Saturday, 31 January 2009

Questionable Content, M. Eiffel's metal high rise and some minor discolouration

I don't usually read webcomics but 'questionable content' is one of the most wonderful things I have come across in ages. A continuing story line of an ever expanding cast of twenty somethings 'hanging out' together. Excellent art (after about post 500), some genuinely interesting conversations and interactions between characters and, perhaps most importantly, the way in which, sometimes, what seems the most horrendous calamity, losing your job, can turn into the most wondrous experience. (That's the artist/author, not a character) I have spent much of my free time (what little I have) over the past few weeks catching up on the archive before reading the current stuff (absolutely necessary, you need to know the back stories) and I am absolutely 100% hooked! To a Brit, it's kind of like what 'Friends' ought to have been and never was! Oh and do I so empathise with Marten, the central male lead. :)

You can catch a glimpse here of the surreal nature of some of the comic. (Back story - the little robot is Pintsize, an anthroPC, owned by Marten, the male in the strip, who is as off the wall as it's possible for a computer/robot to get. The female is an OCD person who lives in the same apartment block who has bought a robot vacuum cleaner which carries a switchblade and is not afraid to use it. The strip is Pintsize's reaction to Marten being threatened by the vacuum cleaner, which 'thinks' Marten is 'coming on' to the OCD female.) You can see why I like it! :)

Weird sometimes the hands life ends up dealing you. I'm going to Paris today. That's Paris, France not Paris, Texas nor Paris, Kentucky nor Paris, Illinois, just plain old 'gay Paree'. I haven't been there for positively ages (around 20 years) and it will be really great to go smoochin' around le Tour Eiffel, l'Arc de Triomphe, le Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmartre, le Sacre Coeur, le Bois de Boulogne. Even in the rain. Except that I won't be! Arrive 13:58pm, depart 18:10pm with a meeting, probably in a railway station cafe/bar, sandwiched in between. How cruel can it get? I get my train fare paid and yet still I don't get to 'stay over'. I hope Mugwump appreciates the sacrifices I am willing to make to ensure he gets fed and cuddled. :) It's always nice to do something this time of year which cheers me up, just not this year. :(

I get to spend more time on Eurostar (the train) than I do in Paris! I don't even have a DVD enabled laptop I can take to while away the journey with the extended edition of 'Return of the King'. Ah well, c'est la vie! Besides, Paris, I think, you 'do' with lovers, partners, really good friends not on your own! Having someone to cuddle up to in the Louvre is the only way to bear the hordes of Japanese tourists snapping the Mona Lisa. Are you still allowed to take pictures? And I need someone to hold my hand (very tightly) if I venture up the Eiffel Tower; standing on a stool gives me vertigo and that horrible feeling as your scrotum tightens so much, your testicles pop out of your mouth, which can, in the wrong company and in the wrong place, be mildly embarrassing or even misconstrued. :)

Ah well, it never pays to be the fount of all wisdom! The disadvantages sometimes outweigh the ego trip!

Since this is a short, rambling blog today (gotta chuff chuff to catch), a couple of things left over from the last post:

Shirley's (the receptionist) little squeel was not in horror :) but in delight! There they were, looking for a well adjusted 'model' and what walks through the door? Me! Instant gratification!

To a well known supermarket chain. I hope you have changed your policies about check out staff. We do not frighten customers! And to the poor victim of those past policies, I hope you had enough courage to follow my advice and stuffed those policies right up your store manager's anal orifice! Hard!

To the young woman who designed (and wore) the T-shirt which I never got around to buying, to my great regret, which said on the front "Keep staring, I might do a somersualt!" Priceless!

To all you normal people out there. If we were 'hung up' about it, we wouldn't venture outside our collective front door, would we? If you're curious, ask! Like everyone else, we LOVE talking about ourselves! And if you're not curious, but still can't stop looking, don't look away when we look at YOU, look us in the eyes, isn't that how you normally look at people?

And finally, to all you people that I stare back at. Sorry! Just sometimes I've had a bad day and I just feel like throwing some of it back!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Death, penguins and make up

Strange little story, 'Death and the Penguin'. That's how this post was planned to start. What was to follow was a little 'essay' on said novel. How it couldn't quite compare (could anything?) with Bulgakov's 'The Master and Margarita' but shared the same 'other worldly' feeling. While grounded in the here and now, it was not 'of this earth'; a mixture of metaphor, symbol and allusion mixed in with the reality we (especially the Ukrainians) know so well. But I got sidetracked. In, perhaps, a most unusual direction.

Or perhaps not so unusual. I become strange (at least to me) at this time of the year. My emotions always get the better of me as we approach the fateful day. As a rational, logical soul, I find my descent into 'emo' not a little disconcerting as I contemplete once again, as I must, the slow rising and falling of my father's chest, until at 8:25am on 1 February, it falls and does not rise. It will be ten years on Sunday. So Sunday will be a day for toasting the cantankerous old sod with Laurent Perrier Rose Brut and (this year) chasing the espresso with Kauffmann 'signature' vodka (2006), a snip on eBay at £69, but a mere £20 if you know the right people :)

So where did I get sidetracked? A charity here called Changing Faces has been running an ad campaign in tube (subway/metro) stations about 'difference' and trying to raise awareness of the way in which we relate to people who, through no choice of their own, look markedly different from their 'travelling companions'. Now of course we are all, generally, unique in the way that we look but there is a spectrum in which people are considered 'normal', whether you consider them attractive or not. Outside that spectrum lie the people who, to continue the analogy, might be considered 'x-rays'. Not 'normal'.

Society places great store, especially with people unknown to you as real human beings, on appearances. We gaze longingly at the Claudia Schiffer lookalikes, the George Clooney clones and largely ignore the great mass of the mundane and ordinary; but the 'x-rays'? They attract our attention in an almost magnetic way. We cannot stop staring or we make great efforts not to stare without really understanding the effect we have on the person at whom we are staring or trying not to stare at. The ad campaign might make people think twice about engaging in what for most of us is a 'natural' reaction.

Now, as an 'x-ray' myself, I say 'we' and 'us' in all seriousness. I get stared at on the tube all the time. I would, however, never stare at an 'x-ray' who shares my disfigurement but I have exactly the same reaction as the 'normal' spectrum when it comes to 'x-rays' who have some other disfigurement. It usually takes a couple of minutes for the empathy gland to kick in and make me 'naturally' see them in the same light as I would wish others to see me. So, whatever it is that causes the staring, it is ingrained in our very nature as human beings.

The reason I strayed off the 'Death and the Penguin' path was because as I sat down to write this, having seen a few minutes earlier a different poster ad than I was used to, a different kind of difference, a thought popped into my head. Something someone once said to me: "After a while, you don't see it. Somehow you look past it and only see the soul within." Now to me this is strange. Each morning I rise, I take (an exorbitantly expensive - thank you GazProm!) bath and then I shave. Despite my best efforts over the years, as I drag the blade across my skin, I see it. I cannot look past it. It's there, how can other people tell themselves it's not? They're just being nice to me, no? For many years I assumed that this must be the case. They just liked me as a person well enough that de-emphasising the difference might make me feel better. About myself. Except.

Many years ago, as part of my job, I got to deliver cheques on a Friday afternoon to trainees on various courses the organisation was funding. One week a new college was added to the 'round'; a beauty therapy college! I roll up to reception with my envelope full of cheques for distribution and am greeted by the receptionist with a squeel, hands raised to mouth! She then rushes off to the back office. Rest assured, the elephant man I am not, and her reaction was not 'normal'. I sat down and about two minutes later a (very cute) tutor came out, sat next to me and asked if 'I was comfortable with it'. 'The college would pay, of course!' I didn't think she wanted me to 'service' the trainees, or at least not in the way I would have liked :), so I pleaded complete ignorance of the point of her request. 'We've been looking for a model for our camouflage make-up. And someone to act as dummy for our training courses. Would you do it?' And so started a year or so of spending a day or half a day a month or so of having my difference 'hidden' from the rest of the world. Uniquely relaxing, having someone 'make you up' (with brushes! :)

After about three months, one 'training course' ended early and I was sitting in the chair after a particularly successful 'make over', with the pot of cream in my hands, ready to remove the make up when a thought popped into my head. 'Leave it on and go back to the office. See if anyone notices.' I didn't get a single taker, not one! No-one noticed what was different. Now I know that the absence of something is not the same as the presence of something when it comes to recognition but nonetheless, it makes you think. Maybe, eventually, they do see past and they are actually telling the truth. That I think, if true, would be an enormous help to those who find their difference unsettling, upsetting, traumatic.

I think it's time I joined a support group. Maybe that story might help!

And I never got paid for it. Corruption of a public official if I did! But I still remember the wonderful sense of relaxation that came with it. Better than money, any day!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Killer hamsters, impenetrable poetry and angels

I don't normally read labels much except when they have 'DANGER - 'CUTE' ALERT! KILLER HAMSTERS HERE!' on them but I spotted a curious one on the back of a whisky bottle today. "Security protected. Please remove prior to putting in microwave." Um, pardon? I'm expected to microwave my malt? Why? Is there a reason? Does it taste better after 1 minute at full power? Or is this just a subtle marketing ploy by microwave manufacturers to shift more units? All the suits sitting around dreaming up new lists of '10 more things you can pointlessly heat or cook in our microwave!' Malt whisky, polystyrene beads, cough mixture, socks, granny's knickers, orchids, rubber erasers, cricket balls, custard powder, AOL CDs. Oh alright, the last one isn't pointless, they make quite good ashtrays - nice focal point in a room, microwaved CDs. All those lovely rainbow colours as you play, 'spin the CD ashtray'.

Do you ever play 'message in a bottle'? You know, cast a message out into the void in a rather faint hope that the intended recipient might reply? I suppose in some ways this blog is a bit like that, after all if you have a little patience on google you hit this blog eventually. However it's a little more 'scattergun', this blog. It kind of presupposes that there is someone out there looking for ME, rather than the other way around. Highly unlikely, I think :)

In the autumn last year, during all of the turmoil, seven day working weeks, exhaustion, physical, emotional and mental, I was sitting in my little lounge, on my little sofa, with my little lamp on, leaning into my little cushions, reading a little book of poetry. (Of course everything is little, I'm only a wee person after all; one must keep things in proportion. The only big thing in my flat is a photograph of a Kazakh fox hunter and his Berkut - golden eagle. :) The book was "The 'O'o'a'a' bird". I'm not sure why I picked that one up to read, although I do like 'Masturbation sonnet with viburnum blossom' because it so reminds me of how I used to feel in the long, dark days of winter when I was about the same age as the poet (at the time of composition) and I, then, too shared the pain of the distance between. Maybe that's why.

For reasons now lost in the misty swirls of time, I decided to see what had become of my erstwhile member of staff (albeit for a short period of time); I'm a dab hand at googling! Associate Professor, no less! And published poet! So, on the basis that signed copies of books are always more valuable than the run of the mill variety, I fired off an email to his publisher in what was probably a vain attempt to remake contact. (I'm not usually so mercenary but, what the hell, I'm not getting any younger and I could be out of a job by the end of the year!) Well, would you believe it, I actually got an answer! Three months later to be sure, but an answer nonetheless. He even remembered me! This of itself may not seem remarkable but, as we were usually bladdered out of our brains during any kind of social contact, it's noteworthy that a few brain cells have remained 'intacto' on both sides to preserve the memory.

He probably thinks I just want a cheap bed/sofa/floor if I ever get to visit Prague to get my copies of his books signed, but no, I don't think so. I just want to plot his extended fame and fortune so that the personal poem he wrote for me and which is now preserved twixt sheets of plastic laminate will be worth shedloads on eBay! :)

For anyone waiting (with bated breath?) for more QED; patience! We're into Feynman diagrams now and these take time to prepare, all those squiggly lines an' all.

And so, in true penguin manner, a complete non sequitor. Ever heard of 'Angel Cards'? They're a kind of Christianised Tarot. 50 or so cards with little snippets of wisdom from one angel or another, which are then expanded on in a wee handbook. They are meant to offer 'spritual' guidance for your problems. Now, like the Penguin, you can probably guess what I think of all this. Yep, right first time. Utter tosh! I find it even more alarming that people take this stuff seriously than I do that people find the Christian creation myth believable.

You take three cards at random and each one is supposed to map out your problems in terms of what it is, what you can do about it and what the outcome will be. Now I play this little game out of a sense of politeness to some friends who do seem to think there's something in it. I always choose the same 'silent' question (and no, I'm not telling you what it is :) and I always get different answers and in many cases complete non sequitors. The first card may be quite accurate, the second a bit wider of the mark and the third, totally off the wall; or any other combination.

We are all human. We share an enormous amount of commonality in terms of what we think, what we believe, what we worry about and what we hope for. Like stage mind readers, it's not too difficult to make up a number of statements about people which will be close to what they actually believe/feel at a particular time, especially if, having shelled out good money for this, they want to believe. So called spiritual mediums work the same way. Is life so bewildering that it's not possible to generate your own solutions?

I can see only one saving grace to shelling out hard earned cash on this kind of rubbish. It may actually focus your attention on what the problem really is and allow you to come to some kind of resolution. I'd still be disinclined to take Uriel's word for it, though!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Penguins, death and really naff clothes.

So, two weeks into 2009 and it's already looking like just an extension of 2008, with bells! And perhaps whistles. A friend's mother died last week and such things always bring back the fear you have that your only surviving parent is not going to make it through tomorrow. It is inevitable, perhaps the only sure, true thing; that one day they won't but nonetheless........."To lose one parent may be considered a misfortune, to lose two sounds like carelessness." The two current cases of the 'Big C' seem to be going well but it is early days. While we hope, and if truth be told we pray (to a nameless, faceless, uncaring and indifferent God), nothing is certain. But then, as the Penguin has been heard to say, and who better to know, life is littered with these tiny hopes!

I have spent the last two weeks 'chilling out', as they say. Catching up on lost sleep; drinking champagne, fine brandy; dining on Gressigham duck, smoked salmon, venison; lying on the wooden floor stroking Mugwump's cheek while he wraps his forelegs around my arm and, seemingly almost orgasmic, drives his claws, like daggers, into my skin, drawing blood; burning cinnamon and nutmeg candles until they died; listening to long unheard vinyl; watching trout rise in the little stream (it's called a river but the Thames is a river not this streamlet!) that flows at speed not 100 metres from my door. (Nice, I think, to live in London and yet have a trout stream so close!)

I, without shame, watched the first two seasons of Hill Street Blues which was deemed, at the time, to be the best 'cop show' of the eighties. No! The best cop show EVER! What I cannot understand is whoever is sitting on seasons 3 - 8, why no DVDs? Who's got them and why won't they let me watch again the wonderful episode of "Belker's birthday"? Detective Belker's a bit of a misfit and has got a few problems with his partner, Robyn; they're not getting along too well and, if memory serves, they haven't seen each other socially for a while. The whole episode centres around what a 'shite' day he has and how he goes home, alone, to his trailer, around midnight. The last shot of the episode is Robyn, sitting behind a little birthday cake with candles aflame in the corner of the trailer, singing: "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you.........". I WANT the lump in my throat, the tear in my eye. Just like the first time! Why won't they give it to me? I'll pay, I promise! In cash!

I also watched, with some shame, the first two seasons of 'Miami Vice'. Now for those of you too young to remember, this was truly a televisual triumph of (naff) style over substance; ridiculous plots and even more ridiculous acting, especially from Phillip Michael Thomas - the name says it all! - and yet it's oddly engaging to me. I well remember how Don Johnson's clothes style affected every male Brit holidaymaker, off to the sun for two weeks. Sleeves on our pale coloured jackets rolled up, halfway to the elbow. T-shirts under 'dress' jackets. No socks. All we were missing were the Ferrari and the powerboat, and those could be hired! Well, the powerboat at least!

It's a little strange how comments made on the last post I did touched on coincidence. Long before my penpenguin-in-arms/wings started this blog, I was known in my (work) local hostelry as the 'Penguin'. Not because of the way I walk or because I always wear a black suit and white shirt (I don't, I'm in IT. The uniform's jeans and t-shirt - or sweatshirt if it's winter) but because of what I eat. I only eat meat occasionally and generally eat the fish or their fingers*. So birthday cards would have a penguin on the front, a mug as a present with a penguin for a handle, that kind of thing.

About 18 months ago, on a Saturday, I went into my local bookshop and saw a little book, one of those 'novelty' books you often see around Christmas, although this was late Spring. It was a poem, a stanza every second page interspersed with simple child-like drawings. The book was called 'The penguin of death' and was quite a sweet little poem about how the penguin makes death into a somehow magical experience for the recently departed so that, in one way, those left behind, knowing this, need not feel so sad for the deceased. I bought it. I went into the aforementioned hostelry the following Monday for lunch intending to amuse the manageress with my purchase. She was not there. I learned from her stand-in that her mother had died the previous Friday evening and she had gone home to be with her family. Spooky, no?

Well, on the Saturday immediately following new year 2009 I went to my local bookstore and bought a couple of books. The following Tuesday I received an email from a friend saying that her mother had died that morning. One of the aforementioned books I bought was a novel about a writer, unwittingly caught up in a bizarre situation, which is set in post Soviet Union Ukraine; it's by Andrey Kurkov and is called 'Death and the Penguin'.

Now, 'spooky' I don't do but I have made a belated New Year's Resolution; I will never, never, never again buy a book with 'penguin' AND 'death' in the title.

* Fish fingers - a peculiarly British gastronomic delight. Bits of cod about half an inch thick, one inch wide and about four inches long. Covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Primary ingredient in 'Fish Finger Sarnie' . Very thick slices of white, crusty bread, butter, tomato ketchup and said fish fingers.

I once cut a discount deal over said sarnies. I think the fish fingers did it! Everyone was transported back to their childhood. Made signing away profits a piece of cake. Perhaps I should suggest they add sugar sandwiches to the menu!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Plastic water bottles and worm holes in space time

Did a little personalisation here this morning. No doubt the penguin will change it all back when he returns but you like to put your own little stamp on things, don't you?

Do you ever wonder whether there are inviduous, secret, unseen forces at work in your life? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some delusional, paranoid maniac, as like as not to take an axe to your head; I know the rest of the world is out to make my life a misery :) but a strange thing happened this week.

I'm fairly hot on recycling and my local Council make a collection every Wednesday of materials for recycling. So, on Tuesday evening, I go to the back door and pick up my (plastic) bag full of plastic water bottles etc and put it somewhere nearer the front door, while I get my rubbish bagged ready for the bin men who come the same day. (Strange, we still call them bin men even though no-one uses dustbins anymore - and they would not empty them anyway - if it is not bagged in a black plastic sack, forget about getting your rubbish collected.) I put the rubbish out but cannot find the plastic bottles. They are not in the flat, they are not where I thought I left them, they are not out front with the glass for recycling. Where are they? I had and have absolutely no idea! It's as though a worm hole opened up in space time and my Volvic water bottles just disappeared into another universe. My wee flat is small, it's hard to hide anything. I have gone round and like A A Milne I have 'made the kind of noises that plastic likes to hear'; but to no avail. Where on earth can my Volvic bottles be?

Oh, I hear you cry, a surfeit of vino collapso/Milk of Amnesia! But no! I could not find them on Wednesday morning (6.00 am for the Paul Simon freaks among you) either. It cannot but make you wonder whether the reality we perceive is not all the reality that there is to perceive. Perhaps the mice have evolved to eat and process plastic. Perhaps if only I could catch one, my financial future would be secured. I could breed whole farms of mice who feed on plastic and use their droppings to generate electricity, thus solving the world's energy crisis at a stroke and thereby providing me with a f*ck off ocean going yacht and the wherewithall to buy fuel for it as well as poking my finger in Putin's eye. I'll leave poking him elsewhere to you!

So, if you have any theories about the fate of my water bottles, please email me at

My upstairs neighbour of nine years finally moved out before Christmas and, while it seems uncharitable, I can only say 'Good Riddance!' A less considerate neighbour it would have been hard to find, I think. Many's the time the strains of 'Will you shut the f*ck up, it's 3am!' have been heard wending their way skywards from my kitchen. It's hard to feel any kind of 'human bond' with someone who considers it de rigeur to crash through the front door at 4am, slam shut said door and then make his way upstairs in a manner not unakin to Juggernaut. A herd of elephants would have been tiptoeing mice by comparison! Any complaints about unwarranted noise were usually met with accusations of homophobia, the last resort of a scoundrel? Ah well he's gone now. :)

Not sure quite what the arrangement is now. I met one occupant just before Christmas at around 11pm and she seems nice enough, tho' it's difficult to tell if she's the sole occupant or not. Bar gaggles of Mwa Mwa Girlies :) turning up on the doorstep most evenings, it's all been as quiet as one could possibly hope for in such buildings as these (Edwardian terraced maisonettes prone to the transmission of structure borne noise having wooden floors and solid walls). Mugwump and I live in hope of an existence which is more in keeping with the peace and solitude we prefer. I'm quiet, except when blasting Wagner out during the housework, and I never could see why other people couldn't be the same.

Still there is a downside. I suppose I'll have to clear the jungle that passes for a garden in the spring (too damn cold at the moment). I may get complaints if the howler monkeys don't stop their early morning chatter and if they ever see the leopard, well..........

Sunday, 4 January 2009

QED, squeezing light and just call me the 'Destroyer'

Now Mugwump may look cute but beneath that 'butter would not melt in my mouth' demeanour, he is built like a small tank. The feline equivalent of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. A neck like Mike Tyson and shoulders and forelegs to match! I am not sure why but when I first refill the litter tray he goes through a ritual of maniacally pawing at the fresh litter in a usually successful attempt to spray the contents (it's not been used yet) of fresh litter all over the floor (radius from litter tray about 1 metre). He attacks it in what seems like a frenzy of frantic digging.

This would be all very well, just sweep it back up and put it back in the litter tray, you say; but for one thing. In his zeal to spread cat litter everywhere he usually manages to break the side of the tray, either cracking it so the next frenzy will rip a great chunk out of the side or simply bypassing the initial cracking phase and moving straight into 'oh I appear to have punched a great hole in the side' phase. This of course renders the tray an unsuitable receptacle for keeping cat litter in. Structural integrity has been compromised and in Scotty's words: "Shields have failed, Captain! The next shot will open us up like a can opener!"

Up to Christmas he had demolished three trays in this fashion. I do now however seem to have beaten him. His litter tray is now a 6" deep underbed storage box made of quite dense, thick, softish (not brittle) plastic! In the ten days it has been in use, not only has all the litter remained in the tray but there's not a crack to be seen! Success! There is only one snag. You need to use twice as much cat litter!

So, QED. Before moving into looking at what 'really' happens when a photon goes from (a) to (b) we will, as does Dick, look at the strange things that happen when you squeeze light. So, how do you squeeze a photon? Essentially you 'limit' its potential paths to your detector. We saw how, in the Penguin's last QED post, light (photons) can seemingly be 'reflected' from a non existent portion of a piece of glass. Although the probability of the photon not moving in a straight line path at 45 degrees to the horizontal is significantly less than the probability of it doing so, the probability of it going by this strange path does exist. You have limited its options, squeezed it, by removing part of the mirror and so it gets forced into more bizarre behaviour, if you are going to detect it.

You can also look at this in another way using a variant of the two slit experiment. Place a photon gun in front of a screen with two tiny pin holes, (a) and (b), a set distance apart in front of your photon gun. Place a detector (c) behind the screen in a straight line with the gun and pin hole (a). Fire the gun, one photon at a time, and you will get detections at (c), say 2%. Now cover hole (a) and fire another burst of photons, one at a time. Now since hole (b) is offset relative to the straight line path, you would think no photons would be detected at (c), since the photon would have to move in a dog leg path to get there; first up at, say 30 degrees, then down after it traverses the hole at the same angle. The two dog legs making an ultimately straight line. Well, you'd be wrong! Experiment 'proves' that this dog leg is exactly what happens. The probabilty is less but it remains a probablity nonetheless.

Now this all seems so counter-intuitive and contrary to the 'high school' physics we might have been taught that it's hard to get your head round. Light travelling in 'curved' paths (Forget relativity here for a moment, since light does travel normally in geodesics - curved paths - in four dimensional space time.) It's as though the light photon manages to bounce off the edge of the small hole to get back on the 'straight line' track to the detector that it would have taken if hole (a) had been open.

The reason this all seems counter-intuitive is that we imagine the photon as a single, structurally coherent 'particle' with an integrity in time, like a tennis ball. Photon (1) goes from 'gun' to hole (a) to detector (c). The reality is that the photon which arrives at the detector is not the same photon which left the gun, although, since all photons are identical, it may as well be the same photon. Therein lies the problem with trying to see things at a quantum level in the same way that we perceive things at our 'macro' level. Feynman's genius was to see that the way light interacted with matter had a profound effect on what was observed. THE photon does NOT remain coherent or intact for its journey from gun to detector. We'll look in the next QED post at how this happens.

Finally, in the wake of the Israeli 'invasion' of Gaza in an attempted 'clean up' of Hamas, which will almost certainly fail; when are politicians going to wake up to the realisation that military intervention solves nothing? Whatever the hawks may say, the twentieth century is littered with examples of the constant failure of a military solution to SOLVE anything whatsoever. It seems a pity that innocent blood is highly likely to be shed in the name of what is, after all, little more than a PR stunt! One would have thought that after Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, the Israelis could have worked out in advance that this isn't going to work, except in the very short term.

Friday, 2 January 2009

By proxy, the penguin writes, sort of.

The penguin has now gone and I can only pray that he returns safely in late spring. Although we are different species, we may as well be two peas in the same pod; so alike do we think. I promised I would try to continue this blog in his absence. To post the small number of prepared posts which he did before he left and which he wants me to intersperse between my own ramblings on life, the universe and why the answer's always 42, except when I'm asked for my age! I might even manage some QED in the long Christmas break; longer for me this year, no work until 12 January and to hell with them! Except for a run through of a one day course which I may have to teach during my break. Oh well, it's a harder time for the trainer right now to get too upset at losing one day or maybe two out of my break.

It's strange how such a break focuses your mind on the past. As though 'stocktaking' the year ends up making you stocktake your life. After the past five months, I decided I did not want to be around anyone this year. The last time was ten years ago, although for a very different reason. I apologise to my mother unreservedly for not being with her but perhaps she does, as she says, understand. Christmas cannot be much fun with your husband ten years in the ground and no family to share the day with but selfish I can do well, very well. Mugwump (the cat) did however enjoy the duck (that's duck meat, not a whole Aylesbury) that appeared in his bowl alongside the kibble and it did, I hope, make for a refreshing change from all the fish and chicken which he normally gets. He doesn't 'do' toys so that was as much of a Christmas present as it seemed prudent to get him. I just hope he doesn't develop a taste for it. At £13 per duck it's ever so slightly more expensive than kibble and fish/chicken :)

So, 2009 is upon us and while we can only hope it will be better than 2008, on the financial front at least, things are likely to get worse before they get better. Fortunately I'll probably only need to cut out the luxuries to survive a recession, well assuming I keep my job, you know drop the Laurent Perrier Rose Brut champagne, Hine Cognac, fillet steak, monkfish and whole turbot, proper Rocquefort cheese, trips to Mauritius and the Maldives, dinner at Le Gavroche, that kind of stuff, although if the the Russians keep hiking the price of gas, I may need to buy a few extra jumpers and forget about showering in hot water, although lacking a layer of blubber, I am ill prepared to combat hypothermia :) However we must be optimistic and so here are a few of my resolutions for the coming year:

1) Don't work so hard and so long
2) Get married (to a woman)
3) Buy 'Teach yourself to make babies' from Amazon and practise
4) Buy a semi detached mock tudor house in Bromley with a 'farmhouse' kitchen to accomodate aforementioned wife and babies
5) Give up smoking
6) Give up drinking alcohol
7) Read everything written, and in print, by Barbara Cartland
8) Take up extreme ironing*
9) Go to Ikea every weekend
10) Learn to love Monosodium Glutamate
11) Act my age
12) Buy a television and watch all the soaps
13) Get Sky or cable and watch more soaps and stupid sports like off road truck racing and topless darts
14) Learn to love rap and hip hop
15) Stop making new year resolutions that you know you can't keep :)

* extreme ironing - a sport in which you pack an ironing board, an iron and a clean shirt into your backpack and climb to the top of K2 without oxygen and iron your shirt at the summit - seriously! Of course you have to iron it again when you get back to the hotel as no-one makes a 29,000 feet mains cable to attach to the iron and Sherpas, on the whole, baulk at heaving a 240 volt generator and fuel up mountain just so you can properly iron your shirt.

When you put it like that, there doesn't seem a lot of point to the sport, really does there? I mean you may as well stay in the hotel, iron your shirt and spend the rest of the time getting bladdered in the bar. The end result's the same. One ironed shirt. Ah well, there's nowt as queer as folk.

So as we slide into recession, what's everybody doing here? Becoming possessed by a collective insanity to see exactly how much debt it's possible to rack up in as few days as possible by buying originally over priced rubbish that no-one wanted before Christmas but that everyone thinks is cool now. Yes, it's sale time! Buy loads of things you don't need, at vastly reduced prices, with money you don't have, all the while hacking off every shop assistant in the country, and then think about the consequences next week or maybe in two weeks.....or never. Oh well, we all need our little diversions :)

And finally, an 'ah bless' moment. A little head shot of Mugwump (on the bed as usual :) Cute or what?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Bonne annee!

Prosit Neujahr!