Sunday, 28 February 2010

Blue moon

Just now I stepped out of the back door, and there was the moon - as full as it'll ever be, and as nearly blue as I've ever seen it. And it was surrounded by a huge halo, as wide as half the sky, as if one of the rings of Saturn had come adrift and wafted down over Reading. It almost made me cry, but I didn't, I just sighed.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

What is two divided by zero?

This question figured in a basic maths exam which 96% of primary teachers gave the wrong answer, the correct one being 'infinity'. Now this is obviously cobblers. But a letter to today's Observer claims that the right answer is 'there is no solution to this equation', and gives a persuasive argument to this effect - whatever you multiply or divide zero by, it remains zero.

I say double cobblers. The right answer is 'two'. 'Zero' is just notational shorthand for 'the absence of number', or 'nothing' if you prefer. 2 + nothing = 2. 2 x nothing = 2. I rest my case.

Any mathematicians out there?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Brits

Yes, I watch this stuff so you don't have to. Your own personal Sky+ Box. Here are the awards you wouldn't have seen on the telly even if you had watched:
  • Most obnoxious winner: Liam Gallagher, for muttering a few pissed obscenities and throwing his undeserved award at the audience. We love you nearly as much as you love us, Liam.
  • Most self-centred presenter: Geri Halliwell, who seemed to think she'd won something herself.
  • Most nervously pathetic producer: whoever it was at ITV who muted the sound whenever an artist who might say 'fuck' appeared on screen. Even after the watershed.
  • Best live performance: Lady Gaga, with a new song about Ali McQueen. (Also for costume inspiration. Also for being wonderful. (Both of them.)) (Supplementary award for inappropriateness to Geri Halliwell and Courtney Love, who both said 'I'd rather she'd sung something we knew.')
  • Best chat line: Lily Allen. Interviewer: 'So, how will you celebrate?' Lily: 'Dunno... drink, maybe?'
  • Worst 'live' performance: Cheryl Cole. Extra points for most blatently incompetent lipsynch.
  • Lifetime achievement for faked sincerity: Robbie Williams.
  • Hot female fashion tip: flash black knickers (front or back).

Friday, 12 February 2010

The sieve of dreams?

Yesterday morning I woke up to find on the bedside table a small notepad, with written on it the words 'solder seive'. Spelling aside, this was a mystery. I don't keep a notepad by the bed. So, sometime during the night, I concluded, I must have got up and gone downstairs, found this pad (and a pen), and gone back up in order to write this note to myself. This isn't normal behaviour for me. I had no recollection of any of this. But even more perplexingly, I had no idea what it meant.

After a few hours, as the rest of the day crowded in on me, I more or less forgot about it, or thrust it to the back of my mind - putting it down as just a particularly vivid instance of the weird psychotropic processes that happen when we think we're asleep. A tribute to the hallucinatory powers of sloe gin, perhaps. I remembered Paul McCartney's famous epiphanic revelation when (admittedly while on an acid trip) he discovered, and wrote down, the secret of the universe - which turned out, next day, to be 'There are Seven Layers'.

So, today I had occasion to dig out an infrequently used sieve (in order to drain a smaller-than usual amount of pasta, since you ask), and discovered that one part of its two-pronged handle had broken loose - something a dab of solder will easily fix.

Makes you wonder, don't it? Anyway, I've left the pad and pen by the bed.

What are your epiphanic revelations?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How to be a General

Sir Jock Stirrup, the head of the Army (I think), interviewed on Radio 4 the other day, said the following (I was so delighted with it that I rushed into the other room and wrote it down verbatim):

"Of course, one of the key determinants of what we can afford is how much money we have."

So, the answer to how to be a General is as follows:

1. Be able to state a blindingly obvious truism in a deep authoritative voice, so that it sounds profound and makes interviewers nod in agreement.
2. Have a really silly name.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Electoral reform

Never one to pass up a snazzy attention-grabbing subject line, me...

So, Gordon is going to let MPs vote on whether to let us vote on whether to have a new system of, er, voting - as long as they vote for the system he tells them to! This is called AV, and has been chosen over many other mechanisms such as STV, SUV, IVF ... sorry, getting confused here. But anything must be preferable to the present system, which is called FPTP, or WTF TATS.

So, here's a new idea - the antivote. In the future there will be two boxes against each candidate on a ballot paper. You can put your X (or number or whatever) in the first, just as in the current or proposed system. Or, you can put an X (or whatever there's room for) in the second box. This means 'Under no circumstances am I prepared to allow this asshole/criminal/sleazebag to represent me in anything, at all, ever.' Antivotes will be amassed and deducted from positive votes, if any, for the candidate in question. A net antivote score will result in the candidate's name and address being placed on a list. I leave it to you to imagine the uses this list could be put to.

A few details may need ironing out, but I think we're on the right track here.