April 06, 2005

Noon to midnight... 12pm? 12am?

I've often seen this mistake made, so perhaps it's worth a (pedantic, rite-filled) entry.

12:00am is the same as midnight (or 00h00), and is preceded by 11:00pm, and followed by 01:00am. It's dark at this time.

12:00pm is the same as midday (or noon), and is preceded by 11:00am, and is followed, an hour later, by 1:00pm. It's daylight at this time, and you're probably about to have lunch.

Got it? Good.

Posted by rory at 12:17 PM | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

Muse missing

Writing is easy, said someone. All you have to do is start with an empty piece of paper and wait for the blood from your forehead to drip on the paper.

However, my monitor serves as my paper, blood makes the keyboard sticky, and the monitor isn't gravitationally below me. Thus conspires the world against the rites.

Plus, I suspect I'll get wierd looks from people in the office if I take out my pocket knife. Again.

I've considered other bodily fluids, but both my hands are tired from all the typing. And my co-workers no longer respond appropriately to my requests for them to 'lend a hand'.

It's enough to make you have a cigarette.

Posted by rory at 03:11 PM | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

Either/or

Morne passed along this bit of hilarity, emailed to everyone at his company yesterday:

"I am desperately looking for a good home for my dog. He is a x-Labrador, 2 years old, very friendly, loves to play & has a fantastic nature, very good with children & other dogs, but unfortunately he doesn't like cats.

He is from the SPCA & they told me he would be ok with the cats.

I have now had him for 6 months & he definitely is not ok with the cats!

If you know of anyone who might be interested in giving him a good home
please let me know.
Sam
082 xxx xxxx

PS. Alternatively, if you know of anyone who might want 4 cats... that would also help."

Posted by rory at 03:02 PM | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

Best seller

"In retrospect, we should not have let the squirrel drive."

Now that's a good opening for a book.

Posted by rory at 02:53 PM | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Ever dance with the devil?

Ever sit at a dinner party, look around, and see couples? Couples that don’t include you? You’re there by yourself, entire in your singularity, asymptotic alone. Still you’re with friends. Friends, who have friends, and you're part of that. You’re involved in a hundred threesomes, and always as the third. You’re never the primary, nor the secondary, only the trinity. Yet only the one. Religious at best, no father, no son, and wholly a ghost. At most.

Look down at your plate, single serving. Cutlery arranged, in pairs. You’re the spoon at the top, not fork, not knife.

And you wonder. Will it ever happen? Will I relinquish the selfish, and embrace the other? Alone, not lonely, or at least you tell yourself. Yourself, always there, always honest. An intimacy of one. A relationship bar none.

A pair of hands, a pair of feet. No subtlety. Adam and Eve, two peas in a pod. A single stream of consciousness, both dialogue and commentary. You are the alternate soundtrack. You are the audience. You are the star.

An aria of reflection, contemplative indeed. Knowledge in-depth, incestuous faith. Trust in yourself. No other, no where, know that...

You are…

You.

Posted by rory at 06:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sentence complete

Abstinence courts introspection, but screens its calls.

Posted by rory at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

July 15, 2003

Ode to blogging

Eye’s a-gleam, feed the meme
Comment here, have no fear

Horse to flog? Write a blog.
Life mundane, I shall explain.
Surf my word, read absurd
One page main, the rest inane.

Attitude, what’s my mood?
Write for fun, sometimes lewd.
Don’t be crass, don’t be rude.
All brevity is eschewed.

Frailties held up to light
Complexes are a blight
Upon the literary night.
I do believe my pen has might.

Wit deluxe, bile reflux
Simple sex, complex fucks.
Ego checks, trend he bucks
Verbal quips, nips and tucks.

Vanity, sincerity
I do have temerity
No such lack of clarity
Except this rhyming parody.

Posted by rory at 06:17 PM | TrackBack

Politely paragraph

Fragmented financially, fractured fiduciary, ferocious phenomenal, exquisitely aware.

Simply singular, serenely angular, superbly vernacular, viciously fair.

Varied vocabulary, veritable hypocrisy, virtual vanity, lacking care.

Keenly critical, kindled carnal, curtly converse, always there.

Posted by rory at 06:11 PM | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

"Can I be honest?"

Ever had someone say this to you? It's a bit like a linguistic red flag. No good conversation this way lies. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Engage tact fore and aft. You'll need it.

Of course, I've noticed that it's usually just when that someone about to say something potentially hurtful. Well, potentially. Some people tend to brandish this phrase around like a personal liability shield. Their time will come.

And it makes you wonder: have I been lied to all this time? Has my previous interaction with this person needed a polygraph? Or a good deal of space, say the size of Montana? Am I the kind of person to whom lying is easy? And now they've changed the rules and switched to truth?

I'm tempted at such times to reply: "No, please don't! Anything but the truth. I'd much rather you lied through your teeth. I mean, after all: why change now?" I'd then watch in entirely inappropriate glee as they walked off in a huff, their potential 'honesty' wrapped around them like a security blanket. Hopefully really tightly across the mouth and nose.

This phrase however, provides, in their short-sighted mind, diplomatic immunity for something that would probably otherwise be called less than flattering. This phrase is the email disclaimer of conversation, and it should accord the same distaste.

"Can I be honest? That outfit really doesn't suit you."

"Can I be honest? People don't like you."

"Can I be honest? I don't trust you."

(Notice too, the careful cowardice in the transferred epithet of 'people' above. You can be sure that 'people' refers to one person.)

So assuming for the moment that Captain Honesty's intentions are pure, even if their marketing is not, is there an alternative?

Yes. Choose your words carefully. Words have the most incredible power: they can motivate, inspire, and challenge. They can also insult, hurt, and do disservice to the point being made.

But more importantly, and more subtly, they can colour your communication to your advantage. You can wield your words to provide a fecund framework within which your communication will be received, subconsciously in the mind of the other party. And it is this framework that that goes a long way to the support and understanding of your communication. A poor framework is often the make-or-break part of the communication, that, well, broke.

Ever heard the phrase: "play the game, not the man"? Remember an argument that degenerated into a mudslinging match? This is what happens when the words and terms used have been less than carefully chosen.

So how do you choose the words? Think about it from the recipient's point of view – what makes sense to them? The only thing that you have at stake here is your point, so couch it in a way most likely to match the recipient's sensibilities.

(It helps, of course, to have a large vocabulary, and clear diction. Mumbling just indicates that a part of you doesn't really believe what you're saying. And don't be afraid of the pause. In any communication, there needs to be time for the information received to be processed. You goal is to achieve the Ikea of conversation. Clean, crisp lines of thought, elegant surfaces, and clear spaces in which to absorb the artfully chosen vocal ornaments. What if you're spewing the linguistic equivalent of wall-to-wall bric-a-brac, the rooms littered with 'um' and 'ah', and not a silent piece of surface in site? You've effectively dressed your communication in the equivalent of DayGlo neon, and hurled it at the recipient with all the finesse of an overweight dance class.)

Princess Adrian, by his own admission. (Or emission. I'm not sure which.) pointed out that he uses the phrase: "Can I be brutally honest?" And promptly is.

Although when he does say this, my mind recoils in a horrified anticipation of the snap of a rubber glove.

Posted by rory at 08:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Ode to MP3

Tweaked, played, rewound, made.
Processed, encoded, compressed, downloaded.
Bored, written, stored, smitten.
Better codec, download more tech.

Napster share, all is fair.
RIAA running, just a scare.
Network wide, lots to hide.
Who’s to say what’s really there?

Orrin Hatch met his match.
Creative debt, cast the net.
Legislate, that’s your fate.
Internet: what can I get?

Got a pipe. Believe the hype.
Download now. Download how?
Quicker see, look no fee.
Serve: allow, take a bow.

Don’t call Orrin, server’s foreign.
Hack my router, break my ‘puter
Logic bomb, no dot com.
Not a looter – wanna neuter?

Encode, (LAME), TagRename.
Play geek! SoulSeek.
Mac iTunes, Hilary ruins.
DMCA: what a cheek!

Posted by rory at 05:08 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

The buckstopper: or why it’s not always a good idea to pass the shit downwards

If you’re a developer, or a designer, you’ll probably know exactly what I’m about to write about. But don’t, for the love of clicks, let that stop you reading. Prepare to nod your head sagely as I relate a tale of woe, gnashing of teeth, and breakdown in communication.

Are you ready? Then I’ll begin.

Developers and designers are the very cogs of most of the IT industry. They build stuff. They don’t write documents on how to build stuff (in fact most developers/coders are renowned for never documenting what they do). They’re usually crap at selling stuff. God knows they don’t test stuff. And if there’s any management going on in their part of the multiverse, they will try to remain blissfully unaware of it. What they do is build. They create. They get their hands dirty, they push buttons, scan pictures, shove pixels, and recompile all day long. And they generally like being surrounded by like-minded creators (cf. management, above).

They’re often referred to as resources. Wait a minute. Let me rephrase that: we’re often referred to as resources. See? I’m one. I’m guessing, you’re one. Or perhaps you were one, and now you’re middle-management. That’s OK. There’s a little creator in all of us, struggling to get out (there’s some thought that accountants have managed to completely restrain theirs with leather strap, but no conclusive proof).

Right. Resources. That’s a really cool word to describe us. And it’s also, if you think about it, somewhat derogatory. So don’t think about it too much. Think creators instead.

And here lies the rub. Actually, it’s not so much a rub, as a shit cascade. It doesn’t always happen, but I’ve seen it happen often enough that I’ve spoken about it to other creators on occasion, and mulled it over in my head. Now I’m writing it down.

In the beginning there was the client. And the client saw the project. And the client became unhappy.

Despite what you may have been led to believe, somehow the world continues to exist when this happens. The reasons for the client’s unhappiness can range from the very genuine lack of delivery of a product or service, all the way up to simple, universal incompetence on the client’s part. But wads of cash (or even wads of promised cash) seem to act as eau de capable. They mask the stench of insecurity masquerading as righteous indignation, and waft the cascade on its way.

The client will communicate their unhappiness to the person in the account liaison position. This person is usually someone who is just like a salesperson – with the distinction that he hasn’t sold his soul to Satan, he’s leased it out. Also, they tend to be good looking. Clients don’t like dealing with ugly people.

Now, the account liaison person will communicate the client’s concerns to the project manager. Note the delicate use of the euphemism communicate. In reality, this communication will be of the sort used by Chicken Little. Panic will set in. Not, however, in the resource’s world. They’re creating. But above them, storm clouds of client management angst have begun to gather.

The project manager will now approach the appropriate resource or resources, and the problem will be… communicated to them.

At this point, let us freeze-frame, step back from the scene some may find all to familiar, and consider the trousers of possibility.

On the one hand (or leg?) the client’s unhappiness could stem from non-delivery. Or a genuine fuckup by the creator. That’s OK – that happens.

On the other hand (and this is likely to be the hand that was caught in a meat grinder at a young age, and still frightens young children), the problem could be something that was:

  • the result of a miscommunication,
  • a bad project specification,
  • the client reviewing the project suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia,
  • the client’s wife not liking the colour blue,
  • or (and this is the one that really bites), this client, who has no technical training, nor design training, and is in fact handing over cash to you because you and your colleagues do indeed have this training, suddenly decides that they’re the expert (“Change the font!” “Move the graphic!” “Why can’t it do this all automatically without my help?” “What do you mean if I enter bad data it doesn’t give the right results?!”)

So now, you’ve had the client shit cascade on account liaison, account liaison shit cascade on the project manager, and the project manager deliver the final coup de merde on the resource, who’s only crime is that they applied their training and skill to the task. You’ll notice that I’m conveniently ignoring the case where the resource made a mistake on the delivery. Or maybe you won’t – that’s not the point of this article.

Unfreeze frame. We return to our resource - nay, creator. As they glance, post-communication, disconsolately at the floor, they realise that the, um, buck stops here. Once again they begin mentally reviewing their plans for their future, all of which start with an air-ticket to London. They browse to a travel site.

And inside? The muse has been wounded. While above them, people have done their job, mission accomplished, situation under control, the client is happy, sir. Which is ironic, because that client has just, indirectly, lessened the efficiency of their resource, and probably won’t get work of such creative calibre again. Not, it would seem, that they wanted it, in the first place. Sadly, money has never been an adequate substitute for taste.

Yes, resources make mistakes. But it’s incredibly demoralising when you are always the final one in the chain (whether it’s your fault or not), the last to be blamed: the buckstopper.

It doesn’t always happen like this. There are many examples of superb organisations, with fantastic account liaisons and project managers, that protect their resources from the vagaries of client whims. Keep the client happy, and keep the product-service-builder happy. Hey – even the odd reasonable client has been known to exist.

I just wish to create without having to constantly swab out my environment.

--
Note to my current employers, who I know avidly follow The Rites: this article is not about you. Note to my previous employers: this article is not about you either.

Note to all employers prior to that: you’re on your own.

Posted by rory at 04:46 PM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2003

A-B-C-T-V

Unique, if less than stellar, insights into the minds of other cultures can be gained quite simply through the magic -- and monthly expense -- of satellite television.

Dear reader, as we gaze around the darkened room, we note that the time is of the kind that lurks prior to dawn, a chronological lady of the night, if you will. It’s early. As we tear our uneasy gaze from the gentle glow of the laptop screen, we see that the television programme guide on the big screen indicates the following: American Tractor Pullers Association – Motoring. A further click of the information button disappoints, revealing only the scant underwear of programme details, that the ‘American Tractor Pullers Association (ATPA) is the largest sanctioning body of professional truck and tractor pulling in the United States.’

I haven’t actually elected to switch to that sporting channel right now. I prefer to make judgements and form opinions on the least amount of information possible. The comic possibilities that way are vastly increased, and you always can fall back on that old defence: “but I didn’t know.”

It would seem that a whole hour is dedicated to the magic and machinery of the ATPA. Right now, PAS7/10 is floating approximately 20 000km above us (actually, to be technically correct, it’s floating 20 000km above India. That’s why your DStv dish faces a more horizontal, than vertical, direction, and tends to look like it’s trying its best to eavesdrop on the neighbours. Assuming you still have neighbours.)

Nonetheless, millions of dollars worth of technology sits in a comfortable geostationary orbit high above, faithfully relaying signals from ground stations to suburban cocoons, 24 hours a day. A satellite is good for about 20 years, before wear and tear (presumably from those reckless greys) starts to have an effect, at which point the satellite’s orbit is allowed to degrade, and it ends its ponderous, reflective existence in a fiery salute upon re-entry. Or, if you’re unlucky, your back yard.

But no such ignobility exists for television. Fear not. Television, as a communications device, a culture, and a phenomenon continues to spawn love, hate, understanding, prejudice, and low-priced weight loss programmes at 576 lines, roughly 25 times a second, every moment you are alive. And for quite a long time after that too.

We have succeeded in creating moving picture art. Moving pictures that are colourful fashionable vignettes of the world around us (and sometimes, on the Discovery Channel, of the world in us). And yet these vignettes are so intolerable to us, that we cannot stand to see them still. They have to move. They have to be replaced many times each minute, at a speed that evangelises our persistence of vision to fool us into thinking we are watching continuous motion. Only then are we happy. For to stare at any still image for too long might result in unexpected thought, contemplation, and a bathroom break. The phosphorescence of the cathode ray tube never did work as well as ink on paper.

Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a television connoisseur. I regard television as a superb access medium for performance. It is relatively cheap, approximates our reality closely enough that the willing suspension of disbelief has now become an outright ban, and most importantly, it comes to you. Here, boy. Good TV, good TV!

So I guess that’s it. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that the quality of televised filmed entertainment has become absolutely stratospheric. Where previously it took sticky floors, popcorn, and silver particles on acetate flying past a lens at high speed for there to be any sort of credibility to the on-screen rendition, now it’s simply a matter of pressing play. If your lounge floor is sticky, so much the better.

Not, I hasten to add, that the amount of absolute dreck has lessened either. But simply because there’s more bad stuff, should never remove attention from the fact that that the good stuff has increased in volume too.

If I’d lived a couple of hundred years ago, my television experience would have involved a long walk, a theatre in the round, airborne fruit, and up-close-and-way-too-personal knowledge of a large amount of my fellow human beings. Now, that long walk is no more than the distance from the kitchen to the lounge, my theatre in the round is comfortably replicated with 5.1 audio, and I get to choose my fellow viewing-experience companions. Occasionally, the fruit still flies.

And of course, that delightful habit of the digital realm, in which it keeps getting smaller, and cheaper, and easier (factors which previously would have sent us scurrying out of a budding relationship), only serve to offer us the opportunity to experience a wider array of information, on our terms, at our leisure. We can record the broadcast media, time-shift it, pass it around to our friends, space-shift it, and consume it once, repeatedly, or not at all.

As I look up, I see that ATPA is no longer on. Their curtain has fallen, and NBA Playoffs have filled the gap. Ah well. Next time. And there will be a next time.

Click.

Posted by rory at 04:13 AM | Comments (1)

April 09, 2003

Board stiff

An oily silence oozed over the four occupants of the room, as Carlssin regarded the geriatric gamut one by one. Not you. Not you. And certainly not you. Carlssin became, once again, acutely aware why he’d forced himself to stay on board for so long.

If only Ulrike hadn’t been quite so convincing during the hiring process. She’d been like a walking shot of Viagra to them. And Carlssin suspected that it was the ensuing massive departure of blood from the three bald pates, en route to their nether regions, that had resulted in all three exercising decidedly poor judgement. It’s one thing for her to take on a business plan of epic criminal proportions for Neptune – it’s quite another to yield to her insistence on using her own unbelievably incompetent staff. That bloody dwarf! Short on stature, short on brains, and now… short-sighted.

At times like this, Carlssin yearned to scream. But that would never do. Carlssin was the kind of man who had other people do his screaming for him. Usually while he watched.

He touched a small button in front of him, and an assistant glided in discretely, waiting tentatively just behind his left shoulder. Carlssin looked up at the assistant, gently rolled his eyes, and nodded. The assistant, with an inclination of the head, walked back to the door, and opened it.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then the board heard an unsteady tapping sound. This was followed by a thud, a sharp crack, an exclamation of pain, and finally a women’s voice venomously offering an abrupt opinion that the person making the tapping was someone who had had sexual relations with his mother.

Carlssin shuddered.

Posted by rory at 03:58 PM

March 22, 2003

Thrift

For the last six weeks or more, I’ve managed to live an extremely thrifty lifestyle. It’s amazing what simply not having any disposable cash can do for you. And by that I mean no cash whatsoever. No credit cards, no overdraft, nothing. Yes, it’s that bad.

I’m sitting here, watching Gulf War, Part Two, take place on CNN in front of me. I’ve just been shopping with my friend Richard, who has been kind enough to help me out with some groceries for the rest of the month of March. I’m at one of those awkward points in my life, where I’m in a lousy place financially, partly through my own lack of planning, and partly through circumstances where I simply haven’t been paid money that I’ve been owed. That, and the fact that my cupboards have now been emptied as I search for every last piece of food in a desperate attempt to assuage the hunger pangs, has meant that I’ve finally swallowed my pride (which doesn’t go far in terms of assuaging aforesaid hunger) and asked for help from my friends. Which they have been kind enough to supply.

For the last six weeks or more, I’ve managed to live an extremely thrifty lifestyle. It’s amazing what simply not having any disposable cash can do for you. And by that I mean no cash whatsoever. No credit cards, no overdraft, nothing. Yes, it’s that bad.

So as I look at the night sky of Baghdad, with all it’s pretty anti-aircraft tracer fire, and the soon to resume explosions as various buildings there fall to the might of the staggering US forces, I realise that it’s not that bad for me. It’s bad, but not that bad. I have a roof over my head that’s not about to be mistaken for a military installation. I have a throat infection, and the hardest part about sorting that out was asking a friend to help me go buy antibiotics. Getting the antibiotics was remarkably easy. Even though when I did go, it was after hours, all I had to do was get the pharmacist to call my GP at home, take a telephone prescription, and watch gratefully as the friend’s credit card was handed over to purchase the drugs.

There wasn’t any shadow of a doubt that the drugs were available, or that I might be killed by an airborne bomb on the way to getting the drugs. The phone network works, and so the pharmacist had no problem securing the prescription. The credit card network works, so it was easy to pay for them. It’s all these little things that me think that being in a war zone may really be horrible.

Don’t get me wrong. I refer to myself as a liberal. Not a bleeding-heart liberal, but a liberal nonetheless. I truly believe that Saddam Hussein is not a good world citizen, and that he isn’t telling the truth about the capabilities of his weapons programme. That said, I also feel that he wouldn’t think twice about using weapons of mass destruction against the US and the rest of the world if he felt it was necessary. In my world view, there are some people in this world that you can trust to have the power to wipe everyone out, and there are some you can’t. I’m no sure about Bush having his finger on the button, but I definitely know that given the choice between him and Saddam, I’d vote for the button to be installed in the White House every time.

So where am I going with this? Well, it struck me that if I could manage to live my life this frugally all the time, how much spare cash would I have? I did a strict budget, and figured out that about one third of my salary is potentially available as disposable income. Which is weird because the phrase disposable income always conjures up an image of cash going straight into the garbage. Which in effect, I guess it does. You’re exchanging it for memories, not goods, most of the time, so there’s nothing tangible to show for it. Not that memories are bad. And I guess you’d only want to have tangible goods all the time, if what mainly concerned you, was what other people thought. Because then you could take the goods and show them off. But fuck ‘em. My memories are worth way more than that. And frequently, knowing my friends and the kind of stuff we get up to, those memories result in fantastic dinner time conversations.

Now I should mention that that one third of my income is assuming that I have no debt to service. Which unfortunately, is not the case. I haven’t yet worked out how much of it goes to interest repayment, but it’s probably sizeable. And when you include the capital repayments, it effectively eats up all that disposable income. So what happens? You end up still spending some money on fun and entertainment, except it’s not really money, it’s credit, ironically named, because it’s really debt that your accruing.

And this system works for a while, assuming that you have a regular income. You know there’s a problem, and you keep it somewhat under control, by servicing the debt regularly, and then just accruing more debt. Which the banks and credit companies love because they’re able to show movement on your accounts, and they know you’re not welching, and they’re able to charge you more interest every month.

The trouble is, the moment you stop earning regular income, it all falls apart. Which is what started happening a few months ago when my previous employer seemed unable to fulfil his salary obligations to me, and then ceased to fulfil such obligations entirely in January this year.

So for six weeks I sat on my arse at home, trusting that it would all work out. I’d gotten to the stage where I slept extra long hours, just so that I wouldn’t have to be awake to think about what was going on.

…

Posted by rory at 03:54 PM

March 06, 2003

BulwerLytton

“Oh,” said a somewhat surprised, and bath-robe-clad Rod, as he put out the joint (in response to the admonishment of the hose-bearing assistant, one hand of which was about to turn the faucet) while simultaneously reconsidering his personal opinion of a ‘high colonic’.

Posted by rory at 09:21 PM

February 19, 2003

Cat Litter

I've promised to write this. Not to anyone important. Just me. And, one hopes, to the million of adoring fans who hang on my every word, like a rabid Jack Russell you were only trying to be nice to, only now you're about to lose half the sleeve of your sweater. Which is just because you're madly swinging that damn canine over your head, in some bizarre test of just how much room it would take. And you lack a cat.

Ah, cat. What I was going to write about. See, over the past few months I've developed, nay, honed a feel for the feline. A penchant for the pussy. Captivated by a kitty cat, I've stayed awake far longer than has been good for me. I've discovered hours of the morning that resisted my enquiries. I've found shows on satellite TV that, I've now realised, are on at those ungodly hours for a reason. Wide awake, unable to dream, unwilling to sleep, I'll turn, and reach for a tissue every now and then.

And it can all be yours, too. I'll show you how. Just queue up here. Form an orderly line…

I've promised to write this. Not to anyone important. Just me. And, one hopes, to the million of adoring fans who hang on my every word, like a rabid Jack Russell you were only trying to be nice to, only now you're about to lose half the sleeve of your sweater. Which is just because you're madly swinging that damn canine over your head, in some bizarre test of just how much room it would take. And you lack a cat.

Ah, cat. What I was going to write about. See, over the past few months I've developed, nay, honed a feel for the feline. A penchant for the pussy. Captivated by a kitty cat, I've stayed awake far longer than has been good for me. I've discovered hours of the morning that resisted my enquiries. I've found shows on satellite TV that, I've now realised, are on at those ungodly hours for a reason. Wide awake, unable to dream, unwilling to sleep, I'll turn, and reach for a tissue every now and then.

And it can all be yours, too. I'll show you how. Just queue up here. Form an orderly line…

First of all, like any go-fast powder that threatens your way of life, you have to take it seriously. And often. It's not enough to mess about with 'experimenting'. No-one ever realised the full, and quite possibly final, effects of a recreational substance just by 'experimenting'. Experimenting, cried the scientist, would have resulted in the atom being merely chipped, the speed of sound somewhat dented, and Archimedes would have only been a prune-skinned old fart, who'd fallen asleep in the bath. Again.

And then, when you're taking it seriously (and often - did I mention often?), you'll probably think that's it. Yep. That's it, you'll say, and order another gram.

Poor, delusional, and slightly sinus-ridden reader - allow me to put down these humble, uh, lines, for your pleasure.

That art of nasal imbibitions of the oxidised alkaloid bear some reflection. And not just because you're doing it off a mirror. There is an art, a craft, perchance even a ritual that should be followed to maximise the effects.

First of all - blow your nose. Yes, your brain almost screams at you for doing so - you're frantically calculating the financial impact of what you've just put in that tissue. You did use a tissue, didn't you? Or are you alone, reading this, and have dispensed with all social niceties, in your haste to follow my advice? Or are you in a group of people -- and have dispensed with all social niceties -- and you are now wondering what to do with your left hand? Trust me…

We're just popping into the bathroom. This is where it gets really interesting. Wash your hands. See? I told you to trust me.

Oh, I almost forgot - we need to nip into the kitchen first. Go turn the oven on - nothing too hot. Just enough to heat a plate. Now get a plate. The bigger, and flatter the better. An off-white colour is best, for reasons of aesthetic as well as aim. There's a reason that the runway lines are clearly marked for incoming aircraft. You don't want to get stuck in a holding pattern. You want the nasal traffic controller to guide you down with the bats of clarity. Pop the plate in the oven, and return to the bathroom.

Next, imagine what it must be like for your sinuses. No, stop trying to look up them. It's not pretty. I said imagine. There they are, completely clogged with gunk, absolutely snowed in, as it were. You need… a snow-blower, a sinus-sweeper, something to clear those passages, and prepare them for the blizzard of all line.

Stand over the sink, and turn on the water. Cup your hands… come back here! I said, cup your hands, fill them with water, and sniff it up. You'll know you've done it right when it feels like you've just had one of those awful beach experiences where the sea and your nasal passages meet, and neither one bothered to stop and introduce themselves.

Now blow. Feels good, doesn't it? Gesundheit.

Now return to the kitchen, and with the help of a oven mitt, retrieve the plate. It should be warm, but not scalding. The idea here is to dry out the kitty. No-one likes damp pussy.

Upend the sachet, apportion, serve, chop, slice, dice, and line 'em up. You know the drill.

But before you take rollcall - grab a tissue. Scrunch it up into a tube that can be shoved inside that nostril, and twisted around. A bit like a mad plumber with a hankering for the Spanish Inquisition. And absolutely no clue. Repeat for the other nostril.

And finally - as you clutch that rolled up paper symbol of trade in your hand (never knowing how many syphilitic lepers have used it), squeeze your nose shut, and blow hard until you feel slightly dizzy.

At this point you swoop down, like a transatlantic flight that's just sustained a sudden loss of cabin pressure, along with, albeit brief, world fame. You inhale, that try line disappearing in your very own test match series.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Posted by rory at 08:45 AM

January 29, 2003

Lock and low, dead.

Heinz grunted, reached into his pocket, and pulled out what looked like a Swiss Army knife. A Swiss Army Knife that had found itself up against every Asian technological device ever made, and was determined not to be embarrassed. It glinted. It gleamed. It beeped.

<i>My god, it beeped</i>! Sabrina stomach’s switched from turning to the extreme spin cycle. Heinz glanced at her, and grinned. He put the jewel box down, and pressed a button on the side of the knife.

Time, like Sabrina, stood still.

And instead of a blade, a small, perfect blue flame sprung forth. Which Heinz used to light a cigarette that had magically appeared in his other hand. Heinz and Sabrina simultaneously exhaled, and for entirely different reasons. Smoke wreathed his bad orb. This time, it didn’t blink.

“Ja, is a gut toy, no?” said Heinz, indicating the knife-lighter-device. “Custom made, vile I vos… away. Has many… <i>specialized</i>… functions. Vud you like a demonstration of a few of zem?”

Sabrina was about to decline, when the sound of water splashing, and thumping noises emanated from the bathroom. Three eyes turned to face the bathroom door.

“Um.”

One eye quizzed her mercilessly, the other just glared balefully. She hated him for that.

“That’s, uh, my, uh, maid. Yes, maid. We had a bit of a wild party last night… now there’s a bad mark in the bathroom which I, um, asked her to deal with. “

Posted by rory at 03:37 PM

January 06, 2003

A gem. A gem. My queendom for a gem.

Sabrina tucked away her jewels. It usually took quite some work, and a bit of duct tape, but the resulting display was worth the effort. Everyone said so.

She stood back and admired the jewel box.

“Really must get that lock fixed,” she murmured to herself, as she used another strip of tape to seal the clear glass holder, in which lay -- arrayed like some camp cosmos -- a selection of gems that bore testament to her life. Such as it had been.

It was fitting, she felt, that the latest acquisition provided a kind of solar centre to the collection. A platinum and ruby funereal finale to mark the closing of one chapter, and the stillbirth of another.

It was such a pity it was Chapter 11.

Posted by rory at 04:11 PM