Friday, November 30

#tweeting in #scotland on #standrewsday

Scots are making full use of Twitter to mark St Andrew's Day.

For a comprehensive overview, I used Trendsmap to research how Scottish tweeters differ from the English.
In genteel England, top Twitter searches and hashtags reflect English civic and national pride. Even so, they manage to work in a reference to Scotland's patron saint (the Duchess of Cambridge met her Prince at St Andrew's University).


Glasgow Twitter topics express traditional Scottish interests:


Over in Edinburgh, what the toffs of Scotland tweet about:


Tuesday, November 27

Sunday, November 18

parties, pints, pipes and plungers

For a while there I stopped mentioning beer on this blog, while some of the readership was drying out. On the way to an xtieth birthday party last weekend, the cellmate suggested, without prompting, that I pick up some weissbier to make the celebrations bearable for myself. She can be a sweetie. Weihenstephaner was on special, at only 6 times the price they charge in Bavaria.

There were only about 20 people there, quite human mostly, so the party turned out to be only mildly unbearable, and I didn't need to open the weissbier, or even get it out of the car. And so tonight I've just poured myself one, as a reward for my hard work on the blocked sewer. But even after several hand washes I've had to forgo the usual salted nuts and nibbles on sanitary/olfactory grounds.

It all began a few weeks ago, with the plumber who put in the new toilet. He has a bit of an anger management problem. He flooded the floor a couple of times, and though it wasn't his fault he went spare each time. You'd think a plumber would be used to spillages, but no: each time, he was wailing and shouting and throwing things. He seemed on the verge of tears.

Then at one point he announced, almost proudly, that he had just dropped a bit of the old sink drainpipe through the hole in the floor, and down into the sewer. He said "I'll need to get it out - can't leave something like that down there". A few minutes later, I went back to ask if I could help. He said no, he had got the pipe out already. I knew it wouldn't be possible to fish it back out through the wee hole, so I said "I suppose you had to reach around through the big (toilet) hole, eh?" At that point he wasn't too sure which hole he'd used. That's when I realised he'd decided just to leave the pipe down there.

The next day, the stench started in the garden, and today I finally got around to opening up the vents at the downhill end of the garden. They were already bulging and popping their rivets under the pressure from below. I'll spare you the details.

I'm pleased to say that the heavy duty plunger that I made out of an old coffee tin and a pole, is exactly the same bore as the vertical shafts above the sewer, and works beautifully, like a giant bicycle pump.

I've cleared the downhill blockage, but there seems to be another blockage back up towards the house.

As a last resort I'm preparing a bathful of soda, for skooshing down into the pipes. If I still have to call the plumber tomorrow, at least I'll know I've given it my best shot. I could enjoy calling the same guy back to deal with his mess, but sometimes it's smarter just to write something off and move on.

I may have told you before of the couple I know who would love to renovate their home, but have chosen not to, purely to avoid having to deal with New South Caledonian tradesfoIk. And I know a guy who bought a second-hand cement mixer to keep in his garden, just in case his house ever needs concreting. So he could do it himself instead of relying on an NSC professional.

Last night I wisely dodged the xtieth (minus 10) birthday party of the grand chief deifheid. I'm in the doghouse of course, but it would have been four hours of finger food with earplugs! Dearie me. The things some people will do just to avoid sitting quietly at home doing nothing!

Wednesday, November 14

how to use #phones to your advantage in #annoying situations

As an experienced pedestrian I have learned to be quite assertive in traffic, despite the obvious power differential. It's even possible to enjoy creative jay-walking, as long as you pay 100% attention and recognise when not to take risks.

I have even been known to stand in the road and stop a car. For example, if a driver signals right then turns left into your path, you can stop dead and face the driver, arms out in a WTF pose. It only takes nerve, and assumes the driver is paying attention.

Surprisingly, when I was nearly run over last week I was actually being completely law-abiding, and the traffic was stationary.

I was walking over a pedestrian crossing, after a bus had pulled up to let me cross. The bus driver may have been in a hurry, or perhaps just decided to have some sport. As I stepped onto the crossing, he started inching across, calculating his speed so that the front of the bus would just miss me as I passed in front of it. So long as I didn't slow my pace. For a moment I was almost tempted to stop in front of him and see what he'd do.

My next thought was to slap the side of the bus. They hate that.

But instead I decided to play it safe and keep moving. As I passed his windscreen I gave him the international digital signal. His cab was high up, so my arm was at full stretch so he could see my finger. I was in the mood for a total meltdown if he wanted to raise the stakes, but fortunately it ended there. If necessary I could have photographed him and his number plate, and asked him to wait while I called the cops. At last a double use for my mobile phone!

I met the second annoying person that afternoon. I was in a shop, and when I took my purchase to the counter there was nobody to take my money. It was a large busy shop, the kind where the casually-dressed staff look indistinguishable from the customers. Normally I would leave the exact money on the counter and walk out, but this time I tried something different. A horrible tinny "music" was playing from a mobile phone beside the cash register. Obviously the shop assistant had turned up the volume so they could continue listening no matter where they were in the shop. (Don't ask me why they hadn't just kept the phone in their pocket where they could hear it without stinging everyone else's ears.) I reached over the counter and turned off the speaker on the phone. The reaction was immediate. From the far end of the shop, a young assistant emerged from the crowd, probably worried somebody had stolen his phone. As he wrapped my purchase in sullen silence, I said with mock-helpfulness "by the way, I turned your phone down, to save your battery".

On the bus home, I sat beside the third annoying person. The rush-hour traffic was at a crawl, and it would be a long trip. The guy beside me decided to fill in time by phoning friends. When I heard him say "I'm stuck in traffic" I couldn't help snorting. By leaving out the words "on the bus" the guy was trying to give the impression he was in a car!

Phone calls from a bus are invariably so banal that it's funny. I took out my own phone, and considered faking a call of my own, and saying "sorry, it's just the annoying guy next to me shouting on his phone". But instead I decided to record his call using the (excellent) WavePad app. Maybe I would get enough material to start a regular podcast of idiots on buses.

When he finished his call and complained because I had recorded him, I said "I quite understand - you probably don't like the idea of other people listening to your private conversation."

Actually I made up the last bit.

Phones enable people to be annoying in new ways, but phones can also help in dealing with annoying people. The phone giveth annoyance and the phone taketh away. It all balances up.

Thursday, November 8

books, #aboriginalart, and #freelancetaoism

The philosopher student prince only stayed twice as long as he said he would. It was nice in many ways. Unfortunately I grew so resigned to the idea that he'd be here forever, that I kept putting off taking the photo I planned, until it was too late. I wanted to capture him in his designer shades, engrossed in the text book he was using for his essay - "Must We Mean What We Say?". To which the answer is - not if you're some of the people who live around here.

When I met Cap'n Kev for beers last week, I told him that the cellmate and I had just bought a couple of aboriginal dot paintings from Australia. He nearly choked on his pint.

One of the things I like about Kev, is that he has unorthodox or unpredictable opinions on most things. Which offers me a useful balance to the doctrinaire ideologies I'm usually surrounded by.

I borrowed a book called something like How Aborigines Reinvented Modern Art. The idea being that neglected ancient cultures have ironically managed to reinvigorate western modern art.

Kev's take on this would turn the argument on its head. Western art progressed over the centuries and became increasingly refined. Until the dumbing down kicked in. Now art has become so vacuous that prehistoric painters suddenly seem geniuses.

I embrace neither Kev's view nor the cellmate's. As a freelance taoist I like to hold both views at the same time. The emperor's got a lovely suit and he's bollock naked. Perfect balance. Quantum aesthetics.

PS - this aboriginal art's a delight for the eyes.