Friday, 29 June 2012

Satan, rocks, and an x-rayted song.

Last week, Julie found she had somehow hurt her back, just below her neck. Don't be worried - all she has done is somehow pulled a muscle. However, on top of her little accident at work (see Monday's post), this comes as especially unwelcome timing. The pain turned out to be a tad worse than that in her foot, so she has been forced to speak to her doctor again, with the result that she has been prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
I know the pain must be rather nasty, because Julie is actually fine with taking the tablets (as far as having to take medication goes). That said, Julie is trying to limit the amount she takes. Not because she is concerned about becoming hooked on them, but because of the side-effects. It's a legitimate concern. especially so in the light of her weight-loss surgery. Because of the reduced stomach size, Julie is now both more and less reactive to the chemicals in the meds, so while some tablets seem to have lost their effectiveness, others will turn out to be more of a problem.
So it is with co-codamol (a mix of codeine and paracetamol). I'm not going to go into details. They're not icky; you just don't need to know them. Suffice it to say that Julie finds she has to work out if she's more concerned about the pain or the side-effects at any one point before taking and co-codamol. Or, as Julie put it,

A little note for the folks who may have got the wrong end of the stick here; hardcore - in this case - does not refer to 'action', but to the rubble that is used in construction. Although I'll freely admit that, when I first saw a sign advertising 'Free hardcore', I not only got the wrong end of the stick, I got the wrong stick altogether.
Ah, youth.

What with Julie's foot and her back and my ongoing headache issues (and occasional back troubles), a lot of our conversations turn to health matters. Usually, we'll lament our lot, and then follow it up by saying that there are many far worse off than we are... although that doesn't make it any better.
Julie said it best.

And on that note, we shall bid you fare-thee-well and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Durr-an Duran...

I have a colleague who only works part-time. It's a good thing for him, as he came out of retirement to do the job. It's also a good thing for the company, as they don't want a full-timer.
Dave's a decent enough bloke, but he couldn't, to quote Terry Pratchett's Soul Music, carry a tune in a bucket. He can't even whistle tunefully. Seriously, it's almost painful. For someone like me, a person that needs a bit of music in the background, that needs the flow of music to be right, it really does verge on the painful.
Even worse, his grasp of lyrics is tenuous beyond belief. Again, to me, this is like fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul.

Some years ago, when the Bob Marley track Iron Lion Zion was suddenly a massive hit, I was living at my parents' house and they were having some work done on it. Unfortunately, I was working a night shift and trying to sleep through hot summer days with a workman listening to the radio and trying to sing along with Bob. Even more unluckily, the only words he knew were 'iron', 'lion' and 'Zion'. Even worse, they were out of tune too. Commercial radio being what it is, the song was repeated ad nauseum, and I got very little sleep.

Back in the present day, I was packing some boxes, when Dave came along, 'singing' along to Duran Duran...

Well, it beats "lalalalalaa", I suppose...
Here's the original - clean - video.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Julie vs the telesales people (part II)

We posted a Gem a short while ago about what happened when Julie received a call from a telesales person (click here to see the confusion). After that, we were talking about other ways we could baffle the buggers...
This hasn't happened, but we wish it would. We're just waiting for the right time.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Painting the sky with feathers

It's time for a certain young guest star once more :-)

Sharron and her family were visiting her mother-in-law, who had recently been seriously ill and now returned home. The weather was quite pleasant, apparently, which made a nice change from the wind and rain that had been hammering the northern parts of the country for some days. In fact, the sky was a beautiful shade of blue, so much so that Sharron remarked on it to her daughters. They looked out of the windows, and then the youngest daughter said:

You gotta love the surreal innocence of kids, eh?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Having a (non)sense of place

[My apologies, today's post is a little on the lengthy side.]

Working at the hospital can be dangerous. Quite apart from abusive drunks on the night shifts, germ-ridden people coughing into your face or razor-sharp instruments seemingly waiting to cut you at the first opportunity, there are the trolleys. Sorry if that reads like I am being flippant towards the last one, but I'm not. It's admittedly not as potentially lethal as the others, but it's a real danger nonetheless.
Imagine you have a trolley laden with its contents - and this goes for the hospital beds being pushed around, too - moving along a corridor. Maybe one wheel sticks, maybe they're all very free-flowing. However, the fact remains that a huge chunk of metal is being pushed and/or pulled by one or two people. What happens when you come to negotiate a corner, or go through a door? It's going to be tricky, holding the door open with one hand and manipulating the trolley with the other.

That's when you need to be careful.

Julie found this out to her cost recently, as she was trying to move a loaded food trolley (and they're very heavy, I am told) into a corridor, out of a lift (elevator, to US English speakers). One of the wheels caught her foot, which obviously hurt like blazes. Julie, being bought up to not worry about things and to get on as best as she can, didn't mention it at the time.
However, the top of her foot continued to hurt like blazes.
Eventually, Julie went to see a doctor, who referred her to the hospital for an x-ray. This, thankfully, turned up no broken bones, although there had been some fluid created as a result of the accident. This would apparently subside in a few more days. This was a relief, as we really didn't fancy Julie being signed off and not getting any pay. We can't afford that right now.

Julie and myself were talking about the accident, and I was asking some questions; Was it reported? (there isn't anyone around at the weekends to report to.) Was it recorded in the accident book? (see previous parentheses) Have you spoken to a team leader since the weekend? (well... no)
It was about this point that I went on a little rant about how they should be issued and wearing protective footwear - what we in the business know as "toe-'tectors". I also hectored Julie about needing to tell someone about it as soon as possible; if nothing else, if it turned out there was something seriously wrong, then her employers would know why and how. Julie has a tendency, when I begin one of my little tirades, of letting me run my course and then saying something like, "well, we'll see." Which is quite aggravating.

In any event, Julie told her supervisor the next day. She was told that Occupational Health* would need to get in touch with her and go over the incident with her. However, there was an obvious problem or two. You see, Julie only works an early evening shift, one which has very little overlap with office staff. Not only that, but the day after Julie's chat with her supervisor, she was due to take a couple of days off. Just when were OH supposed to be getting hold of Julie?

If that wasn't enough, after I had written this Gem down, Julie dug herself in even further...

[Even better, Julie just came back from work as I was typing this out. Naturally curious as to what I may have been slandering her for (just kidding, it's all true), she had a glance and wanted to know the Gem involved. I read out what I had copied down and she stood there for a moment and then said,
"Well, that makes sense, doesn't it?"
Yes, dear.]

*Occupational Health is one of those departments within a company that has arisen as a direct result of the culture of litigation that has become prevalent in much of the western world these days. Essentially, they exist to give the company a reason to avoid paying out any money to an injured party. To this end, OH will ask you so many questions that you get fed up of it all and decide it's less hassle to go back to work.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bonus post - "Seriously, Siri?" on The Devil's Panties

It's webcomic time, again, folks!
Today, I'm introducing you to The Devil's Panties, a comic which is a lot less demonic and some way less naughty than the name implies. Jennie Breeden, the writer and artist, presents us with a slice of her life every weekday and most Saturdays. It's not strictly true-to-life, as not many people do really have miniature good/evil/princess versions of themselves bickering between themselves over her shoulder.
Apart from that, the comic follows Jennie and her fiancĂ©e (he recently proposed to her at a kilt-blowing convention, which should tell you a lot about both them and the webcomic) as they try and make a living from making the webcomic... can anyone else hear Edith Piaf singing "Je ne regrette rien" very slowly?*

In case that puts you off, let me also tell you that Jennie has some very idiosyncratic friends and relatives, which is hardly surprising, considering that she herself is into, yes, kilt-blowing and fantasy LARPing (that is, Live Action Role Play), in which Jennie roleplays as an orc called Dammit. She even has a secondary webcomic called 'Geebas on Parade' in which she draws about her experiences as a LARPer. In many ways, that comic is almost funnier than TDP, however, it is back to the satanic underwear for today's bonus Gem.

Recently, there was a big family event in the Breeden household, which meant that a lot of the family were around. and it appears that Jennie's family are just as funny - intentionally or otherwise - as the lady herself. Take, for example, the efforts of one Uncle Sidney to record something on his iPhone. Actually, the recording probably went well enough. It was trying to use the speech recognition software known as Siri to label the file that caused him a spot of bother...

(copyright Jennie Breeden)

Poor Uncle. I wonder if they've let him forget it yet...
If that wasn't enough, there is a semi-regular feature in TDP known as 'What not to say in the bedroom' (usually featured on Saturdays). Take a look at this example...

(copyright Jennie Breeden)

So there you have it, another webcomic. Hope you liked the introduction - now go and read The Devil's Panties.

*If you haven't seen the film 'Inception', you won't have a chance of getting that joke. Sorry.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Longer doesn't mean longer.

The passage of time is a very subjective experience. Poor situations seem to make the day drag out interminably. Conversely, if you're enjoying yourself, you're bound by the laws of conversational narrative to utter the immortal line, "what, already? I just started! I don't know - just where does the time go?" As the author Terry Pratchett has also noted, your perception of time already elapsed will vary too. You may look back on a work or school day and lament how it never seemed to come to an end. However... wait, what? We've just had the longest day of the year? I could have sworn it was February yesterday! Or, as Sir Terry has it...

Of course, you don't need any such mundane approach to time dilation when Julie is around. If nothing else, after a few Gemmed-up exchanges with my wife, you'll have only the vaguest idea as to what century you're in. What I wasn't aware of, however, is that even Julie is affected by her in-built temporal distortion field. Even more oddly, Julie can turn this field on by having a nice lie-in.

I'm not a morning person, never have been. Unfortunately, being Gemmed later in the day means my brain is awake and then ties itself into knots trying to figure out the meaning behind what the ears have just fed it. So, there I was, mug of tea raised partway to my mouth and an expression of terminal bafflement on my face. Julie saw my confusion and decided to help me out.

Well, that's nice. Do you think you could find the time to explain it to me?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bonus post - cautionary canine creation

Yesterday, Julie was less than supportive of my desire to have a dog from a rescue centre. However, as you may recall, the topic arose because we had been discussing some distressingly poor examples of poochdom. The most common example was what essentially appeared to be nothing more nor less than a toupee with legs and teeth. Then there were the big, fluffy ones. Usually Bernese mountain dogs crossed with Alsatians or huskies and lumbering along with lung conditions that'd make hardened smokers wince in sympathy.

However, one dog topped them all. After a little searching, I reckon what we saw was actually a Mexican hairless chihuahua. I love the fact they had to add 'Mexican' to the description, considering chihuahuas are Mexican in the first place, being given the moniker after the town of the same name.

 It's an ugly little thing, for sure, but more than that, it's a pathetic creature. I mean, you have to remember that things like this are descended for wolves. That, ladies and gentlemen, is genetically so close to a wolf it's almost identical.
Looks nothing like a wolf, does it?
Or, as Julie put it,

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

It mutts be love at a rescue centre

Sorry! Terrible pun, I know.
The thing is, my family has had a few dogs over the years. The first I recall was Skip, an English Springer Spaniel - and a big bugger he was too. He was a pure breed, and as such had many of the problems that pure-breed dogs (and cats) do. In the end, it was bowel cancer that got him, but he lived a happy life. Even happier if there was ice-cream in the offing.
It took quite some years before my folks could bear to get themselves another dog. That dog is Toby, a Jack Russell terrier - again, a pure-breed. Again, he's had quite a few medical issues, but again, he's in his old age and still enjoying himself enormously. It's fairly pleasant too, in that he's generally a lot more well-behaved and mindful of himself than Skip was. Skip was a great dog, and tremendously loyal, but he had the attention span of-SQUIRREL!

Ever since moving out of my parents' place for good, I have to admit I have missed having a dog around the place. The thing is though, I work full-time, as does Julie (in a roundabout manner), so it wouldn't be fair on any animal if we did take one in. The closest we got was when Julie sponsored a dog from the charity, The Dogs Trust. This is Jacob.

As you can see, he's not a pure-breed, although there is a lot of Jack Russell in there. I never got to meet him, as the sponsorship was all done online and he lived half a country away. Oh well.
My point, though, is that I approve heartily of The Dogs Trust and what they do. When we are out for a walk and we see some runty little hairpiece or a slobbering beast with more muscles than brain cells or something that looks like it makes a living from chasing parked cars, we know that we could never go the pure-breed route.
For me, it goes even further, as I explained to Julie.

Mind you, I suppose it would have to be a mentally robust animal, considering how off-beat its new humans would be...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Private Eye: Dumb Britain. Julie responds.

There is a satirical, highly politic and left-leaning magazine in Britain called Private Eye. It's efficiency in annoying the establishment, the arrogant and the merely(?) powerfully inept shows up very well in light of the times that the publishers and editors have been called to court for daring to challenge a dangerously unbalanced status quo. And won. Among many things, Private Eye dislikes celebrities and the cult thereof, the class system, hypocrites, biased journalism (yes, I know), corrupt officials and excess of most kinds.
They also like to poke gentle fun at other things, such as poorly-worded signs, odd things for sale under bizarre pricing conditions, and just how some people only open their mouths to insert their feet. One of their features in this vein is the 'Colmanballs' column. Another is 'Dumb Britain', which centres on questions in quiz shows and the otherworldly responses. Admittedly, it is sometimes the quizmaster fouling things up, but it's usually the contestant. Sometimes, it appears as though the magazine is poking fun at people less educated than themselves, but it does have to be said that a lot of answers go against any kind of internal logic and clues that the question has provided. Take a look at the feature from the latest issue.

In the first two, there is definitely an element of educational snobbery, but the third one has no excuse. They have already been given the county and they go and mention a different one? And as for the 'Dumb Australian', (s)he was told that the answer was a country. Where on Earth is there a country that has a name sounding like 'Fiddler on the Roof'?

Julie enjoys this section usually, so I was reading out the questions to her. Once she had provided an answer, I would go on to inform her what the contestant had come up with. When it got to the final one, I asked, "Which Mediterranean country, whose name sounds like that of a musical, owns the island of Rhodes?"

Oh dear. I thought she was Being Silly, until I saw her expression...
Mind you, at least Julie,unlike the contestant from Australia, managed to come up with an answer that was geographical. The rest of it can be put down to her admirable lack of grasp of matters geographical.

Actually.. and I can't let this slide... Julie really should have known better, because the correct answer, of course, was 'Greece'. The homophonic musical, Grease, is one of Julie's all-time favourite films and musicals.
Oh dear.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Snoring; it's just not safe.

(Following on from Wednesday's dancing doggie* )

So, one Gem on, I was feeling pretty flaked out and Julie suggested that I have a proper nap. This I did, although I wasn't expecting to sleep for real; I have the be very tired for me to be sleeping upright in a chair. Something woke me with a start - as it happened, it was Julie coming in to say 'bye' before she went to work an evening shift at the hospital. Blimey - I must have been tired to have slept so long. And so deeply, too. Julie had had time to sit, read her book, do a sudoku and then leave to get changed and fix herself a drink and a snack before leaving.
And I slept through it all.
One thing did concern me, though. I snore. I can snore loudly, too. (Julie also snores, something she vociferously and repeatedly denies, despite the evidence and witness reports. And the fact she's the only person I know who can wake themselves up with their own snoring)
My first concern upon waking was that I hadn't forced Julie out of the room with my nasal noises.

Er. Thanks? Especially for making sure I'm wide awake.

*Possibly. Allegedly. Probably not...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

C'mon, jack your doggie

Every now and then, you get a moment when all you want to do is just sit quietly and maybe read. Well, so it was with Julie and myself one afternoon recently.
A Sunday, as I recall.
It's nice, to just sit and be happy in each other's company, even though you aren't doing anything in particular. Julie was reading a book, and I was feeling a little under the weather,* so I was having a nap in the armchair.
Gradually, I became aware of a noise coming from next door. I lifted my head sleepily and cast a quizzical glance at the appropriate wall. Julie notice this and felt moved to explain.

Okay - not sleepy any more! Confused as hell, but not sleepy...
Needless to say, it was definitely a neighbour using a vacuum cleaner..

* I've always wondered about that phrase. Of course I was under the weather. If I was above it, I'd need a bloody space suit.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Venus in Blurred Jeans and other shenanigans

They say a week is a long time in politics. It's also a long time in science, weather, blogging and - more to the point - it's a long time for Julie to remember things that people may have said.

A week ago, the orbit of the planet Venus happened to pass between us and the sun, resulting in some first class pictures and a lot of scientific data. A little closer to home, where Jubilee mania was well and truly in full swing, the transit of Venus resulted in confusion and a somewhat baffling Gem, courtesy of one of my colleagues. This was posted on Friday. On the following day, Julie and myself were sat in the living room, and I asked if she had read the Gem yet. As it happened, she had, but - touching upon an earlier conversation we'd had - wanted to make a point about it. I was completely unprepared for the resulting conversation.

In other words, you have been warned.
Now read on.

I was absolutely speechless. Just when it seemed Julie couldn't up the 'Odd' ante any more, there she went.
Epic. Truly epic.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Insectile-related synaesthesia?

Hi folks, how is your weekend going so far? Julie's at work right now, but that's fine, because it allows other people a chance to shine on here. Mind you, today's special guest seems to be heading towards having a permanent support role, considering her output so far (here, here and here. The last of these has a permanent place in the top ten, it would appear).

Yes, once again, one of Sharron's daughters makes one of her special pronouncements. Special enough, in fact, that it prompted her mother to make a request on facebook for possible explanations...

For a little while, the meaning remained quite elusive. However, I think I have it - maybe it's all that time with Julie?
Basically, my reckoning is that Sharron's daughter saw this little bug and imagined it inside her shoe, wriggling around. And that she imagined it so well, she thought that she felt it. What do you reckon?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Transitory Jubilations

Nationally, and internationally, there have been some big reasons for hogging the headlines in a positive manner. One of them was the very recent transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. It took a few days to do it, but it was easily visible to anyone who had the most rudimentary of equipment. Even a pair of cheap binoculars would have done it - although you had to take precautions, naturally. Even with a little disc taken off, there's plenty of light to cause permanent damage to your eyes. Take a look at this cunning device for eclipse-watching.

Clever, eh? Would it have been worth looking like a wally, though, just to see a little dot on the face of the sun? Well, yes. Don't take my word for it, here's a picture of Venus set against the sun, taken on June 4th.

In case you weren't sure, that little black circle is Venus, set against
a magnificent dawning sun.

Beautiful, isn't it?*
Sadly, by the time you read this, it will all be over, bar the dissection of data gathered by various scientists. The last time it happened was back in 2004, but don't get excited, because I can pretty much guarantee you'll never have a chance to see it first-hand again. You see, this particular phenomenon only occurs in widely space pairs over an even more widely-spaced period of time. Here's a good description of the science bit - with no difficult parts.

I was talking about this to a female colleague of mine last week, as we sat in the canteen at work. At another table, one of our other colleagues was sat playing a game on his phone. Most of the talk was between my female friend and myself and it was a little vague, because we were excitedly talking at cross-purposes about the transit and trying to explain it to yet another colleague.
The point we were especially trying to make was the need for him to pull his finger out and make plans to either observe the transit of Venus or book a berth in a cryogenics facility. After all, it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as my female colleague explained - before the game-player suddenly jumped in and came up with a comment that blew us all out of the water, metaphorically speaking.

Nice one, mate. Science to a diamond jubilee in one giant and very uneasy step. In case you weren't aware from our last post, Queen Elizabeth has reigned over Britain and certain Commonwealth countries for sixty years now. This fact has elicited a massive jubilee, resulting in a four-day weekend for many and street parties all over.
Quite what this has to do with a planet crossing the face of the sun, I'm not sure, but I suppose I can't really deny he was actually quite correct. Her Majesty, even ignoring her currently advanced age, will never get another chance to see Venus taking a leisurely stroll across our nearest star.
Oh well.

*ZME Science (a superb general science blog by an enthusiastic amateur) has an excellent article with even better photographs, so why not trot along and enrich your mind.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

No zex please, we're Scrabbling

As you may have guessed, Julie and myself we playing a game of Scrabble. We had been out for a stroll, met up with her brother unexpectedly and then walked along the seafront back home. We were a little surprised, actually, as we had been expecting to get rained on, but the clouds held off until we got back. Thus it was that I got the kettle going while Julie set the board and racks up.
Tea for two and a game of Scrabble. Lovely.

It wasn't far into the game, however, that Julie took her turn, playing 'zek' and leaving the board like this:

As I have said before, we don't play strictly to the rules. We have a couple of books with word lists in them, and browse through them in search of a word we think may exist and be viable with the letters on our racks. This, naturally, is how Julie wound up playing the odd-looking 'zek' and frankly libidinous 'zex'.
Except that neither of us knew what the hell either word meant. The book that Julie uses is simply a list of words. Mine, however, also gives definitions, which usually assuages my curiosity.
Mind you, my initial curiosity was confined to wondering whether I could slap an 's' on the end of 'zek'.
I could.
Having confirmed this, my eyes drifted over to the definition.

Well, that's a lot better than the 'Germanic sex' option I had been expecting.
Not that I expect Germanic sex ... I'm not helping myself here, am I?
Anyhow. In case you're interested, a 'zex' is a tool for cutting roofing tiles, according to the book. Not that I can find anything about the damn tool apart from other people mentioning it in their blog posts about Scrabble games. It's all rather recursive, isn't it?

Oh, and if you thought Julie's words were odd, I then followed it up by playing 'schrod' (a young cod) across from 'zek' and grabbing 45 points. Nice.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Julie vs the Jubilee

Well, hello, and happy Jubilee day to you all. Once again, I have managed to coax Julie to the wrong side of the camera - all in aid of celebrating our glorious monarch's long reigBWAHAHAHAHAHA!
Sorry - I just couldn't keep a straight face there. What I should have said is that we wanted to use the jubilee as another excuse to be very silly in front of our audience. With that in mind, I bought a small Union Jack, which - astonishingly enough - was actually made in Britain and then we roped in Reynard to complete the usual suspects.

As you can see, Reynard is very happy to be with Julie, although it doesn't appear to be 100% mutual. Anyway, onto the video. Sorry,once more, about the low sound levels, and sorry for the excessive amount of mumbling and my almost total inability to face the camera.

It would appear the batteries in our camera have a wonderfully developed sense of timing. I promise you that we did not edit that final section at all. What a perfect way to end the clip - although I hasten to assure you my eyes are fine.

So there you have it. I hope the rest of you Brits - and maybe also some of the Commonwealth countries - enjoy the rest of your extended bank holiday weekend.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Vegetarian - the hard way.

What with Julie working two part-time jobs to try and build up our income, our time together has become much less than it could be. It wouldn't be so bad if both posts were weekday jobs, but it's never going to be that simple, is it? One job is good like that, but the other, the one for the hospital, begins on Saturday and finishes on Wednesday. Oh, and it's an evening job.
One thing we do like to do is have ourselves a take-out and DVD night on either the Thursday or Friday. Normally, we will watch a bit of comedy (Red Dwarf or classic Muppet Show episodes. Occasionally, it'll be The Young Ones). For food, we will try and have something that we can eat while sat on the sofa. Sometimes, we can get away with Chinese or a curry, but the natural choice of take out for this situation is either fish and chips or pizza. If it's the latter, then we will order online, which is an experience in itself. If nothing else, we usually foul up one way or another and accidentally delete the entire order.
Bad words are said.

One thing we do is take advantage of a specific offer whereby we buy one pizza and get the other for half price. If nothing else, it means we don't have to worry about cooking for the next couple of nights. The only drawback to this is that we both wind up a little paralysed by choice. My own response to this is to sit and read a book or magazine while Julie ponders the possibilities. I believe she does the same while I'm prevaricating. However, it's a little difficult to read when your soulmate is providing a running commentary - and refusing to take the thing at all seriously...

Wait, what? You turning vegetarian on me, love?


Talking of Red Dwarf, I suppose it would be remiss of me to avoid including this rather idiosyncratic and supremely appropriate music video. Tongue-tied may be how Julie can be, but it's how I feel when she is near me.