Another Day, Another Blog

March 30, 2007

Sunshine in Stavanger

Filed under: elsewhere, the joy of life — iamza @ 1:16 pm

Everytime I visit Stavanger, I’m surprised by how pretty and how clean it is. White woodframe houses, seemingly freshly painted; shiny black or red roof tiles that glint in the sunlight. The city centre nestles down by the harbour, surrounded by stony grey mountains.

Old Stavanger is charming with its narrow cobbled streets, black cast iron streetlamps, and tiny white cottages with pots of flowers.

This last week, Stavanger has been bathed in sunshine and blue skies. I went expecting to arrive in a second winter, and started wishing I’d packed some summer shorts instead!

March 28, 2007

A terminal tale

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 8:55 am

“Hello, yes, I’m delighted to meet you!” Zann held out her right hand. The skin dye had worked, turning infectious red pimples to the more usual purple hue.

Hank sidled up beside her. “Did you see him? Is he here?”

The small group around her turned away politely, and Zann frowned. Good grief! Had the man never learned volume control? She shook her head, then pointed towards the corner where they could talk without being overheard.

The ballroom was pretty, ceiling dripping with crystalline lights. Underfoot, the softi-tile flooring had been programmed with a fake mable finish, and this, together with the faux gold panelling on the walls, added a luxurious touch. Waiters dressed as penguins ducked and dived amongst the guests.

When they reached the corner, still mercifully free of guests, Zann leaned close to Hank, and dragged down his red head. “Listen carefully, you oaf,” she whisper-yelled, “Next time you feel the urge to speak, bite your damn tongue! This plan relies on discretion. That means not drawing attention to ourselves. Now, stop hopping about like a bunny on crack, and get back to your station.”

“Sorry,” he said, downcast. “It’s just, well, it’s been hours! He should have been here by now.”

Zann sighed. She’d tried to tell Claude that including Hank was a mistake. He had the attention span of a hyperactive gnat. “Look, he’ll be here. He’s coming. But we’ll never know if we’re standing here, arguing the point. Now, go. And in the name of all that is merciful, keep your mouth shut!”

Hank went.

And then the author died of boredom.

The End.

March 27, 2007

Lesson learned

Filed under: the joy of life — iamza @ 8:17 am

When I first mentioned I was going to weed the garden, my dad said, “Buy some gloves.” So I did. Good leather gardening gloves that fit comfortably, and all that.

Now, I hate wearing gloves. My fingers have to be going numb to the point of frostbite before I’ll willingly put on some gloves in the winter, and I have to be bleaching the entire house — twice — before I’ll wear them indoors. Gloves drive me crazy. You can’t feel what you’re touching, and you can’t do anything when wearing them. So, of course, when I bought these fantastic gardening gloves, I stuck them in the brick gardening shed out back, and promptly forgot about them.

Yesterday, after work, I finally tackled that lavender bush by the front walk-way that’s been threatening to swallow up the postman. I thought briefly about digging out the gloves, but, “Eh, too much bother for too little return.”

Today, thanks to various scratches and punctures, my hands are puffy and red. It looks like I have some strange hand-infesting tropical disease.

I have a meeting with clients tomorrow. I suspect we shall not be shaking hands. :-)

March 26, 2007

Planetia

Filed under: ficlet, sci-fi — iamza @ 8:18 am

Planetia, being the last stop before the Great Void, was a constant hive of activity. Billboards across the tiny planetoid glaringly proclaimed in neon reds and greens and pinks: “Spend a few days in Planetia, and you’ll never leave!” Sadly, this was a fact to which most of the locals could attest.

Bernie had been a local for 93 years. Like so many other travellers who passed through Planetia, Bernie and his wife, Marnie, had wanted to explore the universe, and also to get as far from Marnie’s father’s shotgun as was physically possible. Sadly, as was often the case on intergalactic adventures, things had not gone according to plan.

Space travel through the Great Void was hazardous in more ways than one. When they’d reached Planetia, Bernie learned the cost of the trip had quadrupled; “New inter-galactic tax, I’m sure you understand.” The ship had undocked three days later, but Bernie had been left behind.

Bernie was a survivor. A year of washing dishes, and some good luck at the card tables, and he’d remade himself into a businessman. Regulars knew to avoid the Pressed Beds Motel and Whistlestop Cafe; the coffee tasted like boiled gum shoes, and the bedding was only as clean as the last traveller who’d spent the night. But there were enough first-time travellers – mostly young explorers or newly-weds – that the two did a roaring trade.

March 25, 2007

Losing hours

Filed under: the joy of life — iamza @ 9:53 am

Daylight savings kicked in overnight. There’s an hour of my weekend gone, with no sleep to show for it.

I have reset half the clocks in my house, but forgot about the water tank timer thingy. The water tank is in my airing closet, and I’ve decided it makes a great alarm clock. No clanging bells or jarringly loud beeps, for which I guess the neighbour is grateful. Instead, a loud hiss and the sound of a tiny steam engine from the freaky spider-infested cupboard in the corner, and I find I’m more than ready to leap out of bed. 

The clock in the car is still on winter time. I think it’ll probably stay that way all through the summer as I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to reset it, and reading the book to figure it out is too much bother when I’ll only have to turn the clock back again in six months. The sad thing is, I know I’ve done it before, since the car was on summer time when I bought it.

Remind me again why we go through this craziness twice a year?

March 24, 2007

Notes from the office

Filed under: humour, the joy of life — iamza @ 1:11 pm

Working on weekends could be considered a drag. You’re in the office on days when you’d ordinarily be watching TV, or at the shops, or doing anything to forget about the forthcoming week.  

But, see, the thing about working on weekends is you get the office to yourself. You can make like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and run around in your underoos, and nobody except you is going to know why you suddenly start giggling on Monday, when you sit at your desk. (That is, unless the boss finally got around to installing those security cameras, in which case, I predict an uncomfortable private chat in your immediate future).

For once, you get to set the heat the way you like it. Most days, the thermostat is a yo-yo; Rex likes a sauna, and Mary-Jo likes it cold. So you spend half your time huddling under a pile of winter coats, and the remainder with your tongue hanging out, and looking for ice.

You can sing along with the radio. Turn it up as high as the volume will go, and bellow along to your heart’s content. (The horses in the stable next door might not be happy, but then they can’t talk so who cares?).

There’s no phone calls, no worries about parking, no wondering if the lunch break will ever arrive.

Working on weekends brings a sense of accomplishment. But mostly, it’s just martyrdom on call.

“Oh, how was your weekend? What did you do?”

“Nothing much, I was working.” Accompanied by a slight self-deprecating grin.

“How awful! Poor you! Would you like a chocolate, let me take away some of your pain.”

Score!

March 23, 2007

Shallow thoughts

Filed under: ficlet, humour, random, the joy of life — iamza @ 8:00 am

1) Ruminations are over-rated. It is possible to think too deeply and too critically about mundane trivialities — often precluding the realization that life is passing you by.

2) Despite what The Matrix would have us believe, sometimes a spoon is just a spoon.

3) A tale of two chickens

Two chickens were standing by the side of the road. Chicken A looked at the vast expanse of tarmac before them, then reached into his backpack, and pulled out his brand new laptop.

Chicken B watched curiously for a moment. “So, what are you doing?”

Chicken A, typing furiously, didn’t look up. “I’m writing a quick script that will tell me how long it’s going to take me to cross that road.”

Chicken B glanced at the road, and then looked back at Chicken A. “Why don’t you just run across it, and time yourself?”

“Because if I do it this way, I can find a way to do it with optimal efficiency,” said Chicken A, then added derisively, “But, hey, if you want to run it, don’t let me stop you. Go, knock youself out.”

Chicken B stiffened, and took a step back. “Fine,” he said, and reached into his backpack to pull out a stopwatch. “I’ll do just that.” He shook out his legs and flapped his wings, kicking up some dust.

“Watch it!” Chicken A squawked, “You’re getting dust all over my brand new machine! What are you doing, anyway?”

“Warming up.” Chicken B was unperturbed. “If I’m going to take my best shot at this, I need to be physically prepared.” He flapped his wings one last time, then leaned forward, left wing over knee.

A shadow racing towards them caught Chicken A’s eye. “Uh–”  

“Ready?” Chicken B clicked the stopwatch, “Here I go!” And he launched himself onto the road.

“No, wa–!” cried out Chicken A, but it was too late. Chicken B had already been squashed by the car.

Chicken A looked for a moment at the forlorn pile of feathers that had once been his friend, and then turned back to his laptop. “Always too eager,” he clucked sadly, and got back to his code.

After an hour of experimentation, and a dozen plots, Chicken A was sure he’d found the optimal speed with which to cross the road. He sighed, clambered to his feet, and packed his laptop away.

“Okay, let’s do this.” Beak raised determinedly, he walked to the edge of the tarmac. He checked, then checked again, that there were no cars. And then, with a whistle, he jogged onto the road.

“I’m doing it! It’s working!” His beak widened in an excited grin, as the sand on the other side of the road drew ever closer. “I’m nearly there!”

And then, with one final step, he was on the other side the road. “Yes! I did it,” he crowed, dancing cockily about. “I crossed the road!”

Unfortunately, Chicken A was so excited by his great achievement,  that he didn’t notice the eighteen-wheeler pulling off the road for a rest break until it was far too late.

Moral of the story: Fools rush in where chickens fear to tread Look both ways before you cross the road Coding only gets you so far Crowing gets you killed Chickens and roads don’t mix.

March 22, 2007

Thoughts on a train

Filed under: humour, the joy of life — iamza @ 8:00 am

In summary, then, a word to the wise, I say with conviction (and little surprise): All work and no play offers little reward, and braindead workers often become bored. Just like Iamza, they will find a way to pass the hours and minutes of each day creating cartoon plots and silly rhymes about how too much work kills productive minds.

 

March 21, 2007

Woden’s woes

Filed under: ficlet, humour, the joy of life — iamza @ 9:45 am

Being the man in charge, Woden decided, as he blew hot air on his frozen fingers, was great in theory, but not as good in practice. The promotion had seemed like a great opportunity; better pay, more perks, and the chance to make the rules instead of following them — what more could he want? What the higher-ups didn’t tell you, when you were offered the promotion to Prison Overlord, was that when things went wrong, it would be all your fault.

And during the first months of his tenure, things had very definitely gone wrong.

Woden leaned against the window, looking out over the empty prison yard, and sighed. Yes, the therm prison break had happened while he was in office —

(an explosion of light and black foul-smelling smoke)

— but the signs had been there for all to see. From the widening cracks in the wall (where industrious prisoners had chiselled away at the aging plaster), to the rackety old machinery that clanged and chortled and occasionally farted, the prison had never been in the best of condition. Years of neglect on the part of many of his predecessors had led to a prison that leaked more than it held. And yet, despite this, it was Woden the world held accountable.

He shivered, wrapped his arms around himself. If only he’d said no, walked away when he had the chance. Held out for something bigger and better, with less stress involv–

Bring-bring. Behind him, the phone cut into his thoughts.

“Woden.” Clipped, sharp, and short.

“It’s Officer Down *, Sir. I’m in the pump room, where the therms got out.”

“And? Do we know where they went?”

A pause, hesitation. “They blew up the vent, and clambered outside. Looks like most took to running, and trying to hide. Unsuccessfully, I think, we’ll pick them up soon. But there was a van parked at the corner of Holland and Mulhoon.”

“And crime scene? What do they say?”

“That we should know more at the end of the day.”

Woden grimaced. Down’s word games were making him frown. How could an officer of the law spend all his time coming up with reports that tended to rhyme. And now that madness had infected Woden too. Why, oh why, could it not have been just the fl–

“Keep me posted, ” Woden growled, and hung up.

——————————————————————————

* Semi-unrelated aside: The first time I saw the title of the Batman: Officer Down trade, I thought it was going to be a story about a character called Officer Down. It was only once I’d finished the book, utterly disgusted at the lack of an Officer Down, that I realized that the title was supposed to be read in the sense of, “Send help! We have an officer down!” D’oh!

March 20, 2007

Worlds lost in time

Filed under: science, the joy of life — iamza @ 1:21 pm

When I was at university, we’d spend one Saturday a year ensconced in a tent stall in the town’s central park. The outreach program was aimed at kids of middle school age, and tried to embue them with an interest in earth sciences. To this end, the graduate students would take over the Grad Club for weeks on end, and, over a jug of beer or three, try to come up with a winning display.

One year, the palaeontologists got together, and came up with a jigsaw puzzle, which tried to show how the Earth’s surface has changed over the past 180 million years. This, together with a giant ammonite fossil (complete with tooth marks from a prehistoric shark), went out on the table in our stall, and we were all feeling justly proud.

The kids seemed to like it — the puzzle gave them something to do for three seconds, and the highlighted tooth marks on the ammonite shell made for suitably scary stories. “Have you seen Jaws?” we’d ask, and their eyes would widen, round as dinner plates.

There was a young mother who was not so enchanted. She waited, frowning, as her daughter and friends did the puzzle, and exclaimed over the shell, and then, a minute or so later, ran off to the stall next door. When they were gone, the young mother pulled me to one side.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“I’m sorry?” I was a little confused.

“You’re teaching these kids all kinds of junk!”

I hastily thought back on all that I’d said, trying to remember where I’d screwed up. “I, uh…” Eloquent as always, yep, that’s me. Fortunately, the blank incomprehension must have shone through.

“Like plate tectonics!” she said, and pointed down at the puzzle. “Everyone knows that the Earth was created by God, and not 180 million years ago, either.”

To this day, I cannot think of a single witty retort.  

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