Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

So it has come to that time of the year when we all try to simultaneously look forward and backwards - something that normally only owls and those reptiles with swivelly eyes can do.

I won't say it's been a good or bad year because barring complete disasters, all years have their highs and lows. Through nothing more than a fluke of nature I am fortunate enough to be living in a peaceful part of the world where life is good and disaster rarely, if ever, strikes. We are lucky enough to have little to worry about except what we can brew up in our strangely doom-laden imaginations. The solipsism of many affluent, healthy and comfortable  Westerners continues to bemuse me. Take a look at the rest of the world sometime and stop feeling so bloody sorry for yourself.

I've had one experience in 2011 I hope I never to have to repeat.  The slow, painful decline and death through illness of a close friend provoked emotions in me I had never experienced before. I have never wept at someone's bedside. I think I had come to terms with the inevitability of his death but I simply could not cope with watching someone I had known for so long in such desperate and hopeless circumstances. Knowing I could do nothing to help him was unbearable. He was the model of courage in adversity. I was hopeless.

On a lighter (and suddenly rather tactless) note, men like compiling 'top 20' lists and I am no exception. Here is my entirely arbitrary selection of top things from 2011 which I will think up as I go along.... 

Best Blog
A dead heat between nursemyra at The Gimcrack Hospital, Terra Shield at Raconteur-esque Scribblings and Saby at Booby Rants!. I fear we may have almost lost Saby to the Twittersphere (which I rarely visit) but her intermittent posts combining simmering rage and sparkling wit are always a pleasure to see.

An honourable mention goes to Gia at Mayor Gia who has the rare skill of being able to write brilliantly funny dialogue and combine it with great illustrations. Let's hope the zombie sluts don't get to her too soon.

Best TV Show
The Killing. With a little practice I may soon be able to swear fluently in Danish. Interesting to discover that the Danish for "f*cked up" is "furkerdairurrppp". Who'd have thought it. 

Best Dessert
Galette des Rois. I made this for my family at Christmas. It's French and much more complicated than the recipe suggests. I was relieved to see it turned out looking mostly like the illustration and tasted pretty damned good as well. Follow the suggestion and add pear segments pre-fried in butter. Kudos to me in the kitchen.  

Best Car
My old Audi A4 which clocked up 250,000 miles (402,000 Km) this year and shows no sign of failing me. I will replace you in the Spring....but I say that every year.  

Best Pop Video
Last Friday Night by Katy Perry. It's actually probably the only pop video I've watched this year. I really like the energy, vibrancy, colour and humour in this video. You can't help but smile all the way through it. Katy Perry is hot as well - with and without glasses. 

Best Consumer Product
The Canon EOS 60D digital SLR - mainly because I've just bought one. Expect blogposts in 2012 to have significantly more picture content.

Best Internet Retailer
I won't tell you their name but they sent me two Canon EOS 60D cameras and have billed me for only one. I 'phoned them up and told them of their mistake but they have so far failed to collect the second one. Where do I stand on this? Does it become mine after a certain amount of time?

Best Weather
The UK being buried in snow for a significant part of December 2010 and January 2011. Who can be so miserable as to not like snow? Where is your inner child? 

Best Holiday
A week in Scotland. More correctly, it was my only real holiday this year. Must improve on this in 2012. 

Best Friends
It might still possibly be the people I went to school with even though we are now scattered acrosss the globe. We met up over Christmas and regressed to being teenagers again (albeit teenagers who could spend freely and rather too over-indulgently at the bar). No oneupmanship. No envy. No baggage.  We were just pleased to see each other healthy and happy. 

Best Pub
The Grange Arms, Hornby, North Yorkshire. Where I invariably meet my best friends when our paths occasionally collide. Good beer is important, good company is essential. 

Best You Tube Video
This guy. Ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho. La la la la la. Love the wig, the waves, the gestures...makes me want to live in seventies Soviet Russia.

Best Comeuppance
The ongoing evisceration of the UK tabloid press and their vulgar, voyeuristic, prurient, intrusive, judgemental, insensitive, manipulative, degrading and thankfully (finally proven), illegal reporting methods.

That's fourteen tops by my count - more than enough. Must go out and make something of the day. It's the last one we'll get in 2011 - if you hadn't noticed. Suggestions on other 'tops' are welcome if you'd like me to add to the list. Or how about some of your own?

I wish you and all your loved ones a happy, abundant and trouble-free 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Bud is Back Meme

Thanks for the following meme go to Terra Shield at Raconteur-esque Scribblings who in turn found it at Sunday Stealings. I rather rashly said I would complete it myself even though I suspect I have precious little to tell. Who knows? Here goes...

1. Why did you sign up for writing your blog?

Blogging was in the news and I'd been following a few blogs. I was mildly envious at how well other people wrote and wondered if I could write anything worthwhile myself. I'm still wondering.

2. Why did you choose your blog's name? What does it mean?

It's a track from a Bonzo Dog Band compilation album which I was enjoying on the evening I signed up to Blogger. I have no particular liking (or disliking) for the track. I was just looking for an anonymous name. I have no aspirations to royalty...or scurf.

I've just looked for a defintion of scurf and I've found out one of its meanings is dandruff - blooarrgghh. I never knew this definition until today. Up until now the only defintion for scurf I knew was the tiny slivers and scraps of metal you get when using drills and similar metalworking tools.

3. Do you ever had another blog?

"Do you ever had.." No, this is as good as it gets.

4. What do you do online when you're not on your blog?

Surf aimlessly. Read other people's blogs. Read news. Nothing interactive.

5. How about when you're not on the computer?

Work in IT for a gigantic US software company (no, not that one). I sit at a computer all day so I guess, strictly speaking, this answer does not really apply.

Read paper books. I'm not an e-reader but I'm not averse to the idea either - see later comment about being a late adopter. I primarily read non-fiction.

Socialise - the usual stuff - drinking, eating with friends etc. Definitely not a clubber.

6. What do you wish people who read your blog knew about you?

Truly, the thought has never crossed my mind. As an individual, I hope they think I'm balanced, considered, mildly inquisitive and hopefully they think I have a sense of humour. I am mostly at ease with my online persona and I don't seek to create an online image other than what people might infer from what I write.

I think more about the people who read my blog because I really rather like the tiny group of people who are kind enough to read and comment.

7. What is your favorite community in the blogosphere?

The thought of being part of an online 'community' doesn't really appeal. The only online community I am part of is the rather loose group of bloggers I interact with.

8. What is your philosophy on your blog layout?

It's a bog-standard Blogger template. Very few adornments or personalisation. If somebody said it was difficult to read (font too small etc.) then I'd do something about it.

9. Tell me about your picture you use to represent you on your blog.

An evening on a beach in Peru from a memorable overlanding holiday I took.

10. Pick 3 random blogs from your blogroll and tell us about them.

I don’t really use or review my blogroll that often (must tidy it up). I follow quite a few blogs through Google Reader but I only comment regularly on a few of them. You know who you are I hope.

11. What features do you think your blog should have that it doesn't currently?

Frequency and more interesting content.

12. What do you consider the 10 most "telling" interests that we would infer from your blog persona?

I spend too much time on YouTube. I don’t by the way.

I watch too much TV. I probably do by the way.

I like films.

My work often bores me. If it didn’t I’d probably talk about it more.

I would like to travel more.

I like to cook.

I have a motorcycle. A Honda ST1300 Pan European.

I lack direction.

Procratination (yup, me as well Terra). Not exactly an "interest" though.

13. Do you have any unique interests that you have never shared before? What are they?

I play golf very badly. I enjoy the game but I am somewhat uncomfortable with way it sometimes presents itself to the wider world. It has an air of aloofness and elitism (in the UK) with which I do not wish to be associated.  

14. The best thing about blogging is all of the friends that you make, Beside from those folks, do you think your blog has fans?

My blog has a few followers who are kind enough to comment on my rather erratic posts. I am very fond of them.

15. What's your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination?

This evening my new camera arrived. A Canon EOS 60D - I’ve finally gone digital. That will keep me occupied for a while. I work in technology but I’m never an early adopter. I’m still on my first mobile ‘phone. I’m not a technophobe but I’m not in thrall to technology either. I appreciate mechanical things more than digital / electronics things.

16. What are you glad you did but haven't really had a chance to post about?

I have no idea.

17. How many people that first became a blog friend, have you met face to face?

I have never met anyone through blogging.

18. What don't you talk about here, either because it's too personal or because you don't have the energy?

Being eternally single.

My poor social skills.

19. What's a question that you'd love to answer?

I’m very uncomfortable talking about myself. The anonymity of a blog helps but it doesn’t make it easy. I’ve tried writing ‘personal’ blogposts but I very rarely complete them as the honesty embarrasses me.But feel free to ask and I'll really try.

20. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and regretted it?


21. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and thought, “Was that overdue!”



I will write a proper blogpost soon...I promise.

But for now, have a look at this...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fifty Unexplainable Black & White Photos

The title says it all.

Fifty Unexplainable Black & White Photos

Nursemyra - I challenge you to create one of your amusing narratives to make a coherent story that links them all.

For me, 12, 15 and 24 in particular seem to defy any sort of rational - or even irrational - explanation.

I think 44 may be trying to reproduce a famous Doppler Effect experiment.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Way back at the start of the year I applied to be a volunteer at the 2012 London Olympics. This weekend I attended a test event - one of many that's been going on across London for some time. On Friday I attended an introduction/training day and on Saturday and Sunday I was a volunteer at the 'London Prepares' Taekwondo International Invitational

I knew almost nothing about taekwondo until this weekend. In the UK it’s very much a minority sport. On Friday evening I did some basic research on the rules so I would not spend the next two days being completely clueless because what I did know about taekwondo was that it is not a sport that is easily accessible to the casual observer. 

Taekwondo is a martial art and is the national sport of Korea. Bouts are short - typically only ten or so minutes including stoppages. There are three two minute rounds with a one minute break between rounds. Participants score points by hitting their opponents in the head or torso using their feet or using  punches to the body. Participants wear headguards and also leg and body protectors. There are sensors in the body protectors which automatically record a 'score' if a blow of sufficient force is made on the opponents body. Strikes to the head are scored by observing judges.

The skill is in the technique involved to make a scoring move. In that respect it is similar to Olympic boxing where the emphasis is also on technique and skill. It is not like professional boxing where the objective is to batter your opponent with the intention of knocking them out. In taekwondo injuries are relatively rare and knockouts almost non-existent. It’s not bloodthirsty but the action is fast and explosive.

It's a very regimented sport full of very formal gestures and acts. The participants bow to their coach before stepping on to the field of play. Opponents bow to each other before commencing a bout and again at the end. Match officials bow to each other before discussing a ruling. Respect for the officials and your opponent is acutely observed. In two days of competition I never saw a decision questioned by a participant however they do operate an extremely formal appeal process where the coach can request a video review of a contended point. This appeal process of course involves a lot of bowing.

A particularly generous gesture during one particular bout involved a participant being injured and unable to complete the bout. His opponent lifted him up and carried him off the field of play and back to his coach where he was then stretchered from the arena.

I was incredibly lucky in the volunteer role I was allocated. I could easily have been placed in a role where I was not even in the main arena. What I actually ended up doing was being one of four video camera operators positioned at the four corners of the competitive area. We had to operate the cameras which recorded the bout. If a scoring move was appealed by the coach during the bout, our footage was reviewed by the judges to check whether the appeal was valid and if so, the score would be adjusted. This is as close as you can get to the action without actually being a referee or contender. 

Taekwondo has both male and female categories. In this event (and I assume others like it) the women had an equal number of bouts as the men and their competition was every bit as enthralling, hotly contested and enthusiastically supported as the men's. This does not appear to be one of those sports where the women's version is seen as sub-standard to the men's. Isn’t that how it should be.

I’ve never been inclined towards any sort of sport like this and I dislike boxing intensely. I’ve always assumed martial arts are just for people who like hitting other people but I’ve become a bit of a taekwondo fan. It’s technical, disciplined and very skillful – my kind of sport – remember, I like cricket. 

The only thing that got to me was seeing the female competitors – young and attractive – arriving at the start of their bout looking all fresh faced and enthusiastic. Some ten minutes later a good few of them left exhausted, bewildered and dishevelled having just been kicked about the head several times by some steely-eyed Korean whirling dervish. My chivalrous side (if I have one) made me want to console them and remonstrate with the Korean and explain to her it was really not acceptable to strike a woman under any circumstances.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Pants on Fire

I was sitting on the loo the other day - sorry to introduce you so abruptly to that idea but I can't think of a less direct way to start this blogpost - and just as I was finishing, I leaned forward to put my magazine down (please don't start -  guys always read on the loo). As I did so I looked down and saw the little label tag in the back of my underwear. A small tag but the print on it was in bold red capitals so I noticed. The tag said very clearly and unambiguously KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.

I assumed initially it was some sort of drying guideline but then I started thinking. Isn't that a rather redundant statement to put in underwear these days? I'm not aware of anybody who still dries their clothes with the use of some sort of naked flame. At a pinch some people may use a gas fire but a gas fire is not really the raw inferno that I think is implied by the above warning. In fact I'm struggling to recall any time I or anyone I know has used any sort of open fire to dry clothes. Has anybody out there ever had their clothes catch fire using ANY drying process? As a child I once slightly melted a welly which got left too close to my grandparent's living room fire but that's the only time I can recall.

Perhaps, I thought, it's a warning not to stand too near a fire whilst wearing this underwear. I can't imagine what sort of grisly scenario the manufacturers are imagining but other warnings (such as the intense and painful heat) would tell you that you had spent too long next to an open fire long before your underwear caught alight.

This is 100% cotton underwear - not an especially easy substance to set fire to as far as In know. In the seventies with the strange popularity of synthetic fabrics dominating the market I could imagine clothing being more flammable than it is today - sometimes I think solely  through the static it could accumulate but I still don't think it was that easy to get (and importantly stay) alight.

Perhaps - and this is the only conclusion I can draw - it's a general warning to KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE and in fact has nothing to do with the properties of this particular brand of cotton underwear.