the treatment of women in the novel. There is an array of women that are ghastly, abusive or just annoying. You have the cruel Miss Havisham; the sociopath, Estella; the abusive Mrs Joe Gargery; the annoying Mrs Pocket; the murderous Molly; and the various cousins of Miss Havisham who are only after her wealth. The only positive female characters are Biddy and Clara. Biddy is perhaps a little too good, and Clara only appears a few times in the book. Even the convicts are treated with a bit more respect.

Despite this, it is still a fantastic read. It sweeps through lots of themes (identity, love, revenge,
crime, money, class, etc.), but does so in a way that is never trite or hackneyed.

Favourite character: Mmm, either Miss Havisham as an enduring literary construction or Joe.
Most memberable moment: Miss Havisham's end
Best line: 'My sister, Mrs Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap.'

Saturday, 29 May 2010


There is one international institution that unites people across the globe like no other. No, not the UN, or NATO, or even the BBC. It is, of course, the Eurovision Song Contest. But you guessed that from the post's title and the big picture, didn't you? You dirty cheats.

One of the main influences of the contest this year seemed to be Lady Gaga. There were echoes of her tunes in a lot of songs, most notably the Romanian one. Do you notice how I can just quote one example to validate my sweeping comments? I'll just brush over that.

There was a strong sense of nationalism in and around the Balkan Peninsula. Serbia claims that Belgrade is synonymous with being the Balkans and Armenia-well Armenia. Anyone who sings about apricot stones deserves my vote. Just because they deserve it doesn't mean they're going to get it. Ukraine (and to an extent, Israel) went for a politicised song, challenging us to change our ways. That won't work. You have to sing about fairy tales and people being in love. It's the only way.

The word of the year seemed to be 'star'. As a logophile, I thought I'd drop that in there.

But the main lesson to be learnt is that only French people can get away with singing in English. Especially Germans. A German should never, ever, try and do a Cockney accent, no matter how much they love Lily Allen. Gov'nor.

Who was your favourite? Your least favourite? Any other comments?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Factual Friday

I've got 23 minutes in which to complete this Factual Friday. This is made more difficult by the fact that I have hurt my wrist (I suspect a fracture but my self-diagnoses are not always accurate).

And what to write about. Well, I was just watching Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and one of the guest stars was Jeff Goldblum. And, it has to be said, he inspired me. Yes, he is an inspiration of mine. So what shall I write about? Geeks? Dinosaurs? Fictional Detectives? No. Premature Obituries.

On 25th July, 2009 (the same day Michael Jackson did actually die), a rumour started that Goldblum had fallen off a cliff in New Zealand and found his untimely end. Well, seeing as 10 months later I was watching a recent interview of him with Mr Ross I can guess it was not true.

Lots of people have been the victim of premature obituries. In fact, Wikipedia has a whole article about them. The victims include George W. Bush, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Miley Cyrus, Ernest Hemmingway, as well as many, many others.

One of the most interesting, which Wikipedia dubs the Incident, is where draft obitaries came to light on the news channel's website. It was noticed on 16 April 2003 that tributes for the likes of Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul II and Ronald Regan (four of which have subsequently died) could be read on the development area of the website. Many of them had been based on the Queen Mother's obituary, which accounts for Dick Cheney being the UK's favourite grandmother and the Pope's love of horse racing.

So, in the world of media: be careful; or you'll be dead before you know it.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


This is getting dicey. Like really scary. My 26 books in a year seems to be running out of steam. I'm on my 8/9th book (I'm half-way through both Velvet Elvis and Great Expectations), when according to a quick Excel sheet I've just knocked up I should be on my 11th. My 11th.

Okay, perhaps I shouldn't panic too much. First, I read more books in the holiday than in term-time and it's nearly a holiday, so I should be okay. If I manage to finish both books this holiday and start another I'll only be two behind. Then there's the summer holidays, when I will obviously read hundreds of books. The stack of books in the picture below: that's nothing, squat, zilch compared to the amount I'm going to read.

I'm possibly going to drop into Oxfam books this afternoon and pick out a light book to read. It's not cheating, but seriously guys, I need a contrast from Great Expectations.

I've not been that good at my factual Friday. But no-one has been pestering me, so you only have yourself to blame.

On Tuesday it was Geek Pride Day. Unfortunately, I learnt this too late so I didn't celebrate it appropriately. You wait until next year, you just wait.

Friday, 21 May 2010

501 Must-Read Books

In a bizarre transaction of gifts and money I ended up in the possession of '501 Must-Read Books'. As usual with any of these lists, it's going to have some controversy. Here are my issues of contention:
  1. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. What? To the Lighthouse is barely penetrable, it is verbose and unrefined. Mrs Dalloway would be a far better example of Woolf's skill for narrative.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It doesn't even get a mention. I think that this is ridiculous. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone gets in (albeit in the children's stories section), and this one doesn't.
  3. Aphra Behn. I'm surprised that one of the first female professional authors, playwrights and poet is not mentioned in this list. Although I've not read Oroonoko, it probably deserves to be in there somewhere. Mind you, I might save that verdict until I've actually read it.
Okay, so that is my rant over.

If you're interested to see which books feature in the list visit here. Here is how I scored.
  1. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnet
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  4. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
  6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  7. Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
  8. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
  9. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  10. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  11. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
  12. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
  13. Charlotte's Webb, E.B. White
  14. The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan
  15. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (not all of it)
  16. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  17. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  18. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Frankenstein, Mary Shlley
  20. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  21. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
  22. The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery Kempe
  23. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
  24. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Noel Adams
  26. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  27. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
27. Not bad. I'd just like to say that often I have read other books by the authors featured in the list (e.g. Dickens, Austen, Lessing, Christie)

Currently Reading: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Page: 173 of 493
Bookmark: Bus ticket from January

Friday, 23 April 2010

Bucket List

I could tell a lie and pretend this post was inspired because I had recently watched the film this post title refers to. But I haven't, in fact I've never seen it.

I recently watched the film The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (what were they thinking?) and it got me wondering what my Bucket List would look like.
  1. Get a Nobel Prize
  2. Visit 100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (only 78 more to go!)
  3. Publish a novel
  4. Publish an article in a journal/newspaper
  5. Meet one of the Doctors
  6. Live in another country
  7. Run a marathon
  8. Read every major work by Dickens
  9. Read all of Shakespeare's plays
  10. Bungee Jump
  11. Try Casu Marzu
  12. Drink Kopi Luwak
  13. See the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis
  14. Go to every continent in the world (4 to go)
So that's it at the moment. What are your must-do-before-you-die things?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Book #7: Between the Assassinations

A lot of reviews of Between the Assassinations, by Aravind Adiga, harp on about how it isn't really a novel, but more a collection of short stories. Now, I could go on for ages about the problems of genre, but I wont. Between the Assassinations is not, it has to be admitted, a conventional narrative that follows the adventures of certain individuals, but rather narratives that centre around the city of Kittur, detailing the problems of class, political corruption and the political milieu. Call it a collection of short stories, call it a novel. Really, it doesn't matter.

Adiga portrays different aspects of Indian life—including the caste system, politics, religion, and poverty—with amazing clarity. We have the half Hoyka, half Brahmin school boy who explodes a bomb in his chemistry class, a Muslim boy who insists that he does 'no hanky-panky', and a Communist that realises that he has wasted his life. Adiga flows through these narratives exposing the worst and best aspects of human life.

The narratives all revolve around the beautifully realised city of Kittur, and themes of inequality, corruption, and identity weave in and out of them like a cyclist between automated rickshaws on a busy Umbrella Street.

Book #6: Hector and the Search for Happiness

On my way to the airport I realised that I had neglected to bring any reading material for the journey. So we wound up looking in WH Smith on customs side for cheap reads. I ended up buying Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The book is written in a very simplistic way, like that of a children's book, which lends it a sense of naivety and exploration. The story is a simple premise as well. There is a psychiatrist, Hector, who, noticing all the unexplainable unhappiness in his seemingly well-to-do patients, goes on a round-the-world trip to find the rules of happiness.

Here we go to China, some troubled African country and a wealthy country, presumably the USA. We meet a variety of characters, from prostitutes, wealthy bankers, professors, drug barons and fortune tellers. He finds 23 lessons of happiness (well, 24 if you count the one he crossed out), and shares them with a Einstein-esque expert in Happiness Studies.

The main things I've learnt is that if you want to be irresistible to women, dress like a psychiatrist. If that means having little glasses and a little mustache (like in Hector' case), then so be it. Hector's dabbling in misogyny (the crossed out lesson 18) is not the only disappointing thing in the book.

Like a psychiatrist, the books fails to condemn anything. War-torn nations, affairs, drug dealing, prostitution, governmental corruption, economic exploitation and the criminal underground are all found in this book and are only dealt in terms of whether it makes people happy or not. Despite this, it does not make patronising assumptions that if you are poor then you are not happy, in fact it does quite the reverse.

The wisest lesson in this book that the biggest mistake is to make happiness your goal, because once you do that, you will find it hard to get it.

It is a simple and enjoyable book, and it is not one that is meant to be thought to hard about (although I can't help it, I'm an English graduate after all).

Friday, 16 April 2010

Factual Friday

It's a Friday. So that means that a load of useless facts are on the way to screens near you. In front of you, in fact.

Rachael is down visiting me, so today we went on a drive to some of the places of interest in the New Forest. So that is the theme for today. The New Forest.

It is 571 square kilometres in total, comprising of:
  • 146 km² of broadleaved woodland;
  • 118 km² of heathland and grassland;
  • 33 km² of wet grassland;
  • and 84 km² of tree plantations.
The New Forest was made a royal forest by William I in c. 1079. Two of his sons died in the New Forest, Prince Richard (who was mauled by a stag) and William II. William II was shot by an arrow in a hunting accident and the Rufus Stone apparently marks the spot where he fell. Some say these events were a result of the actions of William I when making the the forest his personal hunting ground.

Other things the New Forest is famous for:
  • Ponies;
  • Ice Cream (particularly Beaulieu Ice Cream);
  • The Beaulieu Motor Museum;
  • Witches.
I've recently finished a book, which I need to review, also I need to talk about my travels to Spain and discuss the new Doctor. So these are all up and coming.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Factual Friday...

Okay, okay, it's a day late. But what'ya gonna do? Today's theme is, of course...Doctor Who. What? You thought I was going to say Easter? Okay, okay, I'll do an Easter one tomorrow.
  1. The first episode was shown on November 23rd, 1963
  2. It originally ran for 26 seasons before it was dropped.
  3. The reason why the TARDIS is stuck as a police box is because the chameleon circuit is broken. Donna Noble, in the episode Journey's End, revealed that the circuit can be fixed (by hotwiring the fragment links with the binary...)
  4. The TARDIS's windows are actually the wrong size for a police box. This is mentioned in the episode Blink.
  5. The Doctor is approximately 906 years old.
  6. The Daleks were introduced in December 1963
  7. The Doctor and his companions were 'responsible' for a lot of works of literature. Donna Noble gave Agatha Christie the idea for Miss Marple and Murder on the Orient Express, and the Doctor gave Shakespeare the name of a (never seen) character in The Tempest, Sycorax, as well as famous lines of his works such as 'The play's a thing'.

It is less than seven hours now until the big moment!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Egg on my face...

I've been upset with Rachael recently. It has to be said. Apparently, on the rating thing at the bottom of my posts, she has been clicking on 'cool' for some of them, instead of 'epic'. I notice that some of my readers (mentioning no names) haven't been rating. I'm going to assume that is because they forgot or didn't notice it, not because they've been sparing my feelings.

I told Rachael that if she ever voted one of my posts as 'okay' or less she'd be dumped. In a contest between her and my blog, well, I've had this blog a lot longer than I've been going out with Rachael.

However, you may rate this post 'fail', because of my attempt at making a papier-mâché Easter egg. I've also written about it in my other blog, so if you see this story elsewhere, you're not going crazy. Well, you read my blog, so it's a bit late for that.

Basically, I did the papier-mâché around the balloon thing and hung it out to dry over night. Unfortunately, the balloon shrunk while it was drying and the paper got damp as it was outside so it warped. So this is the end result.I think I should offer it as a free give away. Alternatively, for a free give away that is offering something aesthetically pleasing go to Dreaming of the Country.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

In the News...

Recently I've had an obsession with the British Museum. I don't know why, I just have. I can tell you that it was founded by Sir Hans Sloane who donated all his curiosities to the government, as long as they gave his children a sum of money in return. It wasn't until recently (1997) that the British Library was a part of, and indeed housed within, the museum.

Yesterday the museum was in the news. Thirty-nine medieval relics were discovered there yesterday. They had actually been in the museum since 1902, but they were inside a German portable altar. It wasn't until yesterday, one hundred and eight years later, did someone think to open it and look inside. There they found alleged remains of John the Baptist, various disciples and Mary Magdalene, among others.

Other antiques were in the press yesterday, but of a somewhat different nature. They were eighteenth century items that were sold for £3,600 in an auction. What were they? Sex toys. They were probably French, which isn't a surprise, really.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Telling me how to speak

I like to think I have a decent grasp of the English language. I can use both formal and informal speech, appropriately changing my modes and styles for different situations. This is why I hate it when people tell me how to speak.

Somebody rebuked me for saying "me and Stephen" about a certain situation. I was not writing an essay, I was not speaking to the Queen, I was not giving a Nobel Prize acceptance speech (only one of which I have done: guess which), therefore formal language was not required. I am full aware of the difference between subjective pronouns and objective pronouns and can utilise them both effectively. So, in short, if you correct me I will think you are patronising me. And being patronised is something that I take great umbrage with.

Some people have certain bugbears with usages of words. 'Random', 'epic', 'fail' are to name a few. I like this words and use them frequently. Just because people use different words than you doesn't make it wrong. One individual announced their dislike for the use of the word 'times' (for instance, when someone says "good times", or "bad times"). I think they have Dickens to blame for that.
Do not oppress me with me with your semantic elitism. If the vernacular was good enough for Chaucer, it is good enough for me.

Factual Friday

I haven't blogged in a while. I know, I know. That makes me a bad person. If there was a list of bad people, I'd be on there somewhere between Gengis Khan and King Herod. So I'm going to make it up to you. I don't know how but I will.

One way is to start a 'Factual Friday'. That is where, once a week, I write about some random thing. It can be of a theme of your choosing. It could be on something topical. But I will write it. Hold me to it. Nag me. Throw bananas at me if you want to. I don't know why you would, but whatever floats your boat.

This week I'm going to talk about monkeys. Why, you may ask? Because I am going to a zoo tomorrow and I've been really excited about seeing the monkeys. There are 264 known species of monkeys in the world, and they can range from the pygmy marmoset, which is only 14-16cm long and weighs an impressive 140g; to the Madrill that are nearly 1m long and weigh in at 35kg.

Famous monkeys include Katie, who played Marcel in Friends, the various monkeys that have gone into space (including Gordo who sadly lost his life), and the famous Three Wise Monkeys.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Referee's a...

This is one of those weird pivotal moments that tells you you've just reached adulthood. It's not as huge as putting down the deposit for your first house or seeing the birth of your first child (obviously written from a male perspective). It is something small yet still signifies that someone considers you to be a bona fide, mature adult. One of my youth group has asked me to be a referee for a job application. Okay, it probably isn't going to be a huge job for a London Banking Firm, but still, someone thinks me adult enough to be a referee. That's scary stuff.

I recollected as I was writing this post that Rachel had already written a post about this, and endeavoured to search for it. After a lot of scanning I was back to March 09 and then realised that there was a search button. Epic Fail.

My brother comes back tomorrow. Tehmorrow! Tehmorrow! I love ya, tehmorrow! You always a day away. Sorry, couldn't resist.

I usually reserve this stuff for my other blog (if you're asking, "what other blog?", keep with the program and click here), but I'm going to ask some questions. 

  • What makes you feel all grown up?
  • Do you see yourself as an adult?
  • What rites of passages are there to adulthood?
  • Could you write the word 'adult' anymore times in one paragraph?

In other blogging news. I've added tick box things, so you can rate my posts. Again, scary stuff.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Book #5: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

First things first. I've been slack. But I knew it would happen, hence why I am reading 26 books this year and not 52. If I was to read book after book I would be able to do it, because I generally read a book in a week. However, I knew I would get distracted and not be able to sustain chain-reading habits. I am still ahead, though. I should be starting my 5th book on 26th February (according to the little spreadsheet I've just made), and I've nearly finished my 6th, and it's only the 21st.

So, to the review. I like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It doesn't pretend to be a literary gem and is just plain fun. I haven't actually read Pride and Prejudice but I'm acquainted with Jane Austen (we met in a bar once). It follows the general Austen plot arc: woman needs a man, woman finds a man, a lot of unreasonable procrastination goes on, woman gets man, happy ending. But this version adds an element of adventure into it: woman doesn't really want man, she is a warrior after all; women kicks zombie butt; woman falls in love with man (but doesn't realise it); she kicks zombie butt; she realises it; she kicks man's aunt's butt; they fall in love and both kick zombie butt.

In other words, I liked it. It was nice that the heroine didn't just spend her time looking pretty and making witty remarks but could also work a ninja throwing star.

I'm currently reading Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell, which I will probably review in my other blog. Because variety is the spice of life, people.

Aberystwyth, Mon Amour

Since I last bloggified a reasonable amount of stuff has happened. I turned 22. I didn't do anything spectacular for it because I was at the Church weekend away and couldn't be bothered to do anything afterwards. However, I got pressies. I got Doctor Who, Series Four; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I shall be shortly reviewing); Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell; and lotsa Amazon vouchers and money. With which I bought every Doctor Who DVD known to man; Hero and Lust Caution (I was Amazoning on 14th Feb so went for a Chinese Theme); some converse shoes and The Diary of Anne Frank, BBC Adaptation.

I've been ploughing my way through series four of Doctor Who, and have just watched the last episode of the Anne Frank series. The reason I did that is because I am ill. So when I am ill, I am presented with two choices: do I do something to make me feel better or do I wallow in my misery? Generally, it is the wallowing that wins. So I watched the episode when Anne Frank and co. get taken away by the German authorities. Happy times.

This week I went to Aberystwyth. I'm not going to give an itinerary but, fun was had, feet were wettened, Bento Boxes were purchased, and laughs laughed. We went to see Toy Story 2 in 3D. I was in it for the glasses. Hours of fun were had just with the 3D glasses.

The journey back was horrific, due to some poor choices by me and slow trains. It took me just about 11 hours to get back home. The journey went like this: Wales-England-Wales-England. And now I have a cold. But I'm going to visit my grandparents and go to church (as well as review Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Book #4: To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was voted the book to read before you die by British Librarians, beating the Bible to top place. I don't quite agree with that order, but it should definitely be in the top three. It is such a beautiful gem of a book.

It deals with such deep issues—racial inequality, class, rape, justice—but from the view-point of a 10 year old child (well, the narrative voice is clever and complicated). Harper Lee does this to inject innocence and humour into otherwise appalling situations.

Interestingly, To Kill a Mockingbird has seen its fair share of controversy. When it began to be taught in schools, parents asked for it to banned, because most were apparently horrified by the idea that a white girl could be attracted to a black man. However, the book has later been said not to be as critical of racism as it should be, resulting in a further call for it to be banned from teaching syllabuses. Admittedly, the word 'Nigger' is used 48 times in the book, but you always get the feeling it is not used as a derogatory term. Sometimes the best way to remove a defamatory word's power is to claim it for a use that is not; just as the LGBT movement has for the word queer, and some feminists have tried for the 'C' word. Also, the book leaves no doubt as to who you were meant to be supporting.

One more note: Pullman, this is an example of what it is to do accents properly.

So, read it before you die. If you don't do it for me, do it for the librarians.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

In jokes...

Everyone has a love/hate relationship with in-jokes. If you aren't in on the in-joke you hate them. If you are, however, they're the coolest thing ever. Here are some of my favourite in-jokes, of which I am in on.

Gravity has taken it's toll
My brother and I spent some of this morning playing the Thème de Camille by Georges Delarue and saying "I have never felt better, but at my age gravity has taken its toll." This is because of the somewhat amusing L'Oreal adverts featuring Jane Fonda. Gravity has taken its toll? What, you fell off a bridge or something?

My boy is dead
This one seems a little more morbid, but its origins are quite simple. The line comes from Jaws in 30 seconds, reinacted by bunnies. Click here to see what I'm talking about. There is a range of films on this site condensed to 30 seconds, and all worth a look.

Okay, that's two in-jokes that I decided to share. There are others ("My house is in there!", "And clench..."). Another thing about in-jokes is that they usually are of a you-had-to-be-there sort, so when you do share them they aren't remotely funny.

In other news, I recently caught a bus with Sherlock Holmes. I got on the bus and he was sat there in a tartan deerstalker hat reading a book through thin rimmed glasses. But, unlike the real Sherlock Holmes (real? and in my last post I wrote about discerning between fact and fiction), this man was an idiot. The thing is, I get on the bus at a request stop, and on the way back, despite the lack of signage, there is also another stop opposite where I like to get dropped. So I pressed the bell, and the bus driver asked, "Where would you like to be dropped?". Just as I was about to say "Anywhere about here," Sherlock Holmes piped up and said "Just around the corner."

"What? Who asked you? I rang the bell. I'm the one that requested the bus to stop. Not you. You idiot," I thought. "Now I'm going to have to walk round that hairpin bend in the dark and will most likely get killed because of you." So, apparently, Sherlock Holmes isn't dead, he's alive and well and local to me, and most of all is an idiot

Book I'm reading: To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Book number: 4
Pages I'm into it: 257 of 309
Bookmark: The train ticket.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Book #3: Northern Lights

I'm just going to address one point before I can continue. I'm a Christian, but yes, I've read a Pullman book. There was no Faustian apparitions whilst I was reading it and I have not been pulled into the fires of Hell. It was a concern. I'm a (debatably) mature 21 (nearly 22- again: hint, hint) year old, and I can read a book without having a sudden crisis about the boundaries between fact and fiction. One of the main points of contention was the use of the word daemons within the book. Do your research people, the usage of that word with that particular spelling derives Classical mythology. Daemons were spirit guides and is found, for instance, in works by Plato. Admittedly, Pullman is vocal about his dislike of religion, but we cannot demonise (or should it be, daemonise?) him.

So that little nag over. What did I a-think of the book? Well, the one thing that really a-irritated me was the way Pullman a-tried to a-give a sense of dialect in his speech by a-putting an 'a-' a-in a-front a-of a-every a-single a-verb. Irritating, no? Lyra's speech was so inconsistent she either had multiple personalities or was one of those really fake people who put on accents to fit in. I knew someone who, whilst at a Christian camp, spoke in an American accent for the whole week so he could flirt with the girls. That was until I said that he sounded as if he had a stroke. He seemed quite offended but his fake accent quickly disappeared. True story.

Also, to some degree I didn't really enter the world of Lyra. I think there was so much that you had to learn about in this world, from different social codes to different types of science, it was just too much. I suppose this is the literary form of culture shock, and maybe because I read it in a day, I never really felt as if I was able to fully enter into the world that Pullman had created.

Now I have to talk about the ending. Why ruin a perfectly tradition? It was rubbish. Okay, it was meant to be a cliff-hanger. You were meant to be wetting yourself due to the excitement and anticipation of the next instalment. But I wasn't. I was like, "Hey, hang on a sec. This girl has just had a huge trauma. Huge. And she didn't even really notice." All sense of credibility that the character had, which wasn't much, what a-with a-her a-stupid a-accents, was lost. I don't know this child. The Lyra I got to know would not have reacted like that. She can't just let it go like that.

So I wasn't particularly impressed.

Book I'm reading: To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
Book number: 4
Pages into it: Still page 1 of 309. I do have a life, you know. Albeit at dull one.
Bookmark: Train ticket (Single, Southampton to Ashurst New Forest, £3.40)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Nothing much except zombies.

It's been nearly a month since I've actually written about what I've been up to. I've written posts, sure, but not actually talked about what I'm up to.

So Christmas has been and gone, and so has New Year, and I think I've passed the deadline to begin talking about those (good, but busy, if you're wondering). So here I am, well into the bosom of New Year. I don't know why I decided to use the word bosom, but I did, so deal with it. Bosom. How salacious, one might say. But it's nice to say that despite the New Year, the New Decade even (or is it?), some things don't change. I still write a load of rubbish. Mostly, because I've nothing remotely interesting to write about. Well, I have, but the less said about that the better.

So there you have it, around one hundred and fifty words of nothing. Twoddle. Meaningless utterings. Sometimes I think reading this blog is trying to squint at a deeply dark landscape, attempting to make out something that isn't there. But I am alive, so that must be good.

It's my birthday soon(ish). And I've found something I like the look of (hint, hint). It's a book, of course. It an Austen, with a twist. The twist is...zombies.

Book I'm reading: To Kill A Mocking Bird
Book number: 4
Pages into it: Page 1 of 309
Bookmark: Train ticket (Single, Southampton to Ashurst New Forest, £3.40)

Book 2#: Brighton Rock

Having read this book I feel some mixed emotions, two being relief and defeat. For years I've avoiding reading Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. It was a subtle act of rebellion, as my dad is a huge Greene fan, Brighton Rock in particular. For most my life I knew, as well as Hale did, that before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. Don't worry, that isn't a spoiler, it's the first line. But, finally, I've read it.

And what did I think? I was good. First, because it was one of those dot dot dot endings I liked. It was one of those 'what did he mean by that?' endings. It is a brilliant ending, and I'm going to share it with you because it gives little away: "She walked rapidly in the thin June sunlight towards the worst horror of all." When you thought it wasn't going to get any worse, when you thought it was all over, Greene, at the very last moment, makes you realise you were very much wrong. What was that worst horror of all? My theory was that it was a gramophone record.

There was a really strong sense of different moralities, though most of the characters had abandoned them long ago. There was the dubious and subjective Right and Wrong of Ida Arnold and the Good and Evil (mostly evil) of the Romans (Catholics).

If you don't want a lesson on human depravity, read it just because it is a good thriller.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Book #1: Looking for Alaska

It is sixty-six and a half hours into 2010 and I have already finished the first book of my 2010 challenge. You’d think as an English graduate I’d find the reviewing part of it easy. But, actually it’s quite difficult to take a step back—not to give a Freudian/Marxist/feminist account of the story, not write an essay—and write plainly what I thought. Discuss.

Did you see what I did there? I turned it into an essay question. That’s the way we roll here, kids. Anyway, back to the book. It was Looking for Alaska by John Green. Well, I liked the characters because (1) I could relate to them. Miles, the protagonist was a geek: I’m a geek; (2) they all had their flaws. Miles was irritating: I’m irritating; and (3) I can’t think of a 3 right now, but 1 and 2 were good. I didn’t like them because, sometimes, they were too irritating. But that’s okay, because if the characters could admit when they didn’t like each other, so can I.

One impression I was left with though was that for a book so obsessed with last words it ended on a rather bum note. It was more of a dot dot dot, than anything else. And not one of those good dot dot dots, that leaves you thinking, “What? How can you do that, you crumby author? How could you leave us with so many unanswered questions?” Those are the good type of dot dot dot endings. No, this was like one of those conversations that you have where everyone talking gradually looses interest and you end in an awkward silence. And then you feel you have to clear your throat, or say, "Sooo..."

However, I loved the philosophical feel to the book. I loved the aforementioned last words that filled the narrative like dead on a battle field. I loved that it was a book written by a nerd, about a nerd and, probably, for nerds. One character learnt all the capitals of the countries in the world. I mean, my brother did that. It is one of those books that you could unashamedly talk in terms of feminism, Freud, Marxism, and all that jazz, because it seeped with references to different schools of thought, especially feminism. However I won’t do that, because that’s dull.

So it was a nice, familiar (read: predictable), and laid back start to my 2010 book marathon. I would say: read it, it won't kill you.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Bang! Pop! Wooooooooo! Phish!

If you didn't guess those are the sounds of fireworks going off to herald in the New Year. Hope you handled your fireworks safely. Now I've done my bit for public safety awareness, I can sleep tonight knowing that scores of people may have been saved by my aptly timed advice. I think I needed to emphasise the "may" in that sentence there.

Moving on. So, what has the New Year got in store for this merry little blog? Well, this year I’m going to set myself a challenge. It’ll probably go down like all my other challenges I’ve set myself during 2009. But, this is 2010, and we must have hope and courage and perseverance if we are to succeed. This challenge is to—wait for it—do something (yes?) amazing...spectacular...awesome...something... You know what I’ve done, haven’t I? How silly of me. I’ve made a huge thing of this challenge, and now you’re probably on tenterhooks to find out what it is (see note below). The thing is, this challenge isn’t the huge, spectacular thing I’ve made it out to be. But I’ve managed to delay saying what the challenge is by seventy words. Seventy-one. Okay, the challenge is to read twenty-six books in 2010. Why twenty-six books, you ask. Well, as there are fifty-two weeks in a year, that makes a book every two weeks. I’ve already got a few titles of books I want to read. These include Looking for Alaska, by John Green; Brighten Rock, by Graham Greene; and Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. If you have any suggestions, suggest away.

So there we have it: 26 books in a year. Hopefully I will have finished Doris Lessing’s, The Good Terrorist, by then. Hopefully, I will have a little widget which will tell you what the book I am currently reading is. I shall also write some short reviews/commentaries.

See you later, terminator.

Note on “on tenterhooks”: While writing this post I got curious on where the phrase “on tenterhooks” originated. First, I discovered it was tenterhooks and not tenderhooks. Basically, in the olden days, after spinning wool they had to wash it. Then they had to dry it, but so that it didn’t shrink they hung it up on frames. These frames were called tenters, and the hooks on them were called tenterhooks. It isn’t a huge leap of the imagination how being strung up on tenterhooks can be used as a metaphor for anxiously awaiting something. Now, hopefully you read this bit before carrying on with the rest of the paragraph, so I delayed you finding out about the challenge by a further 124 words. Gutted. 126.