Archive for the ‘Deftness for Daftness’ category

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?

April 19, 2009

I have a sneaking suspicion that I have a subconscious desire to make life more complicated for myself.

As of today, for example, I possess accounts for Hotmail, YouTube, Twitter and – obviously – WordPress (to which you probably don’t need a link).  Quite aside from being an affront to nearly every grammatical rule I’ve ever learnt, these are websites dedicated to messages, videos, shorter messages and blogging, respectively.  All of these service are offered by Facebook.  And yet, I find myself more and more disinterested with Facebook, in spite of its services.

At the same time, I have, for many years now, resisted any suggestion that I should get a phone for anything other than calling and texting.  Blackberries and iPhones can probably take pictures and video as well as my digital camera and play music as well as my iPod and they have the added benefit of being a phone in a casing so slim that people wouldn’t even notice it in your pocket.  Yet, I possess a phone, a camera and an iPod which, when carried together, make me appear to be following in the fashion footsteps of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Moreover, with the combined amount  I spent on phone, camera and pod, I could have easily purchased a top of the range phone which offered the features of all three and paid the monthly fees for a year with change to spare.

Admittedly with the internet sites there are some benefits not offered by Facebook; relative anonymity for one.  I enjoy putting myself online, I enjoy the feeling of being connected, even if very few people read what I have to say, but I would never be so open on a site like Facebook, because everyone I know in real life is on there, from people I’ve known since before I started school, to people I’ve had a passing encounter with once, to potential employers.  There are friends who, if I learnt they read this, I would not mind – I might even encourage it – and they would be the ones most likely to read a note of mine on Facebook.  Nonetheless, I don’t want everyone to have access to it, which is why few of my friends know of my my myriad [insert letter here]logs.

However, those same benefits don’t exist in the phone world, most of the options I’d lose from my iPod or camera would be the superfluous ones I don’t use in the first place, so I’m spending more money for things which I don’t use.  With websites, I just have a few more bookmarks, with electronics I have a lot less money.

The irony here is that I’ve always insisted that I choose to have seperate things for specific taks for the sake of simplicity.  When did simplicity become so complex?

‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a sleeper train, don’t know when I’ll be back again

April 15, 2009

I forgot to write about the dog with dreadlocks yesterday, being entirely too excited about my sledless sledding.

I was an entirely bizarre sight, made all the weirder for me having to explain it, as I wasn’t quick enough off the mark to get my camera out.  It was a live action version of Dougal, the dog from The Magic Roundabout, except that all the visible fur on it had been braided into hundreds of thin dreadlocks, in such a way that it must have cost the owners a great deal of money and yet served no other perposed except that it made the dog look ridiculous.

Despite having to wake up entirely too early, the journey back to Wien was very relaxing.  Aside from the first half hour of train to bus to train again switching, I spent most of the 6 hour journey on one train.  The biggest drama was that I had to walk along the train and back to find a seat, but when I found one I got really lucky.

The train had individual compartments, something I have never seen on a real train, only in movies, so I was a little overexcited by them.  When I’d finished walking along the train for the second time, I noticed that one of the compartments had its curtains drawn in such a way that it appeared to be closed off.  On closer inspection it appeared just to have a stiff door and was absolutely fine.  I sat myself down and none of the ticket inspectors questioned me about why I was there.

I am just a little bit of a poser

The compartments in Austrian trains are the height of luxury when it comes to rail travel, each contains six seats which recline inwards to form three beds.  I was able to spend most of the journey lying back, listening to podcasts and watching the higher bits of the world go past.  Lovely.

The one thing that did annoy me today didn’t happen until I got back to the station in Wien.  A guy came up and asked me for 2 Euro odd for his train.  Unfortunately for him, any money I had was deep at the bottom of my bags, so I told him I didn’t have any.  But he asked again, so I repeated, clearly, that I couldn’t help him.  And still he persisted, which really worked against his as – sleeping compartment or no – long journeys exhaust me and this guy was beginning to get on my tired nerves, making me even less inclined to part with my money.  Eventually, I had to turn out my pockets and, in rather clipped tones, tell him that I didn’t have any money.

I am aware of the inherent irony that by the time I finally got the guy to leave me alone I could have just as easily dug the money from out of my bag, but that he came to the station without extra cash is ridiculous, that he didn’t have a cash card to get some more money, doubly so.  I neither know if he got his train, nor care.

I should probably be mildly concerned that at the age of 20, I am becoming a grumpy old man.  But then, it will happen eventually, I may as well get the practice in now.

Not goodbye, auf wiedersehen

April 14, 2009

Today I managed to spend a lot of time rolling in snow, quite a feat considering there’s barely any left.  So little, in fact, that the cable cars have stopped running to the top of the Hahnenkamm; yesterday was the last day of the ski season.

Today I went with Waltraud, Heidi and the kids to the Schwarzsee, literally translated as “Black Sea”.  It reminded me of when I first watched The Sound of Music.  It was from this film that I learnt that Austria had a navy (in which Herr Von Trapp is a captain) and this has never made sense to me; why should a landlocked country possess the means to defend shores it doesn’t have?  At the time, I jokingly asked if the enemy ships were flown to lakes so that the opposing sides could shoot at each other, to this day I still wonder if that’s what happens.

There were people swimming in the Schwarzsee, which was strange.  I’ve swum in it before, but that was in summer, we’ve just left the ski season and the lake was iced over less than a week ago.  I was also slightly disappointed that there was a light wind causing ripples on the water.  When it’s still, the lake is a perfect mirror, and it’s hard to tell which is the real mountains and which are the refections in photographs.  I did learn that the lake and its mud is over 300,000 years old and very good for rheumatism – interesting stuff!

It was inevitable, really

It was also here that I had my first close encounter of the snowy kind for the day.  We went of the beaten track following a kind of woodland adventure playground for kids, part of the track was covered by snow, which was hard packed.  Except when I stood on it and wound up buried up to my ankle!

This was only a taste of what was to come, though, a taste of what I would subject myself to just a few hours later when I went to the Hahnenkammrennen track.  During the winter, the piste in one of the fastest, most dangerous race courses in the world.  But now the snow is mostly melted away, the last layers being just slush and ice.  This evening, I decided I had to climb it.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing.  There is a large hoarding of Kitzbühel’s symbol (a modern rendering of the coat of arms) and from my arrival, I’ve wanted a picture in front of it, but it was always too far away.  So this evening, it being my last night, I resolved to climb up to it.

The first part – getting across the kiddie slope between the road up the mountain and the actual course – was fairly easy, the little snow that was there was soft enough to give me grip, but hard enough that I wouldn’t go through.  Gradually, however, it became slippery slush and my shoes were quickly soaked.  I got to the main piste and just had to keep plowing on, heading for a grass patch just in front of the sign.  It was only a few hundred meters, but I was worried about slipping, I was worried that I wasn’t allowed to be up here and the Polizei might come after me, I was worried that my camera my not save the pictures properly, making this all for nothing.  I was loving every minute of it.

When I made it, I went snap happy.  Every angle, expression, gesture I could think of, I took a several pictures of each.  I felt I had earned every one and the right to make sure that I had at least on perfect picture in there.  I even filmed some video whilst I ewas up there, which I want to use later (I’m putting foresight into my vlogs, now I shall be unstoppable).

Of course, then I had to get down.  I wasn’t keen on walking; the snow was soft and slipping over would be a lot more hazardous whilst walking down than it had been going up.  I thought it was a shame that I didn’t have a sled… and a thought struck me.  The snow was soft, I was wearing sturdy jeans, it would probably happen anyway if I tried to walk.  I should slide down!

It took me maybe five minutes, during which my thought processes alternated between “this is stupid” and “this is genius”.  I resolved at stupid at a plateau, where I could cross to the main road and head into town and where I stood up and was able to crack the ice in my half-frozen jeans: it was an entirely stupid idea, but totally worth it.  I also found the eaiest way to the road was using a skiing/skating movement, so I have now (sort of) skied in Kitzbühel.

Whilst I was in town, I bought some gifts for the family.  I bought a bottle of Austrian wine – called Servüs, the dialekt equivalent of aloha – for Heidi and husband, Michael, in thanks for their food and hospitality.  It was only a cheap thing, but they appreciated the gesture.

I also bought Waltraud a plant.  She has several Phalaenopsis, which Heidi pointed out to me, and I bought her another.  I was going to get a small one for €13, but it was a choice of that or a much bigger one for only €3 more.  For the past 10 days, Waltraud has fed me, given me a bed, washed my clothes and gone out of her way to take me places in the area.  She allowed me to stay with her family and in doing so, invited me to take part in her family’s Easter celebrations.  An extra €3 was the least I could do.

She was almost in tears of happiness when I gave her the plant – she calls it her Queen – and Robert was beaming at me.  I’d wanted to get him something as well, but I couldn’t work out what.  In the end, what I’ve learned about Robert is that his greatest joy is his family.  It’s subtle, but whenever he’s listening to his grandchildren babble or he sees his wife and kids happy, there is never anything other than a smile on his face.  I kind of hope he smiles like that when he thinks of me.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Kitzbühel.  This place is my home, even if I am barely here.  The one downside of the place is that there’s no one my own age here to experience this with me.  A friend in Wien said he wanted to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck.  I’m going to see if he wants to add Kitzbühel to his itinerary.  I’d like to show him around.

I’m probably going to Hell for this

April 12, 2009

I went to mass for the first time in years today.  I didn’t understand a lot of the German language service and I already knew about the plot twist at the end, anyway, so instead I admired the interior of the church, which is quite a contrast to the mountain town outside.

Kitzbühel’s church is as baroque inside as any church I’ve seen in Vienna so far.  Lots of light is let in to play off the gold fixtures (of which there are a lot).  There’s also a lot of statues and pictures of people suffering, because whilst the love of God is all well and good, Catholic architecture does tend to focus on people’s pain.

I also spent a little while critiquing the altar servers, I was an altar boy for about five years when I was younger and I like to think I stil know my stuff.  I gave them a B+, overall; good bell work but the procession could have been neater.

Then my mind began to wander – moreso than simply judging altar servers – and I considered my religious beliefs, wondered on the nature of God and such.  I tend to avoid religion, but it seemed appropriate on Easter Sunday.

I thought about all that was going on in the world today as a result of religion and even started thinking about parts of scripture.  Suddenly I runaway train of thought went through my mind and I started thinking about whether Jesus’ new commandment “love one another as I [God] have loved you” might supplant the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament by basically saying “God’s never done this to you, you shouldn’t do it to others”.  The thought continued like this:

“God’s never killed anyone, therefore you shouldn’t kill others.”  (It’s an entirely dubious statement in hindsight, but I genuinely thought it whilst I was in church.)

“God’s never stolen from anyone, therefore you shouldn’t steal”

“God’s never slept with someone’s wife… now there’s an episode of Jeremy Kyle I’d like to see!”

I imagined the whole scenario.  Joseph sat in the studio, slumped in the robes identical to the ones use in every school Nativity in the world, shifting uncomfortably every once in a while.  Kyle approaches.

Jeremy Kyle:  Now, Joseph’s with us today because he’s worried his wife may have cheated on himand their child may not, in fact, be his.  Tell us about yourself, Joseph, what do you do?

Joseph:  I’m a carpenter.

Kyle:  Good job?  Steady business?

Joseph:  I’m a bit worried about the Ikea they’re building in Galillee, but other than that, I do alright.

Kyle:  So what makes you think your wife cheated on you?

Joseph:  Well, I’ve not slept with her for one thing and she always told me she were a virgin.  But she came home pregnant one day.  Thing was, though, she were still a virgin.

Kyle:  Well we’ll come bck to you in a moment.  For now, let’s welcome Mary to the stage.

And Mary enters, again in the same blue Nativity robes, all the while swearing at the Joseph and the booing Audience.  She’s starts shouting at Joseph as she sits down.

Mary:  You’ve got no right to go around saying that about me!

Kyle:  What have you got to say for yourself?  You owe this man an explanation.

Mary:  How dare he say that about our son, what proof has he got?!

Joseph:  He doesn’t look like me.  He gets this halo-y thing around his head whenever we get pictures tak-

Mary:  In case you don’t notice, I get the halo thing around my head as well.

Joseph:  Yeah, but not every picture!  And I never slept with you and you’re still a virgin!

Kyle:  Which is why we think that Mary’s been having an illicit affair with our next guest.  Please welcome God, ladies and gentlemen.

For reasons I can’t quite fathom, God walks onto the stage wearing a tracksuit and a baseball cap, despite being the bearded man he’s usually depicted as.  He sits down in the chair and slumps looking sullen.

Kyle:  You’ve got quite a reputation, it’s a Testament, in fact to the type of person you are.  Vandalism at the Walls of Jericho, arson in the Egyptian desert, you even tried to get the first man to kill his son.

God:  Yeah, but I stopped him in the end.

Kyle:  Still, it’s quite an achievement, even for someone who’s 6000 years old, if that is your real age, we’ve found a lot of people who are pretty sure you’re several billion years old, assuming you actually exist.  And what do you actually do, when you’re not reigning down vengeance?

God:  I’m the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all reality.

Kyle:  And what does that actually involve?  What have you created recently?

God:  Well, nothin really…

Kyle:  I thought so, you’re a loafer, lazy scum who sits off because he’s done a weeks work and can’t be bothered to do any more, he just wants to sit on his cloud and watch everything happen and blame other people for his mistakes.

God:  Oh, come on!  I told them not to eat the apple, don’t start giving me that about “why was it there in the first place”!

Kyle:  I don’t want to hear it.  Mary, do you want to admit that you carried this man’s child?

Mary:  Yes.

Kyle:  And you, God, do you admit that, as the omniscient creator of all things, you must have known that you were impregnating a married woman?

God:  Yes.

Kyle:  And after she became pregnant, did you offer her any help?

Mary:  He didn’t even come see me himself, he sent one of his angels.

Kyle:  Well, I’ve got very little sympathy for you.  I don’t care if you are the virgin mother of the light of the world, saviour of all creation.  I think you’re scum.  But it’s not up to me, Joseph, what’s your take on all this?

Joseph:  Well, I’m just relieved that it’s out in the open, like.  I still love her and I want to raise the kid to be a carpenter.

Kyle:  And Mary, what are you going to do?

Mary:  I want to stay with him, there’s only so long it can last with an immortal deity.

Joseph:  The Three Magi suggested we take a holiday in Egypt for a bit, so I think we’ll try and work it out there.

Kyle:  I wish you both the best of luck.

And with that Kyle turns to the camera and says “Has your significant other cheated on you with a  deity, call our show,” as the number flashes on screen.

That is nearly exactly what went through my head during that mass, right down to the bad puns and pseudo-references.

I wonder if there was something in the incense they were using.

The first rule…

April 11, 2009

In the past month I have both watched the film and read the book Fight Club for the first time.  I am now way too into that world.  Now, I’ve not started an underground fighting ring, nor do I intend to.  I won’t be going to support groups for diseases I don’t have either.  I may sleep with a dark haired girl from the other side of the Atlantic, but that’s as close as I’ll get.

Really, I mean that I find myself interested in the ideas that the book brings up and making reference to the material during the day.  I’ve had insomnia since arriving in Vienna, so I sympathise with the main character, though I still make jokes about becoming Tyler Durden.

This evening I decided to mock up the poster of Brad Pitt holding a bar of soap, using some eagle shit I bought this afternoon.  I’m quite proud of the result.

Now if only I could photoshop someone into the space behind my shoulder

Now if only I could photoshop someone into the space behind my shoulder

I am a former African ruler

March 22, 2009

I strange note from me, as for once, it’s not me being an idiot!

I’m sure that everyone gets phishing emails from time to time, people pretending to be an former African leader or Chinese banker or the lawyer of a rich recently-deceased man with no traceable relatives, even the National Lottery.  They are attempts to get people’s details for identity theft and nobody takes them seriously.

I recently received this email, claiming to be from the UN:

Subject: FUNDS COMPENSATON
From: United Nations Organization (info@uno.com)

United Nations Organization (UNO)

Attention:
How are you today, hope all is well with you and your family?

You may not understand why this mail came to you.We have been having a
meeting for the passed 7 months which ended 2 days ago with the secretary to
the UNITED NATIONS.This email is to all the people that have been scammed in
any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS have agreed to compensate them
with the sum of US$ 500,000.00 This includes every foriegn contractors that
may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an
unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to
Government probelms etc.

You are advised to contact Mr. Jim Ovia of ZENITH BANK NIGERIA PLC, as he is
our representative in Nigeria, contact him immediately for your Cheque/
International Bank Draft of USD$ 500,000.00
This funds are in a Bank Draft for security purpose ok? so he will send it to
you and you can clear it in any bank of your choice.

Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your
correct mailing address where you want him to send the Draft to you.
Conatct Mr. Jim Ovia immediately for your Cheque:
Conatct Mr. Jim Ovia immediately for your Cheque:
Person to Contact Mr. Jim Ovia
Email: jimovia599@yahoo.com.hk
Phone: +234 8073 9382 53

Thanks and God bless you and your family.Hoping to hear from you as soon as
you cash your Bank Draft. Making the world a better place

Best Regards,
Mr. Kofi Annan
Former Secretary (UNITED NATIONS).

There are several things that are ridiculous about this message; the grammatical errors, alone are enough to make me chuckle and why would the former Secretary be sending this email?  Also why is the UN Bank now in Nigeria, and why does the representative of the Nigerian bank use a Yahoo account based out of Hong Kong? I also like the friendly “how are you today” opening, you don’t really expect an international organisation to exchange pleasantries.

What I find most bizarre is the implausible excuse that’s given in the scam; the UN has decided to compensate people who have been scammed.  This is trying to scam people who have already been scammed, surely this group would be the “once bitten, twice shy” types… if they do fall for it again, one wonders how they remember to breath

Very tempted to reply.

Not to be pedantic…

August 25, 2008

I was in Liverpool with some friends today, hunting Lambananas (as you do). As part of our trek we walked past statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, both on horseback.

In passing I mentioned that, when making statues of people on horseback,  a rearing horse shows that the person featured died in battle or from wounds sustained in battle.  If one of the forehoofs is raised the person died during a war, but from sickness or old age and if all four hoofs are on the ground then the person in the statue died during peacetime.

As soon as I finished saying this, one of my friends turned to me and said, “I’ve heard of that, it’s rubbish.”

I asked him to explain what he meant, to which he replied, “It’s not true, I read it in a book called The P’dants Revenge“.

It took me a moment before I realised what he was saying:

“By any chance do you mean Pedants Revenge?”

“No, p’dant, as in pedantic.”

“Well, yes, pedantic is the adjective, but the nound is pronounced pedant.”

“Does it really matter?” was the only reply he gave.

Names have been ommitted to protect the ironic.