Archive for May, 2006

World’s most expensive cat toy

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

This is one of the new Apple MacBook Pros (or should that be MacBooks Pro?) Anyway, whatever the correct grammar, I want one.

I also want the kitten that’s playing with it. The owner is plainly messing with the remote control and sending the poor cat wild.


really expensive cat toy on Vimeo

Pay claim

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The lecturers’ strike in the UK is beginning to bite in ways that I don’t think anyone anticipated. It really looks certain that students won’t be graduating this summer as planned. I’m not a big supporter of the action (though I support the cause – academic pay is appalling, and it beggars belief that graduates will go into jobs earning more than the people that taught them), but the ‘increased’ offer made today by the UCEA (representing employers) of 13.1% over three years is laughable, particularly considering it doesn’t even begin to make up for a decline in salaries over the past decade or so, which has meant university lecturers have gone from being paid the same as middle managers in industry to less than bus drivers. Seriously.

And what is it with these ‘over three years’ offers? 13.1% equates to 4.3% per year (although it won’t actually) which is not much above inflation as it stands, but seems to be designed to look good in the papers when the ‘over three years’ seems to get dropped.

It made me think this morning: what’s the difference between a plastic surgeon and the UCEA? One tucks up features… (you can work the rest out for yourself).

The fag-end of history

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

I was sitting in the pub the other night staring at an ashtray for some reason, when two things occurred to me (as they do after a few drinks):

The first is, there’s a Turner Prize to be won by collecting thousands of soon-to-be defunct ashtrays from the UK’s pubs and clubs and stacking them to form one big ashtray, or a wall of ashtrays. So that’s a project to keep me going for a while. Forget “shedboatshed” I’m going to do “ashtray-ashtray-er, ashtray”.

The second, rather more serious, is that I hope someone somewhere is telling bar managers what to do with all their ashtrays. With the ban on public smoking coming in to force soon, we have the potential for several landfill sites to be brimming over with the things, most of which could be recycled.

Update: Thanks Shaun for crushing that fantasy – he pointed out that someone’s already spotted the potential of the demise of the humble ashtray.

Alice’s adventures started here…

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

White Rabbit, originally uploaded by haadams_rpi.

Ripon, where I lived for ten years, has a few claims to fame (not including the fact I lived there for ten years, of course!)
One of them is the residence of Charles Dodgson, who as Lewis Carroll wrote” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. His links with the cathedral (his father was a canon there) are thought to have led to some direct inspirations.

This seat (or misericord), made for the clergy to rest on during services, includes a carving of a griffin and a rabbit who is trying to escape down a hole. You can see the bottom of a more successful rabbit already disappearing down the hole on the right.
The architect Sir George Gilbert Scott included figures of the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat during building works on the cathedral in celebration of the cathedral’s links with Carroll

When Tenniel was doing the drawings for Alice, he modelled the heroine on the daughter of Canon Badcock, Mary, after being given a photograph of her by Carroll. Here the links between Ripon and Alice get even stronger: Mary lived near Ripon’s notorious gypsum faults, which periodically cause huge holes to appear in the ground – leading in turn to quite a few arguments between houseowners and insurers. In 1834 one of these holes appeared a short distance from the Badcock’s house, 60 feet deep and 35 feet wide, and it’s thought that Carroll visited it and later included it in the tale of Alice’s adventures.

Death, the jealous angler

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

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Another Flikr discovery. I used to walk past this gravestone every day on the way to work. It’s in the cemetery outside Ripon Cathedral and reads:
“Here lies poor but honest Bryan Tunstall,
he was a most expert angler until
Death, envious of his Merit, threw out his line,
hooked him, and landed him here
the 21st day of April 1790″

Fountains Abbey

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Fountains Abbey Reflection, originally uploaded by JuanJ.

When I lived in Ripon I used to do the ‘seven bridges’ walk which takes you from the city centre to Fountains Abbey. It’s a beautiful walk to a beautiful place, any time of year.

The house I owned (I could afford a house up north!) was not far from where war poet Wilfred Owen lived before he returned to France where he was killed in November 1918 and I read in a biography that he did the same walk often, and wrote some of his best poetry at the time. It’s not hard to understand why.

Anyway, I found this shot of Fountains Abbey on Flikr which reminded me of some happy times – and not so happy: I often made the trek when things were pretty shitty.

It’s a truly calming place. Worth a visit if you’re ever in the Ripon/North Yorkshire area.

How do these people get elected?

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board member Leslie Pinney is leading a push to get seven books bumped from required reading lists next year, saying they are littered with lewd language and graphic sexual references inappropriate for teens.

Among those she says should go: the Vietnam war piece ‘The Things They Carried,’ Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ Kate Chopin’s 1899 ‘The Awakening,’ about a woman exploring her sexuality, and ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ described as a modern-day ‘Catcher in the Rye.’

Pinney also is targeting Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved,’ the best-seller ‘Freakonomics’ and ‘The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World,’ a non-fiction work that examines the relationship between humans and plants – using marijuana as one example.

Pinney has not read any of the books, and ‘I don’t know if I would want to,’ she says.

Stupid cow.

(Via Daily Herald.)

Itchy nose weather

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

I went out of my back door on Sunday, for the first time in a while (the ‘garden’ is a little patch of weeds down a rickety wooden staircase so I leave it to the cat).
In the few days since I last looked out of the window everything’s gone green:

Very nice, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few old soldiers chopping their way through some of that undergrowth.

Copywriter wanted: must understand basic grammar

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Take a look at this miserable excuse for an advertisement. (The word in the middle is ‘shirt’, not ‘shit’).

Why am I so down on it? Forget the layout that means the key word is lost in the fold, forget the weak weedy typography, forget the far-too-subtle joke, or the fact that the washing machine appears to be unplugged and in the living room. Take a look at the headline.

Spot the mistake?

It’s ‘fewer creases’, not ‘less’! It’s wrong, no matter what you might say about “well everyone says ‘less’ these days”. I don’t care. It’s inexcusable. It’s up there with apostrophes in the wrong place, ellipses with two dots or more than three, ‘I’ instead of ‘me’.

(Marks & Spencer, the leading high street retailer in the UK, changed their checkout signs from ‘Five items or less’ to ‘Five items or fewer’, I’m told because of a customer complaint. Sadly no other store seems to have followed suit).

If I were Ariel or Hotpoint I’d be having serious words with my ad agency…

But it’s not as bad as this example of piss-poor proofing. The cheese company Leerdammer recently launched a new brand extension complete with inappropriate apostrophe. I first noticed this over a year ago and they’re still doing it!
I mean, I might expect it of a greengrocer, but not an international food company:

Unbelievable. Who approves this crap?

View from my office window

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Every year the ‘Lady boys of Bankok’ turn up, pitch tent in front of my window, only to disappear several months later leaving nothing but a patch of brown grass.

As this is my last summer in Brighton, it seems, I might have to go and see what this is all about.