Friday, April 28, 2006

And I Quote...

I just came across this wonderful quote by Jeff Pesis on A-Quote-A-Day :

Hardware: the parts of a computer that can be kicked.

Campaign for Real Pubs

On the journey back to Munich I was reading a very well-written article in the Sunday Times Magazine about the demise of Britain's seaside resorts. It got me thinking about the demise of other things in Britain...and at the top of my list was "the local pub".

Now, before I go any further, I have to say that what follows is an extremely selective view due to the fact that I don't spend that much time in England and what time I do spend is almost exclusively in one small area of Merseyside...but...

My favourite 'local' pub when I am in Liverpool is The Crow's Nest in Crosby...what makes it so good is the presence of some very important factors and the absence of some others.

They have: excellent beers, an open fire in the winter, a convoluted interior design of snug, bar and lounge which is not efficient or easy to navigate especially after a couple of pints but very human, newspapers to borrow and read, the chunner of people conversing, a manager and assistant manager who really run the place and are not marionettes shunted round from pub to pub by a faceless chain management....

They don't have: a jukebox, a DJ, piped music, fruit machines with their incredibly irritating bleeps and bloops and scraps of electronic melody which makes them sound like demented Daleks, pool tables, plasma screens, tacky false beams, or any of that horrible false chain pub paraphenalia...

So does this make me just some grumpy auld git who wants to go back to the fifties? Aye, it probably does BUT if so, then I have always been a grumpy auld git because for a start I have always hated loud music, background music, piped music or any kind of bloody music in pubs (unless of course it was the wonderful Morrisey/Mullen band in what was a live music pub in Finchley).
I remember going to one of the first 'loud music pubs' in Liverpool with my mate Neil in the 70s - the Penny Farthing...a quaint name for a 1000 decibel pub. We sat inside tossed and thrown by a swelling tide of guitars and screaming vocals pouring out of huge black speakers and held a very difficult conversation at the tops of our voices which left me hoarse for days.

I mean, what is the point???

The pub I used to go in with my great drinking and discussing mate Dave was the Great Mogul in Maghull which used to be a rambling, almost country-style pub but which sadly and inevitably has now been redesigned (= destroyed) with fake beams, jukebox...etc.

Anyway, the Crowies' is the only pub in the area in my part of Liverpool which fulfils my needs; the rest all cater for some stratum of the market which requires brain-numbing music video clips and electronic entertainment to protect anyone from the dangers of a conversation..

So can one of you out there in Hingerland reassure me that the 'pub', the good old English pub - which of course is the acronym from public house; a wonderfully cosy concept when you think about it - is not in extremis or will we soon need a companion organisation for CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, such as the Campaign for Real Ale Pubs... or for short CRAP...oh, perhaps not...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sick of "Sikth"...

I have to have a short rant.

It concerns the ordinal number '6th'. It seems the English don't know how to pronounce it any more.

It is spellt 'S-I-X-T-H' ok? The 'X' is pronounced 'KS' as always and not 'K'...and after that comes a 'TH'.'

Now it might be difficult for French or German speakers to get their tongues around the 'th' bit and Ancient Persians would have had trouble with the 'ks' which is why you get hotels in the Middle East called 'Al Eskander' from a mispronunciation of 'Alexander', but for English speakers it IS NOT DIFFICULT!

The number is 'sixth' and NOT 'sikth'!

To my ears "sikth" sounds like the kind of thing you hear in infant school where young kids say, "a likkel boy" and when I hear 6th pronounced as 'sikth' I get ektremely ekasperated.

In fact 'sikth' is harder to say than 'sixth'. The 's' between the 'k' and the 'th' is pretty well automatic when you move your tongue from the 'k' postion to the 'th' position. Try it (make sure you are on your own though!)

It wouldn't be so bad if I could say it's only ignorant plebs who pronounce 6th in this way but it is alarmingly prevalent on the BBC too.

Now, I love the BBC...I love the programmes, the style, the humour and even their attempt to include speakers with regional accents amongst their announcers...but 'sikth' is too much to accept. I mean all the speakers on the beeb must be able to say six-thirty: "...that episode of Scrunge your Burzlecocks will be repeated tomorrow at six thirty..." so if they can manage that they can manage is six-thirty without the 'irty'.

And there is one more rant while I am at it...there is a series at the moment and which goes on over the next weeks of cookery shows in which two top chefs from the various regions of Britain battle it out to be picked to cook for the Queen's birthday banquet in June(?). It's called, the Great British Menu.

There are 2 chefs ok...remember that.

On this same programme there is an oldish blonde bird who kind of gets in the way and says the same things all the time in her voice-overs. And one of the same things she says all the time is, 'the judges will decide which of the two chefs is the best...', '...which of the two menus is the best...'
I quite often made the other members of the family jump last week as she finally got to me and I found myself correcting her at first in a normal voice and then shouting, "the better of the two...the BETTER of the stupid cow!!!"

The fact that José Moanrinho, manager of Chelski says this all the time when his team loses to Liverpool ('the best team lost') does not mean that it has become acceptable any more than his other insane claims are.

Strangely the only person I heard on the beeb last week who got it right was the Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel (an American!).

Anyway rant over, I will go and pick the best of my two kinds of coffee and have my sikth cup...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Channel Pirates

We'll be belting back to Munich tomorrow...down to Dover and across the Channel with SpeedFerries. This is a relatively new company set up largely in response to the extortionate prices of the other Channel ferry operators like P&O, SeaFrance and tunnel operator EuroTunnel - the most expensive of all. Not long ago they would charge fantasy prices - upwards from 150 pounds - for the 90 minute, 40 mile crossing making this stretch of water the most expensive in the world to cross pound per mile (on one journey I made in my bus some years ago Eurotunnel wanted to charge me 350 pounds for the 35 minute train trip - ten pounds per minute!).

A group of disgruntled travellers set up a protest website "Channel Pirates" with the aim of petitioning the European fair-trading courts about what was, in practice, a cartel - I joined them quite early on - and, lo and behold they got thousands of travellers signing up to their petition, went to Brussels to speak to someone like the European Minister for Companies-Who-Take-The-Piss-Out-Of-Their-Customers and actually managed to shake up the big companies who have now also reluctantly started reducing their prices.

The people behind what was to become SpeedFerries saw a gap in the market for a cut-price ferry from England to France, bought a ship and started a cheap route from Boulogne to Dover. Their slogan was something like "fight the pirates!" And they seem to be doing ok.

Proof that even in the European 'Union' where the individual becomes smaller and less powerful on a daily basis, it is still possible to change things for the common good.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cadbury’s Chocolate Eggs

I don’t want to sound like an advert but is there anything more luscious at Easter than a Cadbury’s Crème Egg?

I used to spend ages unpacking mine so that I could smooth out the glorious silver paper afterwards…even the packing was sensuous.

And then I would bite a little hole in the top and slowly get at the filling by poking me tongue in and licking around the cavity. Then when most of the sticky, sugary filling was gone I would pop the chocolate shell into my mouth and try to let it melt without crunching on it…! Hours of enjoyment in a brown creamy chocodise…

And it gives me toothache just to think of it now – but even so I could just fancy one right now!

PC at Easter (Plenty of Chocolate)

It looks as though the extreme PCers didn’t get hold of Easter. As far as I know no-one was warning us off wishing people a Happy Easter for fear that it might upset someone…say, the Westers or the Northers.

As it was people were able to celebrate a traditional Christian Easter with Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs and new toys for the kids; coloured eggs, pussy willow branches and hot-cross buns.

Hang on a minute…I don’t remember all that stuff in the bible..!!?? Just like I don’t remember the bit about putting up a pine tree in your living room at Christmas.

When you think about it it’s the Christians who should be offended by how they themselves celebrate Christmas and Easter!

But come on let’s face it…it’s pagan; Easter is the pagan fertility celebration of the Vernal Equinox, the rising of the sap, the spring rebirth of the world after the long dark winter. If you are going to have a resurrection story then where better to put it in the year than the very place where life itself seems to be returning to the earth.

Mind you, it is only in the northern hemisphere that we have a feeling of rebirth in the spring months of March and April…does anyone know if the aboriginal peoples of the southern hemisphere celebrate rebirths and all that in their spring months of September and October?

That could be a market gap for the chocolate Easter egg manufacturers. You could call it the Autumn Eggquinox...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In England it's Called "Changeable"

...and this was the weather just a little bit after the photo below...

If you alternate the two pictures in your mind, say, every 10 minutes and imagine a blustery biting wind from the west then you have almost a definition of spring weather in North-West England...well, except for the fact that it could be boiling hot or freezing cold too...

Right, back to spectroscopy...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

...And the Weather Is...

...this is the view from the window where I am is 10.30 a.m!

As I write, it has just got even darker and has now started to hail...

Back to work...

News from the 'Pool

I am in Liverpool for Easter. We arrived yesterday after the usual 18 hours travelling. Only fell asleep once at the wheel - which is not bad.

We got here to find it was the Ladies' Day at the Aintree Grand National meeting...the racecourse is just around the corner from my mum's. So all the girls were dressed in their pretty frocks and curls wandering around Aintree Racecourse in sub-artic temperatures and hurricane force winds from the west...BBBBBBRRRRrrrrrrrrrr.....this is the kind of weather which put me off playing Rugby forever when I was a kid! It is probably the weather we would have in England all the time were it not for the Gulf Stream.

You couldn't see the girls for goosepimples! They looked like those Mars Rover capsules which land on inflated bubbly cushions. Makes me feel cold to think of them!

This is all passing me by though as I am still in the middle of a fascinating aforementioned translation on spectroscopy which I have foolishly but economically necessarily brought with me. We plan to slip down later though and watch the drunken punters stagger out of the racecourse with their winnings or their dashed hopes.

If I can risk taking my hands out of my pockets in the searing winds I may even take a couple of this very windy and bitingly cold space...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Anyone for Spectroscopy?

Let's see what kind of hits I get with a title like that!

Time goes so quickly when you are doing an elephantine translation about the various inscrutable varieties of spectroscopy: X-ray spectroscopy, atom absorption spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, blaze wavelengths, decade molar coefficients and something fascinating called an Ulbrecht sphere...

The only good thing I can see about spectroscopy is that it's kind of neat to type the word on the keyboard with my 2-finger technique - try's kind of...spectroscopic, man!

It is also, now I come to think about it and try to pronounce it, a brilliant tongue-twister- spectroscopy, spectrocspopy, spectrocsococopy, spectrsossocpopy...

Just as well I'm not doing podcasts yet.