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Iain's bookshelf: read

Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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Orange Mojo

Source: WikiMedia

Source: WikiMedia

Why orange? Well, I’ve got a nice mug of hot orange juice on my desk. Other teachers have tea, I have dilute juice. Less caffeine, more sugar. That’s got to be good, right?

The interesting thing with oranges is that old argument about which came first – the name of the colour or the name of the fruit. Well, from what I’ve read it depends on what language you speak. As far as English is concerned, we didn’t have a word for orange until the fruit was introduced – along with its descriptive name. This is why we claim to have a bird known as a “robin red breast” when the vast majority of our avian friends have a more obviously orange tint to their chests.

Simply, there wasn’t a word to describe their colour so we went for the closest – red. If we had a more agreeable climate for the growth of these little spherical bundles of Vitamin C, how things could have been different.

I really like oranges, but I don’t eat them too often. Partly as fruit’s so damn expensive, and partly as I’m too lazy to peel them. It’s much easier just to shovel grapes into your mouth, or bite into an apple. Oranges need preparation. And, failing, that, too much tidying afterwards.

The simplest way to eat them is to slice one into quarters and just gnaw the flesh out. End result is juice all over the place, bits of fruit stuck between your teeth and – possible – crunching on pips you didn’t spot earlier.

Alternatively, you have to remove the skin then part each segment, examine them for pips which are then discarded and *then* you get to eat the thing. Nah, too much effort.

I tend to aim for the fruit juice with “bits” in it. That way I can pretend it’s more healthy as I’m getting some of the roughage. It’s also very rare that I’ll spill it all over my face when I drink it, making it less messy than the original source fruit. Admittedly, though, this is precisely what I did on Sunday. Oops.

The end of lunch approaches, though, and I need to top up my mug. Given the class I have next I’ll need all the sugar rush I can get…

7-Minute Mojo

7I have seven minutes before the bell goes and I’m out of free time, instead deluged with second-year pupils asking if they can “do work” over lunch. How playing an online tank combat game qualifies as “work” in any way, shape, or form is beyond me but what do I know? I’m only a teacher.

So what to do with those seven minutes which I could be utilising in a more productive manner, such as putting the finishing touches to an end-of-unit test we’re presenting to S1 next week? I know! I’ll tap something up on ye olde blogge because I’ve forgotten about it again!

Of course, I then spend half that time trying to find a decent image to put at the side. A task not aided by the poor selection now offered by Zemanta, a WordPress extension I used to use heavily. Sadly, they now seem to be pushing almost nothing but Getty Images which I prefer not to use. Once upon a time Zemanta would actually scour my own online resources (i.e. my flickr account) for relevant pictures which was very useful. But no more.

So now I have barely a minute left to rattle something off that might interest anyone passing.

Bugger. The bell has just gone. Hey, this writing to a deadline lark’s not as easy as they make out! No wonder Douglas Adams hardly wrote any books.

Kids and spuds

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had all three kids over at the flat for the first time on Saturday for a sleepover, including Niamh’s first ever visit.

She spent the first ten minutes running round all the rooms opening every drawer and cupboard she could find. Her favourite room was the kitchen.

Open drawer, open drawer, open drawer – knives and stuff, boring. Close them all. Open cupboard, pots and pans, meh. Open cupboard…

*gasp* “Potatoes!!!”

Close cupboard move on, come back to that one a minute later and…

*GASP* “POTATOES!!!”

Exclaimed in the kind of way that a two year old would convey the sentence “Holy shitsnacks! They’re STILL BLOODY THERE!”

Ah, for the days when a simple tuber excited me so.

BINKY? PRATCHETT’S HOURGLASS IS EMPTY… BUGGER

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on alt.fan.pratchett, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett/

Gay mojo

I Will Survive

I Will Survive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for the lack of posts, but as I managed to post from my phone the other day I have no broadband at home until March 6th at the earliest. Which sucks. Hugely.

Anyway, I had a revelation the other day. One of those things that just suddenly comes to you. Pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t know existed appeared, fit together and *pow* a solution presented itself.

Gay people didn’t exist before the early 1970’s.

No, really, I have proof. Of a sort. OK, so it’s more of a theory but there’s a solid piece of evidence to back it up.

Back-story: for some reason I’ve found myself in two gay bar/clubs in the last couple of weeks. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never been in one before in my life, but having said that – in the case of the second – I didn’t know I was in a gay bar until a friend pointed it out to me. So I might have been in one before and been equally oblivious. The fact that the more recent one is, I believe, multiple award winning for its gayness and has posters outside saying this didn’t register at all before I walked in.

I also failed to notice – or at least attach any significance to – the plastic chandeliers. Or the “friendly” bar staff. Or the male couples.

Or the late 70’s / early 80’s soundtrack.

And it is on the latter that I will focus. You see, apparently all gay men like the classics of that era. Erasure, Ultravox, Carly Simon, Gloria Gaynor, ABBA… I sit in a bar like that and the only thing I think is “retro… what great songs these are from my childhood”. When in reality I’m – apparently – listening to gay anthem after gay anthem.

Let’s bring these facts together. I like them because they’re from a time when I was growing up and was exposed to them when they were first released. Gay men like these tracks because they’re famed in the gay world as gay anthems (sorry for the overuse of “gay” here), but why these songs? Why not older ones?

The answer? Gay people didn’t exist until around the same time as I was born. The progenitors of the gay movement are about the same age as me. Nobody particularly gay was born before the early 1970’s.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Mind you, I don’t find two men kissing to be particularly weird so what the hell do I know?