2014/09/28

I've been told to mind my ?$%&-ing language by a ?$%&-ing machine!

A bit dischuffed at the non performance of my Mastercard in trying to pay a legitimate bill of a legitimate company I protested to the bank. They had changed me from Visa to Mastercard. "It's better" they said. Like the gullible fool I am, I signed.



I wanted to pay the bill. I wanted the service the company was offering. It was a Saturday, so no hope in getting a real reply till Monday, but I thought I'd see what the automated system  would do.



I had to type in my question to a fake person called "Paolo", who turned out to be as stupid as Microsoft's "Clippy" (but much more easily offended).





When Paolo did not understand my question (and his response was clearly from a non human, i.e. an automatic program) I asked him, in Italian, how stupid he was. He replied that I needed to reply to him more politely:






A ?$%&ing machine is telling me how to behave when I talk to it! I lost my rag then. I'd just tried four times to get into the Mastercard help system, but again a ?$%&ing machine could not understand my key presses for my card number (three times) or finally my date of birth (once). Well sod me, the machines ?$%&-up then tell me to behave myself!



The idiot programmer, or, more likely the programmer's idiot boss, made Paolo tell me off when it sees bad words (like "stupid"). Had "Paolo" simply said: "Sorry I don't understand, please call a real person on Monday" I'd have been satisfied.



And WTF, Paolo doesn't even shave before coming to work! Look under his nose and on his chin:





2014/09/19

How To Learn A Language

Step 1) Go and live in the country for at least 3 months. 2 years is better.
Step 2) Find light funny books to read in the language you are trying to learn.

When I went to live in Japan a young woman (a young woman no longer, alas) there recommended (in English) that I read (in Japanese) Patariro! She was right. It got me straight away. It's a manga, supposedly for children, but I noticed many adults reading Patariro! comics on the trains. The fact that it is "for children" made it easier for foreigners. The text was written in adult Japanese, with the pronounciation above it or to the side of the complex kanji characters. So children (and as a side effect foreigners studying Japanese) would understand it too:


When I came to Italy I thought I'd do the same thing. I needed to find a comic that the natives like. Unfortunately I found "Diabolik!" And it is. The plots are plodding and samey, the drawings are stolid and static. Look at this car racing along a road:


Now look at this Patariro getting a bit dischuffed:



Luckily my Italian studies were saved by Carlo Manzoni. A young woman (a young woman no longer, alas) recommended these two books:




"I'll break your nose baby!" and "I'll give you one black eye and another blue." hooked me in Italian just like Patariro had hooked me in Japanese. They are funny/surreal cop stories. I'd like to buy them again, but they're out of print.



How Microscopy Expanded And Informed Imagination

Like most people I like the smell of mint, and when I saw the lovely purple flowers of mint I thought I'd, yes, look at them under my USB microscope.





And they are beautiful, but I did not realise that seeing the pollen at the end of the stamen...





...would expand my informed imagination a day later. Because the next time I saw the mint flowers on the balcony even though I could not see the pollen (my eyesight is not great) the image from the microscope jumped into my mind.



I suppose that many enthusiasts and experts in all fields have this experience, but I'd never felt it so much as I did with the mint flowers and their pollen grains.

2014/09/18

Aim For Mediocrity!

I know we're going to die and everything but we may as well enjoy life and be creative and try to make beautiful things (devices, artworks, relationships etc.) while we're alive. Which is why the Greek myths have always annoyed me.

Take Arachne the Spinner for example. The goddess Athene got annoyed that Arachne the human could make better tapestries than the goddess could. So Athene turned Arachne into a spider. Here they both are, the more talented one hanging by a thread from a tree:




So, the message of these wonderful Greek myths is "Aim for mediocrity! Don't try for anything! The gods will get you!" What balls. What boredom. 

I prefer Batman.


2014/09/13

Female Gazpacho and Male Gazpacho.

There's not much food I'm bothered about. I love rucola (rocket in English) and a few weeks ago I discovered that I also like Gazpacho, a Spanish tomato soup served cold.



Amazingly for me I looked up the recipe, and followed the law according to Delia Smith. Quite nice. But it annoyed me that not only did I have to peel the tomatoes but I also had to throw away the tomato seeds. This means wasting time and materials. So I invented Male Gazpacho. (All the other recipes you'll see are woosy wimpy Female Gazpacho versions). 

Here are the steps:

  1. Make sure you have no amorous meetings, business appointments or job interviews during the two days following the making and consumation of Male Gazpacho.
  2. Follow Delia's recipe, except that you don't peel the tomatoes and you don't throw away the seeds. Use 4 (not 2) cloves of garlic. Don't make the garnish. Add in two crushed chili peppers.


E' voila! The perfect Male Gazpacho.



2014/09/11

A Low Cylinder Of Cloud.

I went shopping a few weeks ago. It was a blue sky day, but not too hot, for Italy in August, and on all horizons there were clouds. Above me cloudlessness, so it felt as if I was in the center of a low cylinder of cloud...







...This uplifted me and made me smile.

2014/09/05

Celtic Art and sloppy modern rip-off artists

I dont' care if you think it twee, I like celtic art and celtic art knotwork. So I get dead annoyed when modern graphics designers rip off the original designs and then make a mess of them.

The design on this cup is called Iona and was "adapted" by Jane Brookshaw. She has obviously no idea of the discipline involved in knotwork. Lines should go under then over and under then over and so on. In effect she has copied a good design badly. Had she slavishly copied a good design properly the result would have been less irritating! 


I have roughly and quickly corrected these errors, and you can see the comparison in the image below:

Lines flow under and over as they should do in proper knotwork in the corrected version (not over and over as they do in the top image).

Unfortunately I was given, as a present, another cup with a design "adapted badly" by the same lady. See if you can find the errors in the image below before scrolling down to the solution. You are looking for threads or paths which do not intertwine properly. I.e. they do not go under and over and under and over:


 And here are the unknotted "knots":


Maybe it's just me ("Yes! it is just you!" you are probably thinking) but I find this lack of rigour in this bad copying of a good artwork very irritating.

2014/09/03

I may be out.

The conversation should have gone like this:

Me: So, I'll pop in some time next weekend.
Him: Phone first because I may be out.
Me: Ok. Bye.

The conversation actually went like this:

Me: So, I'll pop in some time next weekend.
Him: Phone first because I may be out.
Me: Ok. Bye.
Him: I might have to go to the shops.
Me: Ok.
Him: Or, you know, have the car serviced. Or pick up some cash from the cash machine. You know. I might be out. Shopping, you know. For food. Or clothes. Or something else. Like washing up liquid. I might go to the supermarket, but the bread is better in the local shops.
Me: Ah.
Him: If it is raining I'll take the car and go to the supermarket, even though it is further. I might be out for any number of reasons. Pick up the kids. Take Bobby to karate. Or Sophia to dance. You know. Then I have to get my bike checked, something wrong with the gears. I might be out doing that. Or I might go out for a quick drink. To the local pub. Not great, but local. So I might go there for a swift pint.
Me: Hmm.

As if only a complete list of all possible reasons for his absence is the only way I will be able to understand what he means. Maybe I do look thick, but not that thick, surely.