ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I had to work on Tuesday evening, so emailed Pellinor during the day to tell him that there was a ready meal (stew and dumplings) waiting for him in the fridge. After I got home, he bent to put something in the fridge, then gasped, saying, "Oh! It IS there!" It turned out that, despite the fact that the fridge only had about 8 other things in, he had entirely failed to find the stew and had ended up eating a pasta bake from the freezer, on the grounds that when I'd said "fridge" I must have meant "freezer," and when I'd said "stew and dumplings" I obviously meant "creamy chicken pasta bake."

I went out for dinner last night with people from work, and was due to leave just before Pellinor was due home.

I wasn't taking any chances... )
ladyofastolat: (Winter is coming)
I wrote this on the ferry to Lymington last weekend, ready to sing in the pub to a crowd of Morris dancers. As such, it was written to a deadline, so it isn't very polished, but it's as polished as it's going to get. It was inspired by a series of solemn warnings in our staff newsletter, which had aimed for catchy Christmas-related headlines, but somehow... failed.

God help you, merry gentlemen... )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Many of us have doubtless experienced the Interminable Meeting of Doom. It drags on for hours and hours, but afterwards, when you're asked what was concluded, you can only shrug, and say, "er.... um... Stuff?" Months later, when the follow-up meeting happens, someone manages dig out the Minutes that someone wrote and forgot to ciculate, and you look back at them, and realise that nobody there has any memory of any of the "decisions" you supposedly came to, and nothing has been done about any of them.

Compare the Council of Elrond. It starts "early," after Frodo has watched the sun rise, which is probably around 7 in the morning, if it's anything like England in late October. (Unless Rivendell practises daylight saving? If so, late October would probably be round about the time that Elvish Summer Time ended, so all the timings could be out of by hour. But since nobody turns up an hour late, saying, "sorry! I forgot that the clocks had changed," I think we can discount this as a possible complication.) Worryingly, there's no mention of breakfast beforehand, but presumably there's one of those pumpy coffee dispensers on the side, along with plates of digestive biscuits and fruit shortcakes. It finishes just after the noon bell sounds.

So that is five hours maximum, and probably less, to cover the thousands of years of history and to decide how to save the world. It does kind of put to shame all those meetings that take 6 hours and fail to decide what colour to paint the new office building.


- Nobody turns up late, causing everything to come to a halt as all the chairs get shuffled up to make room for them, and they get invited to help themselves to coffee, which is discovered to be cold, causing fresh coffee to be sent for.

- Nobody runs through the fire drill procedures beforehand and explains where the toilets are. Despite this, no doom results. Doom is indeed discussed, but it doesn't appear to relate to inadequately signposted toilets. (Although I am suddenly now wondering just where are the Toilets of Rivendell, and what they look like. And the Toilets of Lórien! WE NEED TO BE TOLD!)

- Nobody takes any Minutes. There is no agonisingly long half-minute in which everyone sits very still and looks at their feet, desperately hoping that somebody else will volunteer to take them. (Although it occurs to me suddenly that the relevant parts of the Red Book of Westmarch possibly are the Minutes of the Council of Elrond. Bilbo is not one for bullet points, it seems.)

- Despite the lack of Minutes, all Points of Action agreed upon are in fact carried out as planned. "Destroy Ring (FB). Take Sword of Elendil to Gondor (A son of A). Get Facilities Maintenance Team to reforge Sword of Elendil..." This alone is enough to make it remarkable in the annals of all the meetings that there have ever been in all the worlds.

- Despite outlining several thousands years history, Elrond does not use Powerpoint.

- There is no "comfort break," in which the few smokers in the meeting (Gandalf, Aragorn, hobbits) wander outside to smoke (does Elrond ban smoking inside in public places, do you think?) and, during the break, quickly make the only actual decisions that the meeting comes up with.

I think the Council of Elrond should be compulsory reading in business school.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have many pet irritations in movieland, that world where physical things work differently from how they work in real life. My current number one bugbear is the fact that in most movies, broken glass is no more dangerous than rose petals, in that heroes crash through windows and fall heavily onto the shards, then get up without a speck of blood, and huge expanses of glass explode and shower fragments all over crowds of innocents, without a single injury. Another longterm annoyance comes from the fact that head injuries almost invariably lead to a neat and silent tumble into instant blood-free unconciousness, with no apparent ill-effect afterwards.

By far the most trivial of these irritations, and thus one of the most irritating, is the way that movieland necklaces don't behave the same as real world necklaces. But, thinking about it, it's probably best that they don't.

The pirate and the necklace )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I don't normally venture outside the realms of children's stock, but today I ended up doing some weeding in the Mills and Boon section. It was all quite fascinating, from a historical point of view. Intellectual snobbery has prevented historians from affording these vital sources the respect that they deserve, but there is much to reward the open-minded scholar.
Historical insights )
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
The EFDSS is the English Folk Dance and Song Society. I was amused by the front cover of their annual report, and it prompted me to write a little flight of fancy. Quite how different would the world of Star Wars have been had stormtroopers discovered Morris dancing?

Dancing stormtroopers )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I do storytimes, I always like to create a colouring sheet for children who finish the craft early. I tend to draw these myself, by copying an image from a relevant children's book. I do sometimes search online for colouring sheets, but can't normally find anything that works as well as the home-made ones. However, today I discovered a site that means that I will never need to draw another colouring sheet again. How on earth could I ever compete with the artistic skills at the command of such an internationally-renowned body?

Here is an example of these amazingly wonderful colouring sheets )
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
So, on Facebook earlier today, [ profile] the_marquis mentioned zombie Christmas songs, which immediately made me want to write a song beginning "In the bleak midwinter, zombie hordes made moan." I tried to do it when I got home from work, but very soon came to the conclusion that zombies don't actually do very much at all, except for groan and eat brains, and these things do not sustain a five verse song. Then I remembered that I already knew that Good King Wenceslas was some sort of flesh-eating monster - "Bring me flesssh! and bring me wine!.. Thou and I shall see him die!" - so I started writing a song about Mr Dracula looking out from his top-floor flat, one snow-bound Friday before Christmas...

But then I got distracted by sparkly vampires, thus:

Edward, the sparkly vampire,
Had a very sparkly nose,
And wrists and knees and elbows,
Palms and heels and ears and toes,
Shoulders and shins and ankles,
Chin and cheek and brow so fair,
And if he dropped his trousers,
He would doubtless sparkle there.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Buffy came to slay.
She saw Edward shining bright,
Grabbed her stake, prepared to fight.
"But," Edward cried, "I sparkle!
Watch me glitter gorgeously!"
So Buffy grabbed and bound him,
And hung him on her Christmas tree.
ladyofastolat: (Boo)
Inspired by something in my earlier posts, here are some extracts from a thrilling new D&D campaign:

The War of Flame )

Stealth tax

Sep. 7th, 2009 12:00 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Our local paper is going on about a stealth tax. However, I am far from convinced by this as a method of raising money, and if the authorities do indeed decide to go ahead with it, I foresee trouble ahead.

Evasion will be a particular problem. People indulging in stealth are, by definition, going to be very hard to track down; it's hard to imagine a burglar voluntarily declaring the stealthy act that allowed him to steal the priceless emeralds the night before, for example. The best way to catch someone in the act of being stealthy will be to "set a thief to catch a thief" - i.e. to employ an army of stealth-masters to monitor the shadows and report back instances of stealthy behaviour to their master, the Shadow Chancellor himself. However, will these people's stealthy actions themselves be taxable? If they aren't, then there will be cries of corruption, but if they are, it's hard to see how the tax will earn much money for the government at all.

Definitions will be hard to pin down. An expensive legal test case will probably be required before we settle the difference between sneaking and merely strolling nonchalantly, in which bewigged barristers will aim demonstrate the difference by practical demonstrations in crowded court rooms. After the court case has established the difference, the market will be flooded with DVDs that teach you how to sidle inconspicuously in a way that means that the tax man cannot touch you.

Daily life will also be disrupted in a way that the powers-that-be have doubtless not foreseen. It is hard to imagine how classical musical concerts, plays or even the cinema could survive. Imagine sitting in the cinema, immersed in the emotions of a heart-rending film. "I am going to the toilet for a moment!" shouts the person behind you - a person who, pre-tax, would have scurried out as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. "I'm back!" he will cry a few minutes later, entering with a blast of comedy horn as the heroine breathes her last on the screen. "I am not sneaking! Look at me! Everybody look at me!"

The tax also has the potential to destroy communities. Many people in this world are strangely oblivious to their surroundings. Imagine returning home from holiday late one night - bellowing noisily, of course, as any law-abiding person will do post-tax - only to find yourself accused of undeclared stealth, because your oblivious neighbour had their head in a book and was thus unaware of your return until the following Wednesday. Now imagine that this neighbour was not oblivious, but malicious. "Well, I didn't see him come back," he will swear to the tax man, reporting anyone who displeases him.

Family life will also be torn apart. Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy will not survive. Yes, my friends, this is a tax on Father Christmas! Parents will no longer be able to sneak quietly into their children's bedrooms to make sure that they are sleeping peacefully. Law-abiding parents wishing to indulge in acts of intimacy will have to do so in full view of their children, or else be forced to detail the full circumstances in a tax declaration form.

All in all, I urge the government to reconsider. It might sound like a good idea on paper, but a stealth tax would tear our society apart. I urge everyone to get out into the streets and campaign against it now.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I was ordering books today, and I came across one called Barbie and the Three Musketeers. I think a whole new genre needs to be opened up. No work of classic literature can remain unimproved by the addition of Barbie or one of her friends. What about Barbie Eyre, where Barbie, a stunning long-legged beauty, emerges from school with only a pink car and a bulging make-up bag to her name, and ends up transforming grumpy Mr Rochester, giving his gloomy house a gleaming pink makeover? Marvel as Barbie creates the My Little Pony of Troy, and later journeys for ten years in her quest for the perfect hair dye! Weep as Lady Barbie Macbeth wanders the halls of her fairytale castle, weeping at the thought of dirt on her slender perfumed hands!

Those after a shorter read can try Tolkien's grim little novella, Barbie of the Rings, in which Barbie throws away the One Ring in chapter two, on the grounds that its design is so last year, and is then torn to pieces by the Black Riders on their little ponies, who were drawn unerringly to her by her pink dress, which stood out like a sore thumb in the blasted wastes of Mordor.

Boys are not excluded from these revolutionary classics. Shakespeare's G.I. Joe: Prince of Denmark depicts G.I. Joe (or "Action Man", as he is called in the land of Shakespeare's birth) successfully killing his evil uncle after an action-packed five-act adventure of swimming crocodile-infested rivers, flying through the skies of Denmark with a jet-pack, and such like. His soliloquy "To ski or not to ski", in he which debates the manner of his approach on his uncle's chilly Danish castle, is justifiably famous.
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
Since summer decided to return this afternoon, after the gloom and chill of yesterday, I decided to go out to Newtown. In the town hall, they had a letter from a lady from Newtown, Connecticut, who had sent a badge in order to demonstrate the "friendship that exists between our two cities." Now, there are some who might laugh at the idea of Newtown, Isle of Wight, being a city, but as I aim to demonstrate in the following pictures and their accompanying text, they are totally wrong.

A twenty-first century cityscape )


Jul. 13th, 2009 02:43 pm
ladyofastolat: (Are we the baddies?)
I was thinking yesterday about the use of prophecy in fantasy novels, in particular the AA Route Planner type of prophecy. (I like to imagine a hero logging onto the relevant website, putting in "rustic farmstead" as their starting location and "Dark Lord's fastness" as their destination, clicking "show me my prophecy," and then following the printout scrupulously through every stage.) I was going do a little rant, but instead ended up giving a sneak preview of my forthcoming fantasy masterpiece.

Scenes from an epic novel of heroes and prophecies )


Aug. 23rd, 2008 06:40 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
OMG! I've just (belatedly) looked at this week's local paper, and it has boys on the front page, leaping for joy because of their GCSE results. Real live boys! Not pretty girls, but boys! Boys! I'm speechless. I bet the photographer will be sacked.
ladyofastolat: (Boo)
While I was driving across the island today, the Health Secretary came on the radio, talking about his plans to make eating hamburgers a criminal offence. (Okay, no, he actually didn't say this, but it didn't seem far off.) One of the things he said was how they were working with computer game manufacturers to find ways to ensuring that children don't spend too much time indulging in such sedentary activities. This part wasn't elaborated on, at least in the part of the programme I was able to hear.

Given that computer game manuals always advise you not to play for too long, and many games already flash up messages suggesting that you take a break, I don't see what else they can do short of making the game stop working if you play it for too long. Imagine LAN parties in this brave new world. There you are, stalking your friends down a dark corridor, when suddenly the screen goes blank. "You have to go Outside now," intones the voice of the Health Secretary. "This game is now locked until you can prove that you have burned off 500 calories." Or you could be on the point of killing that impossible boss who's troubled you for days, when suddenly the screen flashes urgent red. "Pringles proximity alert! Pringles proximity alert! Remove the Pringles immediately! Replace them with vegetables now or this game will be terminated!"

Why limit it to computer games? Well, of course, everybody knows that computer games are pure evil, created by sociopaths whose sole aim is to corrupt innocent six year olds with games of graphic violence, but apart from that… What about books? Stop children from playing games, and they might pick up a book and, absorbed in the story, do no exercise for hours on end! This vile trade must be stopped! No-one should be allowed to read more than a chapter without stopping and going Outside to do some healthy exercise. What about selling books on a chapter by chapter basis, and making it illegal to buy more than one chapter at a time? Oh, and all bookshops must be located at least two miles from the nearest road, so people have to walk to get each new chapter. Yes, that will work. What a wise idea! It's amazing society didn't collapse years ago, with all this wanton unchecked reading of books. Thank goodness we have the government to look after us!


Dec. 1st, 2007 02:55 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I was amused to see the army cadets out in force, packing bags in Sainsbury's. I can just imagine how it will go, years in their future:

"Right, lads. We're outgunned and outnumbered. Half of us are injured, we're cut off from base, and there's two hundred miles of desert between us and civilisation, full of enemies. However, we will prevail, because we are the best-trained soldiers in the world. Remember your training, lads. Remember, we know something they don't know: that you must never - never - put a litre of milk on top of a bunch of grapes, or put a frozen chicken next to a newspaper. That, lads, is why we will never be defeated."

And, while I'm here, two other things that amused me yesterday. Firstly, I asked someone for directions, and this is what they said: "Go along to those double doors, then turn left. Go past the daleks, turn right at the Tardis, go through the purple zone, and turn left by the phonics." (By the way, the current "in" theory of teaching children to read - synthetic phonics - has always sounded to me a little like a type of killer cyborg. "We... are... the... Phonics. You... will... be... synthesized.")

Secondly, a quoted-deliberately-out-of-context quote from the book that I'm reading on theories of myth: "Just as Detienne links Adonis' promiscuity with spices, so he links Adonis' sterility and death with lettuce." (However, even when you read it in context, it is still, in my opinion, nonsense - just like pretty much every other theory in the book.)
ladyofastolat: (Evil laugh)
In a school staffroom today, I saw a notice on the wall that read something like this: "Do you know a young person who is on the brink of criminal activity? Contact the Youth Offending Co-ordinator…"

I can just imagine how the conversation would go: I'm concerned about my little Johnny… )

Plus, I've always wondered what's entailed in the job of "Teenage Pregnancy Co-ordinator"…
ladyofastolat: (Are we the baddies?)
(This is a spoiler-free Harry Potter-related post)

From the Bookseller, re. the Harry Potter launch: "The Sheffield branch [of Waterstone's] will have a troupe of Morris dancers dressed as Death Eaters entertaining the queue."

Interesting... I can see the thought process now. "I know! Let's have some people dressed up as Death Eaters! Children love to be scared. What can they do to show how evil they are? Eat children? Nah. We'd never get away with it. Slaughter toads? No. The RSPCA would come down on us like a tonne of bricks. Let's see. Ultimate evil... Ultimate evil... Yes! Morris dancing!"

Or maybe this is something internal that I missed from the book. Maybe, at some point, Dumbledore said something along the lines of: "Harry, we must stop Voldemort. If we don't, the whole world will be caught in his fell grip, and all will be darkness, cruelty, distrust, and... No, no, I cannot say it." He looked away sharply, before whispering into his hand the dread words that a lesser man would not have been able to speak aloud: "Morris dancing."

"No!" gasped Harry. "I had been faltering before now, but this is an evil I cannot allow to come to pass. I will fight Voldemort with everything I have. I will save the world from the cruel grip of Morris Dancing, the Darkest of Dark Arts." He gasped with suddenly realisation. "So that's why we learnt Avoidus Stickus in our Defence against Dark Arts lessons."


Jun. 30th, 2007 04:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (Hear me roar)
Umbrellas need to be banned. What with the smoking ban coming in tomorrow, and a shiny new prime minister eager to make his mark, I think the time has never been better to lobby for this. Umbrellas should be banned in public. (People can, of course, use them in the privacy of their own home.)

Think of the health benefits! Never more will people return from shopping trips minus their eyes. Never more will people suffer bad backs and bad necks from desperately twisting their upper body out of the way of someone else's badly-wielded umbrella. Never more will people get cold and drenched when other people shake their umbrellas dry all over them. Never more will people fork out money for some outdoor spectator event, only to find their view completely blocked by the umbrellas of the people on the front row. Even the poor enslaved Umbrellas Users will benefit, since they will learn the rain-resistant qualities of waterproofs and hoods. Never more will they wrench muscles as their umbrellas catches the wind and tries to escape to freedom. Relationships will benefit, since they will no longer be plagued with the "two people, one umbrella" dilemma. It's even good for the environment, as the countryside is cleared of the shattered remains of skeletal umbrellas, torn apart by the wind.

I am aware that there are probably Umbrella Users on my friends list, so I will admit that some Users are responsible ones who commit none of the above evils. Unfortunately, they appear to be in the minority. I am actually quite prepared to accept something less than a total ban, but one has to start by lobbying for the most extreme result, so one can make concessions later. I am prepared to accept the following measures:

- All aspiring Umbrella Users must undertake a course of training in responsible umbrella use, so they wield them with consideration for others.
- The Umbrella Code is to be written and enforced. Umbrella Wardens fine people who breach it - e.g. by meandering along a busy road with their over-large umbrella lurching around all over the place.
- Local Councils are given the power to create Umbrella Free Zones - in narrow lanes, for example, at outdoor performances, or in ruined castles with narrow windy passageways.
- A size limit is imposed on umbrellas.
- Don't drink and umbrella!

After the smoking ban has been achieved, I hope as many people as possible in the country will join me in campaigning against this most terrible of social evils: the umbrella!
ladyofastolat: (Bagpuss yawning)
A slightly amended version of a popular folk song:

It was pleasant and delightful on a midsummer morn,
All things were quite silent - and then came the dawn.
Then blackbirds and thrushes sang on every green spray,
And the larks they sang cacophonous: how I wish they'd go away.
And the larks they sang cacophonous
And the larks they sang cacophonous
And the larks they sang cacophonous -
How I wish they'd go away!

(Although, actually, the problem wasn't so much the birds, as the cats. They seem to have decided that the dawn chorus is a challenge to feline kind, and they sit there in the hall singing as loudly as they can, in a, "Hey! We can do that, too!" sort of fashion. Maybe the world of nature is holding their own version of Pop Idol, and we don't know it. I hope the final happens while we're in Scotland, and we return to silent cats.)


Apr. 1st, 2007 05:54 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
See? I said I'd do it. Here is an entirely scientific and totally accurate quiz to determine once and for all what animal you are. (Pellinor helped with some of it.)

Quiz (here's hoping it actually works)
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
After extensive research, I have come up with an entirely accurate and fool-proof character test that will enable me to find out if people on my Friends list are nice or horrid. It has been scientifically tested on less than one librarian over muffins. Do the test first, then click to reveal the result.

[Poll #957055]

Edit: Ahem. People who answer C to question 2 are supposed to give me a even better opening of their own. You can't just wimp out of this, you know!

And what your answers demonstrate about you... )
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
It was an innocent comment that started it all. Opening boxes of new children's books, I jokingly commented, "Is there a law that every second children's book must be illustrated either by Nick Sharratt or Tony Ross?"

Ah, I was so innocent then. There were so many things that I did not know. In my naiveté I believed that children's books were happy things, built on light and love and pink fluffy clouds. Little did I know that they are built on suffering, exploitation and pain. It is a terrible story I have to tell, in which I delve ever deeper into the dark and dreadful underbelly of the world of children's publishing.

Read more - if you dare )
ladyofastolat: (Evil laugh)
[It's all [ profile] evilmissbecky's fault, I tell you! "Great post, as usual," she said. Well, I had to take that as a challenge, didn't I? How could I have done anything else?]

very clever post proving that im write about this very important issue )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
While rooting around in a cupboard at work today (only two and half weeks to go until The Big Move - eek!) I found copies of a Rhyme Time leaflet I produced, but was never allowed to distribute, since a certain group complained. The reason they complained? Because the rhyme "Jelly on a plate" failed to promote healthy eating, and the horsey knee-bouncing rhyme might lead someone to bounce their baby too hard and break it.

I have spent the journey home trying to come up with nursery rhymes that do satisfy all these government initiatives for children's work, and that would meet today's stringent health and safety laws. Of course it goes without saying that they would all be non-sexist, non-racist, multicultural etc. etc.

Sadly, government targets are not compatible with a rhyme scheme or a metre (jargon and management speech being far more important than clarity of expression and poetry), but here goes. Nursery rhymes for the modern age )
ladyofastolat: (Jayne hat)
Movieworld is different from real life. There are certain rules to it. Many of these I find somewhat annoying, and they make me go "grr". A few of them I've borrowed from Pellinor's own movie-watching grrs, but I've missed out anything mail-related. The world is not big enough for those.

1. Necklaces are sentient )
2. Out of sight, out of sound )
3. Doors are rather like necklaces )
4. Make the cameraman your friend )
5. Minions are binary )
6. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise... Yeah, right )
7. Nothing is irrelevant )
8. Curtains cannot be closed )
9. Coughs are fatal )
10. Looking cool is mightier than the sword )
11. Television is psychic )
12. The heroism of left shoulders )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
This post was prompted by some news items on a local radio station, which a colleague was listening to while unpacking project boxes.

Building a cathedral )

Christopher Wren presents his plans )

Welcome in the May! )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I took advantage of a spare half hour just now to tackle a bit of the enormous pile of new books that we're drowning in. The box I opened contained replacement copies of some old Asterix books, in new editions. I scanned in the ISBN of the first one, and found that the record was already on our computer system, put there by our library supplier.

Now, if I remember correctly, Asterix books used to be by "Goscinny and Uderzo," no first names. Now they all say "Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo." The computer told me, however, that they were by "Karen Goscinny and Patricia Uderzo." It said the same for every book in the series. However, nowhere on the copyright page was there mention of any Karen or Patricia. Google came up with no Karen Goscinnys or Patricia Uderzo.

Clearly this is a Conspiracy. Rather like the Holy Blood and Holy Grail chaps, I have taken this little mystery and, after lots of painstaking research in ancient libraries (and certainly no wild supposition at all) have come up with the following scenario.

The Holy Gaul: a tale of subterfuge, secret identities and hunky Frenchmen )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I think I have uncovered a plot to take over the country, by slowly and steadily driving its people mad.

Public transport: a network of cunningly-designed evil )


ladyofastolat: (Default)

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