Dec. 4th, 2016 11:59 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Earlier this year, I inherited responsibilities relating to the purchase of adult stock. Instead of just considering hamster fairies and snot monsters, the usual subject matter of my book-purchasing decisions, I have had to learn all about crime and sagas, the two most popular genres. (Crime generates FAR more issues, but there are far more crime books around. In terms of issues per item, sagas are ahead.)

Sagas interest me. Supposedly they're "family sagas," a name that suggests lengthy epics following the same family over generations. Most of them aren't like that, but they are instantly recognisable at a glance. At 20 paces in twilight with your eyes half closed, you could tell a saga and never be wrong.

On sagas and downtrodden women in shawls )
ladyofastolat: (Greenman)
Sometimes it seems as if half the photos I take are of comical medieval animals...

A gallery of fanciful animals from Bath Abbey )


Oct. 21st, 2016 12:55 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Shopping for apples today, I saw a shelf label that read "Smitten apples." None of the nearby apples declared themselves smitten on their sticky labels. Could I identify them by behaviour? Were any apples sighing sadly for the nearby pears? Were they saying to a Granny Smith that she was the apple of their eye? Every apple sat resolutely still, none of them showing any sign of pining. The apples nearest to the sign were pre-packed in fours, but the package itself refused to admit what sort of apples they were. I decided to buy them anyway. I heard no sighs as I picked up a pack of 4. No little fruity voices wailed, "Boris! NO!" as I snatched them away from the fruity multitude.

Maybe theirs was a silent love. Or maybe they were smitten with each other, those four nameless apples that shared a pack. If so, it was a doomed love, since my recipe called for 3 apples. I took one and chopped it. No-one wailed. 2 more followed it into the grave of the mixing bowl. Now only one remains, the last of its kind, surrounded by enormous Braeburns and tiny clementines, with a colossal Bramley looming nearby like a bouncer outside a nightclub. I am watching the bowl closely for drama, but nothing has happened thus far.

It reminds me of the time I packed my fridge with what the Co-op was advertising as "territorial cheeses," and sat back and waited for war to result. That never happened, either. It was most disappointing.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
- They say the Devil has the best tunes, but it's good to know that he doesn't always have the best dice. Yesterday, playing Neverwinter Nights (the Aielund Saga) we fought our way through a tower of assorted demonic foes right up to the tippiest top of the tower, where a towering creature resided, called just "devil." I drew my Holy Avenger, hit him with it... and he rolled a 1 on his save against the sword's super paladinish awesome powers, and disappeared in a puff of paladinish righteousness. (Or, to be more accurate, disappeared in front of a paladin who stood there, mouth open with bafflement, going, "whu?" since he'd entirely forgotten about that particularly super awesome paladinish power, since he'd been too busy going, "look! My sword is SHINY!" But when the epic picture is drawn of that heroic moment, there will be rather more righteous smiting and less slack-jawed bafflement.)

- I came home on Monday to an answerphone message that said, with slow deliberation, "your trousers have been located." WHich is good.

- This week contains Too Many AGMS, which would be less of a problem if it wasn't for the fact that I have the job of writing the minutes for all of them. (Well, both of them, but they feel like an All.)

- Day off tomorrow! I plan A Walk.

There is no connection between the above points. Devils, as far as I know, do not wear trousers, and do not take minutes of their meeetings.

EDIT: At 7pm, the doorbell rang. A man is ordinary clothes, who had issued from an ordinary card - i.e. not from a delivery van - thrust a parcel at me with barely a word, then turned and hurried off. It turned out to be a router. The router was expected, so this is not some driveby gifting of random routers to random people. It still felt... odd.

EDIT 2: Doing some quick NWN playing before the latest AGM, Pellinor said, "I've put some breaches on the dragon." So even if devils don't wear trousers, dragons sometimes wear breeches. Or at least they do if you just talk about them out loud, and don't ruin the whole thing with spelling.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Never has there been a place more committed to its branding than Venice. There must be more winged lions in the city than there are tourists, and that's saying something. Many of them are sensible, noble-looking proud beasts. Naturally, these I spurned, and instead photographed their more comical cousins.

Many winged lions, plus a few assorted other comical Venetian animals )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Some 15 years ago, we bought a piano. Very soon after we bought it, an blanket of caterpillars appeared on its surface, followed by battalions of moths. We reported this to the piano vendor, who denied ever having seen a caterpillar or moth in his entire life. There was no possibility that the infestation could have originated in his warehouse, and the piano was definitely caterpillar-free when we bought it. To be honest, we doubted this, but what can you do? I hate killing things just because they're inconvenient, but we really didn't want armies of moths in our house, possibly eating clothes, carpet, curtains and cat. We put moth balls inside the piano, and the armies slowly dwindled. No caterpillars or moths were seen for years, and the whole affair was almost forgotten.

But nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten. A few weeks ago, I noticed that there were a lot of small dead moths on the carpet underneath the piano. I hoovered them up, but by the next day, they were back again. They are all concentrated in a square foot of visible carpet, next to one end of the piano. A few small moths have been spotted flapping around the house, but most of them are evident only by their corpses.

Are they the same colony? 15 years ago, when we thought we'd beaten them, had we just driven them deep within the piano, where they have spent 15 years digging a vast underground metropolis and perfecting their revenge? Are there whole moth generations reared on tales of the cruelties of the two-legged masters of the plinky-plonk keys? Admittedly, it's not a particularly impressive revenge thus far, since it appears to consist of emerging from beneath the piano and keeling over within a few inches, but it's early days yet. Will their masterminds learn from the failures of the first wave, and tweak their tactics accordingly? What dread fate is being prepared for us?

I know we ought to move the piano and look beneath it, but I'm scared to.
ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
The stated justification for the Round Table is that no knight takes precendence. However, most medieval depictions of said table show King Arthur sitting at it. This is a clear contradiction of the stated aim, since precedence will be defined by proximity to Arthur. Yes, you could randomise this, perhaps by holding a daily raffle (proceeds to go to distressed damsels), but you could do this just as easily with a plain old rectangular board. I think the most likely solution is that King Arthur sat in the middle, either in a hole cut in the exact centre, or sitting on an elevated platform that dangles from the rafters. No knight should suffer the ignominy of having the king's back turned to him, so the King would have to rotate. It would be easy to devise a mechanism for this, like a turnspit or a donkey-powered well, powered by dogs or small servant boys (but probably not hamsters.)

However, other problems present themselves. Some sources put the number of Knights of the Round Table as high as 150. That is a VERY large table, and likely to need a veritable forest of legs beneath it. However, medieval carpenters who can build cathedral roofs can cope with such a table. But what about the poor king, stuck in the centre of a circle large enough to hold 150 round its circumference? Think of the noise, and the constant shouting of "what? What?"

And then there's the problem of serving. Service a la Russe hadn't come along yet, so all dishes need to be put on the table at once. With a rectangular board, you can fill up from both sides. High Table, sitting on only one side, can be served from the opposite side, and regular people can ask the person opposite to pass them the buttered parsnips. With the guests sitting around the rim of a vast circle, only a tiny part of that table can be used for serving food, and the rest is wasted, and impossible to clean without clambering on it. The King, stuck in the middle, would need food parcels thrown at him - a skill, perhaps, practiced by pages in the tilting yard?

But there are other ways to denote precedence at the dining table. Take the whole "above the salt" thing. Clearly it would be out of the question to have a single, elaborate Salt on the table. Thus we see the origin of the small salt shaker that we see now on every cafe table - or maybe even tiny sachets, that survived into the present century only in Salt 'n' Shake crisps. And what about boars' heads and such like, and the honour of carving such things? If Knight A has a boar's head put in front of him, and Knight B only has some boiled cabbage, then Knight A is clearly more favoured! Instead of this divisive practice, we would need a vast array of small plates of mixed food stuffs, none of them an obvious centrepiece. Did the dining needs of Camelot lead to the invention of tapas?

Or did the Round Table itself rotate along with the King, thus bringing boar's head to each knight in turn? Was the Round Table the origin of the Lazy Susan?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Today I have mostly been ranting about the way that trousers (for which read trousers or hose or braies or braccae or leg wrappings or any other leg covering of choice) have been airbrushed out of Yore and Fantasyland. It is well-known that people don't wear socks in Fantasyland, even though they jolly well should. In a recent episode of Game of Thrones, SPOILER, recently returned from an absence of a considerable number of episodes, killed someone, took his boots, and put them on over entirely bare feet. I had to try a few million pairs of boots on before I found some that were comfortable for long walks, and even then, I wear two pairs of socks. I warned SPOILER about blisters. He didn't listen.

But trousers (hose, braies, breeches, whatever) appear to have been excised, too. I've been reading a very silly vaguely Arthurian novel in which a feisty warrior woman goes round wearing a jerkin over entirely bare legs. Now, the internet offers up a dazzling array of images of jerkin, but none of them would be remotely decent when worn over bare legs. I've also been watching Arthur of the Britons, in which the costume department clearly added an accidental few extra noughts to their order of white sheepskins, and, forced to cover up their mistake, have shrouded every single Saxon extra in at least four sheep. Some are positively spherical in their sheepskin cardigans, some of whom wear them over bare, spindly little legs, with bare, spindly little arms and shoulders struggling to emerge from the white globe of sheep.*

These are the two examples that have troubled me today, but it is an ongoing rant, prompted by numerous historic and fantasy films, and by the sight of chilly Roman re-enactors shivering bare-legged in the British cold.

Personally, I never wear shorts on a walk, because walks often involve wading through brambles and bracken and other scratchy things, and I want the protection of a layer of fabric, thank you very much. It would tend to ruin the impact of a surprise ambush if all your bare-leggety warriors were constantly going "ow! ooh!" as they knelt in thistles and squelched in slimy cow pats. Warriors who charge naked into battle, clad only in woad and bravado, are presumably hard enough to cope with the string and prickles of outrageous flora, but why would those who've bothered to clothe their top half forget to bother with clothing anything under the waist?

* Bagpuss )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Having spent the last hour listening to the radio while making a huuuuge vat of stew (which, happily, only required a two thirds of the bottle of wine I had bought for it, which meant that it was my solemn DUTY to drink the rest of it, because to do otherwise would have been to waste it, and waste is BAD and makes little fluffy bunnies cry), I am reminded of the fact that I have meant for a while to post about how much I enjoy Simon Mayo's All Request Friday on Radio 2, which runs from 5 till 7.

Normally I dislike phone-ins, which usually seem to consist either of inanity, or of opinionated bigots who don't actually know a single thing about the subject they're phoning in about, but are still prepared to announce on national radio that it is a DISGRACE. But All Request Friday consists of people phoning in - or texting or emailing - to prattle about the exciting things they've got planned for the weekend, and then to request some favourite song. Yes, it's inanity, but they're all so excited. Because all the songs are someone's all-time favourite, they're usually songs I am quite happy to listen to. Better still, half the people who phone in give the impression of being ever so slightly drunk, having started early on their anniversary weekend/birthday/family reunion.

And then there are the little children. I normally cringe with embarrassment when a small child turns up on a phone in, but Simon Mayo had a really nice way of talking to them - kind of slightly teasing, but encouraging them at the same time. With most of the tiny children, I'm laughing out loud pretty much from the start.

And the best thing of all? The number of times something like this happens.

Lisping 6 year old: "I'm excited because tomorrow I'm going to ride my favourite pony, Twinkle Toes, while dressed as a fairy." (not an actual quote)
Mayo: "And what song can we play for you?"
Lisping 6 year old: Highway to Hell by Ay Thee Dee Thee (actual quote)
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This is what greeted me on my doorstep when I came home. It amused me quite a lot. The postman normally makes a token attempt to "hide" packages - under the doormat, perhaps, or in the shadow of the Looming Choisya that guards the empty milk bottles, or under the random black plastic box that hasn't been used for recycling for three years and therefore serves no purpose but still hasn't been tidied away - but in this case, he's gone out of his way to pose it carefully. Was he trying to portray a disembodied foot trying to kick down my door? Or maybe he wanted it to look like a threat - like that horse's head thing, but with a foot? I sometimes wonder if how often postmen are intrigued by the packages they deliver, desperately wishing they could find out what all the strangely-shaped or interesting-sounding things actually are. (I would be, at any rate. But, then, I still think that anyone out travelling at an unusual time or in an place should carry a placard saying why they're out, since I'm always consumed with curiosity about it. Perhaps I'm just nosy, and most postmen would happily deliver shrink-wrapped unicorns without batting an eyelid.) But in this case, I don't think he could have been in any doubt. :-D

A not very mysterious package )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
According to the receipt, today I bought a SAU&ON SANDWICH

I had already eaten it before I noticed the truly evil nature of my lunch.

Odd socks

Feb. 3rd, 2016 12:33 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Today's grumble about something entirely trivial and unimportant concerns socks.

Some years ago, I was surprised to discover that most other people in the room I was in considered that wearing odd socks was behaviour as shocking and inappropriate as chewing gum with an open mouth while meeting the queen, even if you were wearing the socks in the privacy of your own home. Personally, I don't really care if my socks match or not, as long as the bit visible to the outside world looks the same. Bits hidden inside shoes or under trousers can differ all they like. I consider scouting underwear drawers and laundry baskets for matched pairs to be a chore that I am happy to be spared from.

Pellinor solves the Sock Issue by stuffing a drawer full of what seems like at least 152 separate identical plain black socks, which can be stuffed into the drawer as defiant individuals, and grabbed in the dark at random in the sure confidence that a pair will result. Problems presumably only occur if a charismatic leader sock, worn and washed and faded 50 times, is grabbed alongside the social outcast who is never picked for the team, who retains its unwashed, virgin status, but for the most part, it seems to work.

Since Pellinor's socks are all black, mine cannot be, since I refuse to spend my time peering at dozens of black newly washed socks, trying to work out whose feet they fit. I, therefore, go for black socks with flashes of colour on the toes. (My newest ones also have a cheery animal on the ankle. I like these ones, especially the happy tiger.) Worn with trousers and sensible shoes, they look identical to the world outside, and if five toes are wrapped in purple and five in orange, I don't really care.

This Christmas, my Mum gave me a three pack of socks that advertised themselves as having a special material at the top that doesn't dig in and leave marks. (They seem to do what's advertised, although sock marks have never particularly bothered me before, except when doing a long walk on a hot day, when I get a rash that sticks around for days.) All three pairs are dark blue. More specifically, all three pairs are a different shade of dark blue, but the difference is so slight that you have to hold two socks next to each other to confirm that you've got a pair. Searching for pairs in gloomy light while half asleep, you think you've found one, only for the true differences to reveal themselves when you get out in daylight, there for all the see. Pairing an entire laundry basket full of the things must be a challenge worthy of a medal.

Who would think that this is a good idea? Who?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Today's entirely-unimportant-in-the-scheme-of-things rant subject is automatic doors. More specifically, it's lazy automatic doors that perform their duty but slowly and too late. So there you are, brisk shopper, striding purposefully towards the door. (I always stride purposefully, even if my brain hasn't yet clarified what the purpose actually is. For example, on Thursday I strode purposely into M&S with the purpose of filling a bag with tomato and basil soup and nothing else. Fifteen minutes later, I strode purposefully out again, with a bag full of two pairs of trousers, two bras, 9 tins of soup and a packet of tomatoes, with the purpose of getting out again quick before I ended up buying a kitchen sink.) So, striding purposefully, you near the automatic door, confident that it will part before you and let you through without any check in your gait.

Then, with a few steps to go, you have this horrible realisation that it is not opening. It's doubtless standing there, idling, cigarette in hand, chatting about the pretty girls who have passed through its embrace. Your step falters, but you don't actually stop outright, because automatic doors always open, don't they, and SURELY this one will do so, too. Glass looms large in your vision, and you know that you're going to have to do a full-on emergency stop to save your nose from being squashed. Then, just at the last minute, the door realises you're there, throws away its cigarette, and sloooowly, idly, drifts the doors open with bored ungraciousness, and you can resume your purposeful striding and hope that nobody has noticed that, A, you have almost walked into a door, or, B, you have almost tripped over your own feet as you fought the conflicting urges of "must stop now!" and "carry on; it's bound to be okay."

I could blame the fact that I stride too fast for door technology to cope with. After all, when out walking, I've had random strangers berate me for walking too fast. (It's quite odd. If I'd been tailgating them on narrow paths, I'd understand, but it's people in cottage gardens that I pass, or people yards away on open hillsides who feel the need to tell me off for daring to having different tastes in country walking than they have.) But then there's the other sort of automatic door: the automatic door who is young, new on the job, and very very keen. Approach within ten paces, and the door will leap open, and stand there quivering with the joy of obedience, waiting for you to pat it on their head and tell it that it's been a very good boy. Stand and dither over tomatoes on the fruit and veg section near the door, and it's goes into a positive frenzy of opening and shutting, causing you to look anxiously around for the security guards in case they think you're trying to do a runner with a basket of veg.

Then there are those doors that have a very rigid mind and can only cope with one order at a time. Person A approaches it, and the door parts to let them through. The door then slowly drifts shut again, just as Person B is approaching it. However, the door is concentrating on its "Close now!" order with all its might, and needs to complete this order before it raises its head to look out for new customers. This doesn't normally end well for Person B. The door in our local shop sometimes gets like this. I haven't quite got squashed yet, but it's been a close-run thing.

Actually, come to think it is, it all comes down to magic. When approaching doors, I have a habit of putting my hands together and parting them in a magical way while saying "whoosh" under my breath, so I can pretend that I'm commanding them open with my awesome magic power. However, I only do this accompanied by Pellinor, since there's a limit to how silly I'm prepared to appear in public. However, thinking back, all the problems I've had with lazy or stupid or over-reactive doors have happened when I've been alone and have therefore failed to do the magic hand movements... Hmm... I think the clues are all coming together here, and forcing me to come up with only one conclusion...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
People might remember the baffling case of the Poo In The Milk Bottle. Yesterday morning, I looked out into the back garden and noticed that a cane had appeared in the middle of the lawn. I didn't have time to investigate further, but I popped out this morning, and I see that the cane appears to be marking the location of a dollop of... something. To be honest, it looks rather pale for poo, and I'm not planning to put my nose to it to investigate its smell, but whatever it is, it's an entirely different colour from the soil in our garden and all the other various muddy worm casts, mole hills and muddy bare patches on the lawn. Who put it there? Is it related to the cane, or coincidental? More to the point, why has someone erected a cane in our back garden? Are we supposed to be digging here for pirate gold? Hoisting a flag up it? Did it fall from the sky, plummeting downwards during some terrible airborne horticultural war? Was it placed here, perhaps by some very exhausted core-dwelling mountaineers who have finally clawed their way to the surface? Is it plugging a vent that leads to unimaginable eevill? What will happen to us if we remove it?

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: (Order of the Stick)
When I click to enlarge the front cover images for books listed on our library supplier's website, the resulting images are rather unimaginatively entitled "popupimage." This always makes me muse for a little while on the usefulness of such a thing. I can see the benefits of having an explodimage in your party - well, at least if you have friendly fire turned off. But a popupimage? What would his special powers be? A preternatural skill at paper engineering? The ability to summon awesome pop-up tents for the whole party, so nobody would ever need to lug around sleeping rolls ever again? Or would he just keep on popping up like a whack-a-mole, perkily going "hello!" no matter how many times the monster boss thought he'd killed him?

It turns out that these musings are the sort that should not be shared at work, not unless you want to get strange looks and uncomfortable shiftings of chairs.


Oct. 23rd, 2015 07:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I was somewhat disturbed today to see a shop called "Pre-Loved Baby Shop."

Actually, this whole rebranding of "second-hand" as "pre-loved" bothers me. I can see why people do it, since they think it makes an item sound more desirable. But it always makes me want to come up with stories about every item, to explain why the previous owner gave it away, even though they had once loved it dearly. Most stories end up fairly heartrending and full of drama. Some are quite legthy. At least when something's labelled "second-hand", my over-active imagination is content that no difficult parting was involved. I can accept that the owner found it in the back of a wardrobe and thought, "Yuck! I can't believe I used to like pink!" or that it was an unwanted present.

It's like uncollected dry cleaning shops. While I can understand that someone might part with a much-loved item of clothing because they've lost weight or grown out of it, why would you go to the effort of taking a suit to the dry-cleaner, then not bother picking it up again just a few days later? Yes, people forget, but these places do phone to remind you. No diet is that drastic. You're unlikely to suddenly wake up the day after taking it in, and shout, "Pink? What was I thinking? I will never wear pink again!" All the stories I come up with are tragic. Most involve death. At the very least, they involve heartbreak.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I have just been accused of overthinking things. I find this accusation very unfair. I mean, somebody just asked the question, "What would you do if the world was going to end in a week, and this was a certainty, with no room for doubt? What would you do?" "Well, obviously I'd stop going to work," someone else said.

"But wouldn't everyone do that?" I said. You wouldn't be able to buy anything, because there would be nobody to sell them or stock the shelves. There would be no power, water or electricity - presumably, unless these things carry on quite happily without human intervention. You couldn't jet off for that holiday of a lifetime you always meant to have, because who would fly you there or accommodate you or feed you? Some people would just go, "Wahay! No police! No judges! No consequences!" and indulge in looting and crimes and anarchy. So when the law-abiding people, driven by their inability to buy food, were driven to some polite and tentative looting of their local shop, it would be empty anyway.

The only hope would be that the "Wahay! No consequences!" gang were outweighed by those who were driven by the impending End of All Things to turn to religion, and therefore were determined to cram as many selfless good deeds into that last week as normal. But it would be too much to hope that all these good deeders were electrical engineers, or saw the orderly maintenance of grocery supplies in local corner shops as as good deed sufficient to tip the balance in their Last Judgement. And, besides, some of them would be too busy desperately turning the other cheek that they'd get squished by the "Wahay! No consequences!" lot. As would the "there might be some mistake; best not do anything rash in case this whole thing blows over" lot. If they hadn't starved due to their refusal to even try to loot bread, that is.

"Okay," said the others, "what if the world was going to end, but only you knew about it?" That would be just as bad, I said, because there would be Questions. Try to quit your job. Questions. Bureaucracy. The slow-moving wheels of HR. Pretty annoying to spend the last week of the world locked in disciplinary hearings and the like. And could you really enjoy that last week if you had to watch everyone around you proceeding in blissful ignorance, when you knew that everything would end in a week? And imagine all the arguments that would result from the whole "what's the matter, dear?" "Nothing," conversations.

So, like I said, apparently I overthink things and ruin perfectly good conversations. I have no idea what they're talking about. ;-)
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
The BBC History magazine often includes an advert for Aquila, an educational children's magazine. I find the image quite disturbing. Why are they interrogating each other like this? Why are they so desperate to know the answers to these questions that they have resorted to violence? For months and months and months, these duellists have been locked in conflict, forever hurling their demands at each other. Who will crack first? It bothers me every time.

ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Outside Costa today, I saw a sign that said, "Our baristas are only ever perfectly happy when you are."

Oh, the responsibility! Much sadness is unavoidable, but how can I ever read a tear-jerking novel again now I know that by doing so, I am deliberately and wantonly bringing misery to thousands of innocent baristas?

How far does the effect reach? Do my emotions only affect my local baristas, or do they blight all the Costa baristas in the world? Does the rule only apply to the "you"s who read the sign, or does it extend to every "you" that lives? As long as there is sadness anywhere in the world, are all Costa's baristas plagued with never-ending angst? If so, then who would ever apply for such a job? What heroes they are, to endure such misery for the sake of coffee!

Or is the effect more localised? Does it fade away as each "you" leaves the vicinity of the shop? If you're walking through town, musing on the woes of your life, should you suddenly turn all Pollyannaish as you pass Costa, for the sake of their poor baristas? It might not be a bad idea, since if every time you walked past a Costa, you were forced to look on the bright side of things, it might help with your overall state of mind. (Assuming you lived in a Costa-rich environment, though; if you only saw one once every two years, I doubt it would make much difference to your emotional wellbeing.)

Or does it even matter? All the sign says is that the baristas won't be "perfectly happy" unless you are, but that doesn't mean that they feel what you do, or feel raging misery in full force. Perhaps they only feel a mild shadow of disquiet at the back of their mind - a barely-perceptible smear on the shining state of otherwise perfect happiness. And who, in this world, is ever perfectly happy? Maybe that's the point. The baristas will never know unalloyed happiness because, like us, they are human. They are not an emotionless coffee machine. They share our hopes and fears. They care.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This morning, there was a dollop of poo inside an empty milk bottle I put out last night. Inside the milk bottle! There was a small smear inside the rim, but the bulk of it was neatly deposited in the bottom, implying skill and accuracy in the aiming. There is no spillage or smearing on the outside of the bottle, or on the ground around it. The two adjacent milk bottles were undisturbed, implying skill and finesse when it comes to balancing the bottom over the target without jostling any of the surroundings.

I am not wise in the ways of poo, so cannot express an opinion on who the guilty party might be, but it's a fairly sizeable dollop, suggesting something with a an internal storage capacity more like that of a cat than that of a vole. One would imagine that the height of the bottom above the ground is equal or greater to the height of a milk bottle, unless it's someone small enough to slither up the side of a bottle, or the possessor of a trampoline.

Our front doorstep is a dead end, and is sheltered by a large bush, so it's not likely to attract passing trade. Some animal has made a special trip to our doorstep and has gone to considerable effort to supply us with a neat bottled sample. Did it mistake us for a vet? Has it recently been given a lecture on the evils of fouling pavements? Why else would it carefully deposit said dollop inside a milk bottle, despite the challenges involved?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
"I'm going home to practise Jedi mind tricks on the bird table."

EDIT: Unrelated, but I might as well add it here: Searching online for a book called Banzai Hunters : The Forgotten Armada of Little Ships That Defeated the Japanese, Google helpfully asked me if I actually meant Bonsai Hunters. Well, they are little ships...
ladyofastolat: (Gandalf mouse)
This has always worried me. Thirty years ago, Balin and the others go to Moria, a place known to be riddled with dangers, to settle it. For a few years, encouraging messages are sent back to Erebor. We later learn that the entire lot of them were wiped out five years later. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, therefore, there have been no messages for 25 years.

Now, I accept that this is world without Skype and social media. This (below) is not a possibility.

More on dwarves )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
On Sunday, the adventurers returned from their sojourn in the Western Lands beyond the Tamar. Many Things had they performed, and great were the mountains of food and towering was the pile of empty bottles left after their carousing. Many are the tales that could be told, but for now, let me tell you the Tale of the Deathless Tomato.

The Tale of the Deathless Tomato )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I read an article today that most young people find books boring. The evidence for this was that when those riots happened in 2011, sometimes the only unlooted shop in a street was the bookshop.

To be honest, I am highly unlikely to riot. If the people I was with suddenly said, "Hey! Let's riot!" I'd be the one hovering anxiously at the back, saying, "er... I really don't think we're supposed to be doing this." In a zombie apocalypse, I'd be the one who stood for hours at the counter of the corpse-strewn shop, waiting for a shop assistant to appear so I could pay for my gun before taking it out of the packet. Even if the apocalypse escalated, and I finally accepted that looting was necessary, I'd turn to my fellow looters, and say, "Are you the queue?" or, "I'm sorry. Were you here before me?" and, "No, after you," they would say, and, "No, no, I couldn't possibly. After you," I would say in return, and when the zombies came to rip our brains out, it would be a blessed relief, since at least it would get us out of the Impasse of Politeness. (Band name?)

But, anyway... Let's suspend disbelief for a while, and assume that I was rioting and indulging in a mad looting spree. I don't think a book shop would be my first port of call. A book shop is a place for browsing and leisurely reading of blurbs. "Raah!" say the rioters. (I don't know if rioters really do say "raah!" but let's assume that they do, like dinosaurs.) "Raah! Raah! Riot! Riot! Riot! Oh... I've not heard of that author, but the cover looks good. Interesting blurb, too. Let's read the first page... Hmm, not sure about the writing style. Maybe not... Ooh, 3-for-2 on that table!" (Because I refuse to believe that looters aren't drawn by special offers. Looting something that's one a 3 for 2 offer is clearly better than looting something that's sold at full price.)

I mean, wouldn't it be so vexing to return home from your night of rioting, only to find that you've accidentally picked up only the final book in a trilogy, or a book that turns out to have nothing but one star reviews on Amazon? It would entirely ruin any emotional high that the rioting had left. It would be even worse than looting a designer dress only to find that it didn't quite fit you. No, best go for the tablet or the flat-screen TV: something you can grab quickly without pausing in your raaahing, and something that you can probably flog for a decent amount of cash if it turns out that you can't use it. I don't think that dodgy traders who hang out in seedy pubs are ever likely to say, "psst! Wanna buy a genuine original of last year's Booker winner? £5.99, it'll cost you in the shops, but it's yours for £3.99, no questions asked."

Besides, books are surprisingly heavy - a fact I am all too painfully aware of, having moved 500 shelves of the things last week, twice. They are also mischievous things, and when you try to carry them in big piles, they like to jump off. So as you were running raaahing from the looted shop, a pile of slippery paperbacks in your arms, you'd keep on losing them. Even if you were a responsible rioter, and had paused in your frenzy to bring along your Bag For Life, you'd be hard pressed to carry more than 20 books out at a time. If you wanted more, you'd have to pop next door to the supermarket to loot a shopping trolley, and, frankly, by the time you've reached the stage of giving careful thought to storage solutions, I suspect that the urge to go "raaah!" would have long since left you, and you'd decide to go home for a nice cup of tea instead.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We've just received a box that claims to be from Heist Prospectus Distribution. Is this how organised crime works in today's competitive world? If you feel like pulling off an audacious diamond robbery, do you have to produce a glossy prospectus so potential getaway drivers, safe blowers and the like can study your offer before deciding which gang to apply for?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
"Decimus's letters to Cicero reveal a polite if terse man of action with a keen sense of honour, a nose for betrayal and a thirst for vengeance."

What does a nose for betrayal look like? Pinnocchio like, do you think, that zooms out on command and stabs your victim in the back?

"...neither combatant was able to deliver a telling blow before King Henry brought the duel to an end with the cry 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' (meaning stop.)

This is huge. For generations, we have been told that Father Christmas is a jolly old man who cheerily chortles "Ho! Ho! Ho!" in rotund merriment. But now the truth is revealed! He only ever meant to take a short trip to the corner shop, but those wild rogue reindeer went dashing off across the sky, faster than the speed of sound. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" he shouts (meaning stop) but do they heed him? No! He keeps trying to escape - sneaking off down chimneys and offering gifts to potential rescuers - but those evil reindeer always find him, lured in by the offering of carrots, and the "rescuers" are dazzled by the presents, and never see the true desperation that lies behind the "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

"He built the Colosseum, conquered the Isle of Wight and established the Flavian dynasty..."

I do like this implication that the conquest of the Isle of Wight is the second most important achievement of Vespasian's career. Presumably the ferries were off that day, but he managed to get there anyway.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
How do dragons carry their loot?

Some dragons, such as Smaug, start with an advantage, in that they set up their lair in a place that already has much loot in situ. However, gold-worshipping as they were, I doubt that the dwarves of Erebor kept all their riches in one huge, great, enormous pile, with the Arkenstone buried, oh, *vague hand-flap*, somewhere over there. So even dragons like Smaug have to break open dwarf babies' piggy banks, grab spare change from dead dwarves' pockets (not an easy job when your fingers are as big as oak trees) and gather the loot all together in one place, not to mention ferrying over all the riches of Dale and elsewhere.

However, most dragons prefer remote caves, and remote caves do not normally come with piles of gold in situ, unless they've been formerly inhabited by pirates or smugglers, and in that case, we would expect to find kegs of brandy and bottles of rum in the standard dragon hoard, and of these, the stories do not tell. Therefore, we must act on the assumption that most dragons have to carry all their loot from Point A (a sacked castle, for example) to Point B (lair.)

Another assumption we have to make is that dragons must carry this loot by themselves, utilising no mode of transportation other than that provided by their own bodies. This (below) is something we never hear tell of in the tales:


More theories and pictures )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Sometimes I get ridiculously bothered by tiny, trivial things in books and movies. I spent many seasons of Buffy intensely bothered by her habit of wearing huge hooped ear-rings while engaging in hand-to-hand combat with monsters. All I could see in such fight scenes was the ear-rings. I couldn't spare any attention on the quips and one-liners; all I could do was cringe at the thought of what would happen if a monster grabbed one, and berate her out loud for wearing them.

In the movies of The Hobbit, it turns out that the Entirely Trivial Thing That Bothers Me Unduly is Thorin's hair. Such long, thick hair, worn loose when sleeping rough, worn loose when fighting, worn loose when traversing wind-tossed mountains. Think about the tangles! Think about the daily routine of combing them out! No wonder he's grumpy. Think about all the times he can't see a thing because the wind on said wind-tossed mountain has blown his hair into his eyes. Think of the stirring speeches ruined because the wind blows a hank of hair into his mouth at a pivotal moment! Think about the fights lost because the bad guys just grab hold of his head-full of convenient handles, and pull! And think about the worst case scenario: the decapitated head held up one-handed by a triumphant enemy, gripping the convenient handle offered by the hair!

I spend most of the films desperate to rush after him on a pony, offering him hair clips.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
In the cinema yesterday, almost all the adverts caused us to turn to each other, going, "What?" What on earth were they advertising? And, if we could work it out, how on earth was this advert supposed to advertise that? But one advert caused us to chunter quietly to each other for several minutes in growing outrage.

The scene is a classroom shortly before Christmas, full of children aged around 11. "Who wants to help me with my gingerbread stall?" asks the teacher. Hands shoot up. Everyone looks keen. One child alone looks sad, shy and positively terrified of the concept of gingerbread. Natually, this is the one that the bullying teacher picks on.

Sad Girl takes this unwanted responsibility seriously, and starts making gingerbread at home, although clearly she has no idea how to make it, and nobody to offer help. The teacher, having landed her with this responsbility, is never seen again. No parents are there to offer help and encouragement. Again and again, all alone, she has to stare sadly at her ruined baking. Again and again, she has to traipse to the shop to spend her own pocket money on yet more ingredients, and traipse home for yet more disasters. Her pre-Christmas days are ones of angst, trauma, solitude and ruined baking.

Finally - finally! - she makes some nice gingerbread and takes it to school, where she has to man the stall all alone, the teacher - the one she was allegedly "helping" - nowhere to be seen. (Presumably he's busy taking credit for its success in his end-of-term appraisal.) Other children flock to buy it, full of smiles. Will her wonderful gingerbread lead to her making a new friend? No! All the other happy children go off to eat their gingerbread on the far side of the room, while Sad Girl remains alone behind her stall.

Eventually, only one gingerbread piece is left. Will she eat it herself, and claw back one tiny shred of happiness from the stressful trauma that the teacher has made of her Christmas? No! She takes it to Waitrose - for that, apparently, was the place she was buying her ingredients - and gives it to a staff member who has apparently been helping her, and stands there before her looking tongue-tied, shy and over-awed. Because they own the shop, Waitrose staff members care more, we are told.

How on earth is this advert supposed to be heartwarming?


Nov. 23rd, 2014 08:23 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Overheard the other day:

Person A: "Isn't To Kill a Mockingbird's opening this weekend?"

Person B: "What?"

Person A: To Kill a Mockingbird. You know. The Hunger Games?

Person B: Oh! [in sudden realisation. Then there was a pause. Then the doubt crept in.] Isn't To Kill a Mockingbird some old movie?

Person A: No! ["how silly you are!" said the tone.] It's the last Hunger Games movie, of course.

I am now fondly imagining The Hunger Games 3: To Kill a Mockingbird in which Atticus Finch must his client from a racially-motivated accusation by taking on all comers in an arena of DEATH, from which only one person can emerge alive.

I also spent a few minutes imagining other similar-titled films and books that can be conflated. There's Scarlet!, the story of a young woman shamed for adultery, who is rescued from her punishment by a visiting Englishman, who looks like a foppish fool, but is actually a master of daring rescues. Then I started chasing titles where the last word of one is the first word of the other, and conflating them. (Apocalypse Now That's What I Call Music!, the compilation album to play after the end of the world.) But at that point, I got distracted by something else, so that's all, which is probably a Very Good Thing.


Nov. 14th, 2014 01:22 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I was scrolling rapidly through lists of chidlren's fiction earlier today, glancing quickly at their front covers as the list flashed before my eyes. "My Sternum," I saw, written in fancy, chunky block capitals. By then time it penetrated my brain, I was several screens lower. I stopped sharply, and did a belated double take. My Sternum? Children's fiction? MY STERNUM? I scrolled back slowly, as I imagined the possible companion volumes in this series. (Almost all children's storybooks come in series.)

Sadly, the book turned out to be one of a series called Mysterium.

A few pages later, another series jumped out at me: "Failed Beast Chronicles." This time, I was quick to mentally correct myself, and realise that it actually said "Fabled Beast Chronicles." But what would the Failed Beast Chronicles consist of, I wonder? Is it a series about God's first drafts and abandoned efforts, who after an eternity spent hanging around in some strange limbo place (Development Hell?) decide to find a purpose and do good deeds and go on adventures, utilising all their wacky design flaws? Or is it a tear-jerking series about retrievers who can't retrieve and kingfishers who can't fish, who suffer years of rejection and ridicule, but end up finding a loving home?

EDIT: And now I'm cataloguing music scores. This time it's not a rereading caused by rapid skimming. The font used on the front of this particular score very clearly reads "BOOGIE FOR WINOS." Okay, if I peer very very closely, I will concede that that final O might perhaps be the D that context suggests it ought to be, but I'm still not convinced...
ladyofastolat: (Killer Kitten)
Since the weather forecast didn't augur well for a long walk, I decided to take advantage of a few promised rain-free hours by walking to Newport and back. It didn't go entirely to plan, since the river had burst its banks in the high spring tide, drowning my intended path under several feet of water. Even my revised route was only passable with a detour through a pub, and it was clear even that route had been a lake in a recent past. Then I almost got felled by a ferocious gale as I rounded the corner of the quay. But, anyway, I made it, and made it back just before the rain started again.

My route took me right past the vet, so I popped in to pick up a prescription. "Hang on!" thought I. "Aren't I wearing my "Schrodinger's Cat is Dead" t-shirt? Is that a tactful thing to wear in a vet's waiting room?" I had visions of bereaved cat owners bursting into tears at the sight, or the receptionist backing off fearfully, afraid that I was campaigning on behalf of a Mr Schrodinger, who blamed veterinary incompetence for his loss, and was seeking revenge. Then I glanced down and noticed that my t-shirt actually read "Schrodinger's Cat is Not Dead." Yes, I was wearing it backwards, complete with the label standing perkily up, blatantly visible at my throat. This at least seemed like a more hopeful message, but what if said bereaved cat owners saw it as gloating: Schrodinger's cat is not dead?

Although it was boiling hot, I zipped my coat up as I neared the vet, and entered it all wrapped up, with all cat-related messages safely hidden. I then spent the next few miles amusing myself with mentally working through all the various t-shirts we possess, emblazoned with geeky pop culture quotes, and coming up with the worst possible situation to wear them in. An airline pilot wearing "We're all doomed!" A surgeon wearing "Stick them with the pointy end." Pretty much anyone in customer service wearing "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." But I would like to see a weather forecaster wear "Winter is coming."
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've been doing a lot of stock work in the non-fiction stack this week, so now have quite a pile of books that jumped out at me saying such things as, "the social and cultural history of the potato! You must take me home!" Several things always become clear to me when I work with adult non-fiction:

1. I cannot see a book called "The Practical Whatever" without imagining the companion volume, "The Impractical Whatever." Almost invariably, I far prefer the impractical version. Who could resist at least opening Impractical reptile keeping or Impratical cheesemaking?

2. I cannot see a book called "Whatevers of the World" without reading it as a rallying cry for all the whatevers of the world to rise up and shake off their chains, a la "Workers of the world, unite!" Pheasants of the world, unite! Rodents of the world, unite!

And, 3, that nobody else but me finds such things amusing.
ladyofastolat: (Evil laugh)
How to go from crushing disappointment to elation in one minute:

I scroll down to a new screen of books. "Clash of the Dinosaurs: Watch Dinosaurs Do Ballet!" I read. I stop. I double-take. "Ah!" I realise, with crushing disappointment, "it says 'battle.'"

I scroll down to the next screen... and it's a book called "The Rise of Humans," showing a nice hairy Early Man crouching in long grass - (a particularly long clump of grass is tactfully standing tall and proud between his legs) - while clutching a flint and eyeing a very tiny sabre-toothed tiger which is possibly soon to be crushed by half a distant elephant. Yay! It's that Holy Grail of the modern world: a children's Stone Age book!

I'd rather have a book about ballet-dancing dinosaurs, though.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Whenever I try to type "The Great British Bake-off" (which I do quite a bit, since I'm a little bit addicted to it) it comes out as "The Great Brutish Bake-off." I like the idea of a Great Brutish Bake-off, in which assorted thugs, barbarians and hired goons compete the bake the best scones, while brutally stealing each other's ingredients, and attempting discreet murder with kitchen utensils.

Missing pic

Aug. 8th, 2014 06:46 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This picture managed to escape from this morning's post. In real life, the missing letter was completely invisible until you looked closely. Annoyingly, the edit is a lot clearer on the photo. It still amused me, though.

 photo oods_zps5c1a0451.jpg
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Having left it too late to draw a dragon colouring sheet, I went online to look for ready-made ones. I found loads that claimed to show "realistic dragons." While this did make sense (it was "realistic" as opposed to cartoony), it still jumped out at me as a strange word to use for something which is, after all, fictional. But I guess it isn't strange at all. I do find it fascinating that fictional creatures which were created collectively by millions of people over hundreds of years have developed such a clearly recognisable appearance.

It's like aliens. No-one has met an alien (arguably!) yet I bet that every 5 year old in the UK can point to a picture of an alien and identify it as such, and distinguish it from a "monster." In some cases (vampires, perhaps?) the definitive image is clearly traceable to one book or one film, but in some cases, it just seems to have evolved from a great stew of stories and ideas, before emerging in some mysterious way, cemented forever in one form. (Until authors start rebelling, of course, and write novels about vampires that sparkle, or zombies who crave rhubarb and leap around like fleet gazelles.)

Hmm... I'm not sure if this post has a point. Or, indeed, if there is any point to this post.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I appear not to have posted for a while, and am not really posting today, since we're about to head off to the Mainland for a night away in Wiltshire. However, I feel the urge to share my delight at this picture of Philip the Fair and his family. Here they all are, expressing outrage at the sex scandal that has just engulfed the royal family. See how they express their outrage in interpretative hand jive! The guys on the left have learnt the steps particularly well. (Stick out the right leg, and raise the left arm in synchronised outrage, NOW!) People in orange presumably have different steps, but the guy on the right has just got it all wrong. ("I'm sorry! I've never danced it in this position before!") (He's merely the king's brother, while all the others are the king's offspring, so presumably skill at the Hand Jive of Outrage is hereditary.) But it's the lions I love most. THE LIONS! :-D (Although I'm struck with sudden Doubt, since at least one of the appears to have a cloven hoof. Maybe they're sheep. Golden sheep? Do medieval kings sit on surprised golden sheep?)

ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Here is a collection of vaguely comical animals from Roman art, with a few humans and gods thrown in, plus a freaky Renaissance poodle.

Mildly comical Roman art )


ladyofastolat: (Default)

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