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Happy Australia Day 2015!

To celebrate having survived the first of several days around 38°C (that’s just over 100 for those still stuck with Farenheit), I want to wish all Aussies and non-Aussies alike a Happy Australia Day 🙂

For a bit of fun, here are two very contrasting funny bits. The first is about how cold it gets in Norway, the second about how hot it gets in Australia.

Norwegian weather

+15°C / 59°F
This is as warm as it gets in Norway, so we’ll start here. People in Spain wear winter-coats and gloves. The Norwegians are out in the sun, getting a tan.

+10°C / 50°F
The French are trying in vain to start their central heating. The Norwegians plant flowers in their gardens.

+5°C / 41°F
Italian cars won’t start. The Norwegians are cruising in cabriolets.

0°C / 32°F
Distilled water freezes. The water in Oslo Fjord gets a little thicker.

-5°C / 23°F
People in California almost freeze to death. The Norwegians have their final barbecue before winter.

-10°C / 14°F
The Brits start the heat in their houses. The Norwegians start using long sleeves.

-20°C / -4°F
The Aussies flee from Mallorca. The Norwegians end their Midsummer celebrations. Autumn is here.

-30°C / -22°F
People in Greece die from the cold and disappear from the face of the earth. The Norwegians start drying their laundry indoors.

-40°C / -40°F
Paris start cracking in the cold. The Norwegians stand in line at the hotdog stands.

-50°C / -58°F
Polar bears start evacuating the North Pole. The Norwegian army postpones their winter survival training awaiting real winter weather.

-70°C / -94°F
The false Santa moves south. The Norwegian army goes out on winter survival training.

-183°C / -297.4°F
Microbes in food don’t survive. The Norwegian cows complain that the farmers’ hands are cold.

-273°C / -459.4°F
ALL atom-based movement halts. The Norwegians start saying “Faen, it’s cold outside today.”

-300°C / -508°F
Hell freezes over, Norway wins the Eurovision Song Contest.

Australian summer

You know it’s hot in Australia when:

1) The best parking spot is determined by shade, not distance.
2) Hot water comes out of both taps.
3) You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
4) The temperature drops below 32 degrees C and you feel chilly.
5) You know that in January and February it only takes two fingers to steer a car.
6) You discover you can get sunburnt through your windscreen.
7) You develop a fear of metal door handles.
8) You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7am.
9) Your biggest bicycle accident fear is: “What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the road, getting cooked?”
10) You realise that asphalt has a liquid state.
11) Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to prevent them from laying hard boiled eggs.
12) The trees are whistling for dogs.
13) While walking back barefoot to your car from any event, you do a tightrope act on the white lines in the car park.
14) You catch a cold from having the aircon on full blast all night long.
15) You realise that Westfield Shopping Centres aren’t just Shopping Centres – they are temples where we worship Air Conditioning.
16) Sticking your head in the freezer and taking deep breaths is considered normal.
17) A cup full of ice is considered a great snack.
18) A black-out is life threatening because your aircon and your fans no longer work.
19) No one cares if you walk around with no shoes on.
20) You keep everything in the fridge, including potatoes, bread and clothing.
21) People have enough left over beer cans to make a boat and compete in a regatta.
22) The effort of towelling yourself off after a shower means you need another shower right away.
23) You will wait patiently until the day it starts raining to go on a run.
24) You worry your ceiling fan is spinning so fast it will fly off and kill you.
25) You laugh because this list is so accurate.

Skyworks on Australia Day in Perth, Western Australia

Perth Skyworks: half an hour of awesome fireworks, synchronised to music broadcast on radio. #LoveThisCity

Happy Australia Day, and loads of fun to all those heading down to the Perth foreshore or to King’s Park for tonight’s Skyworks (the biggest in Australia!).

I believe…!

(*clears throat and climbs up on his soapbox, manifesto in one hand, microphone in the other*)

I believe...

… that there are a few things I need to say at the start of the new year, 2015.

General

  • … that people who wonder about the meaning of life either don’t have kids or don’t pay enough attention to them.
  • … that love, humour and hope are the three main ingredients for happiness.
  • … in happy endings in real life. (In stories, they sometimes make me cringe, though. Even if I did silently hope for them.)
  • … in the importance of people being able to talk to each other… non-electronically.
  • … that you don’t need to drink alcohol in order to have fun.
  • … that smoking should be outlawed except for people willing to wear a permanently sealed-off helmet, and that the influence of tobacco lobbyists and the like are despicable. We all know what it does… why is it still around?
  • … that America and the UK need to stop hanging on to their confusing versions of the imperial system of units and finally go metric (your medical and military people are doing it… no, not with each other, I mean they use the metric system). Also, the US need to stop insisting on formatting dates with the middle value followed by the smallest value followed by the largest value. WTF? Oh, while you’re at it, guys, fix where punctuation goes on quotes that are less than a “complete sentence”.
  • … that bullies are almost always cowards too weak to stop doing to others something similar to what’s been done to them.
  • … that the most wonderful sound in the whole wide world is that of my kids laughing uncontrollably.
  • … that I’m the luckiest guy alive because my awesome wife, best friend and soulmate gets me and loves me including all my faults.

Politics

  • … that religious extremism of any sort makes this world a darker place, and that the rest of the world should take heed of how Australia handled her first real encounter with it. #IllRideWithYou
  • … that Australia needs to get rid of its current village idiot, climate-change-denying leader to start moving in the right direction again. We’re the joke of the world, being pretty much the only country in the world that is moving away from actively doing something about global warming, and it’s a friggin’ disgrace.

Software

  • … that OSS (open-source software) is the way to go wherever there’s a choice.
  • … that DRM (digital rights management) is wrong.
  • … that I couldn’t live without some of my favourite pieces of software (sounds like a future blog topic to me!).
  • … that installing a piece of software on my PC or an app on my phone doesn’t give it the right to do things like collect data about me without my explicit agreement, to not give me a choice of when it can dial home or check for updates, or to access any information on my system it doesn’t absolutely need to function. Worst offenders being companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, but also increasingly “do-no-evil” Google. (I love Cyanogen!)
  • … that it’s a crying shame that Smalltalk isn’t more widely used as a programming language (try Pharo and Seaside if you like to tinker, you won’t want to go back).
  • … that I am fully within my rights, when I see an email from someone that ends with “sent from my iPhone” to add to my own response, “Sent from my 64GB/3G Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore OnePlus One with Cyanogen 11S that kicks your iPhone’s arse (and costs less than half as much)”.

Work (in IT)

  • … that programmers shouldn’t have to wear business clothes.
  • … that software architects should have the guts to recommend the right software for the job, not based on which sales reps can throw more money at decision-making board members who still believe that more expensive must mean better.
  • … that IT recruiters are right up there with lawyers and other blood suckers. The fact that they charge between 10% and 40% (or even more) on top of a developer’s rates without really knowing anything beyond buzz words is just appalling.

Blogging

  • … that I should take the time to blog a bit more. (Yeah, like that’ll happen. *sigh*)
  • … that there are too many good, honest blogs out there to read – how I wish I had more time to invest in being a good follower!
  • … that following another blog without really being interested in what it’s about, i.e. just to get them to follow you back, is akin to lying. Thanks to all those who do occasionally read my humble scribblings, and I hope to find more time to read all your blogs. (I _am_ interested in those I follow! I just roll my eyes whenever someone new follows me whose blog is about “making money by blogging” or the like.) For now, though, my aim is simply to have (not necessarily build) a platform while I focus on writing my book. Building my platform will come later, when I have more time for that sort of thing….
  • … that WordPress is great, but they should finally accept that I like the “old” stats page better and stop asking me to vote in their silly survey every time I load it.
  • … that WordPress needs to finally find a way to fix the “invalid certificate” bug that causes security errors. I keep forgetting that certain things only work in certain browsers because of it, and that it sometimes causes my “likes” of other blogs to be lost. Not cool!

Writing

  • … that I’ve had enough of distopian future stories whose premise I don’t buy, or whose premise I buy, but they then make ridiculous assumptions about human nature that I just can’t swallow (might be another future blog post).
  • … that everyone should take grammar seriously. Not just grandpa. All jokes aside, don’t let our language decay because people have to fit everything into 140 characters. Do your part, write things out, learn how it’s done right without needing a spell checker, and gently educate those who fall short. Or, like, mercilessly correct them, or… whatever.
  • … that my story is worth telling.
  • … that 2015 will be the year I finally finish my story. Watch this space. #amwriting

Conclusion

  • … that you should all have a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015 (and beyond).
  • … that it’s about time I stepped off this soap box. Ahem. Sorry for ranting, but occasionally it’s nice to get this sort of stuff off my chest. Now somebody give me a hand getting down, it’s higher than it looks. Huh? What do you mean, the microphone wasn’t on?!?

Word Crimes

Recently, I’ve been really lazy when it comes to blogging – school holidays, kids at home having more time than they can handle, and so on. (I’m not trying to make excuses, and yes, I’ll get back to blogging and catching up on everyone else’s blog… sorry!)

One of the upsides of that, though, is that my kids find funny things on youtube and show them to me. A couple of days ago, they told me to watch a video, “FOIL”, by Weird Al Yankovic, which makes fun of the song “Royals”. I didn’t know he was still around, let alone still making parodies. I liked it, and told my kids that he was funny way back when I was their age (I remember his “Just Eat It” parody of “Just Beat It”). I still had the youtube tab open in my browser this morning, saw this one that caught my attention, and absolutely loved it.

It’s not only hilarious, it also hits the nail on the head. A must-watch for anyone who’s ever advocated grammar or corrected anyone’s atrocious spelling, or laments that “the days of good English have went”.

“Word Crimes” by Weird Al:

I couldn’t have said it gooder weller better myself. 😀

So how do I get beta readers?

Fellow writers, I need your help. I see so many of you blogging fondly about your beta readers, so I thought to myself, “I should really get me some of them!”

First, I went to my local supermarket. Not knowing much about the nature of beta readers, I thought it made sense to start there. After getting blank stares from the pimply store clerk and the lady at the enquiries desk, I looked around the shop myself, but found nothing. (And yes, of course I checked the stationery aisle. Duh.)

I was about to leave the store when a man in a hat and trenchcoat (which is very rare in our climate, come to think of it) approached me cautiously and whispered, “I hear you’re looking for beta readers. Try the hardware store.” He turned and walked away before I could ask him more, but not before I noticed he was grinning widely. I decided it was probably what’s known as a “knowing grin”, and followed his advice.

The big, friendly guy at my local Bunnings showed me several readers – a Holman Stainless Pressure Gauge that reads water pressure; a Garman Soil pH Meter that he assured me with a twisted smile was very accurate indeed, several thermometers, and so on – but none of them even had the word “beta” anywhere on them. I thanked him, walked away a few steps, thought of another question, but he was already busy chuckling with another customer in a trenchcoat. Those must be becoming popular again, maybe I should think about getting one.

My wonderful wife, who, right when I told her about my lack of success, was giggling at something the kids must’ve said, suggested I go to the optometrist where her friend works; she gets her glasses there. When I arrived, her friend was just getting off her phone. “Ah, Amos,” she greeted me, “I just heard a wonderful joke; please forgive me if I giggle for a while longer. How can I help you?” She made me do some eye tests and let me try out several pairs of reading glasses, but they just made the magazine she asked me to read while wearing them all blurry. “Your eyes are fine,” she giggled at last – I really should’ve asked her what that joke was! – and, disappointed, I went home.

Very reluctantly, I braved the Interwebs and attempted to do a Google search, but, as I’d feared, Google asked me in its typical condescending manner, “Did you mean… ‘better readers‘?” If it could have giggled, I’m sure it would have.

I threw up my hands in frustration and decided I would ask you, dear readers of my blog (yes, both of you!), about getting me some beta readers.

  • How do I go about getting me some beta readers?
  • How many beta readers should I have?
  • At what point should I even consider getting them?
  • Is there something about my pronounciation of “beta” that makes people giggle uncontrollably?

(Ok, in all seriousness now – no giggling! – I’m at around 85k words and am aiming for about 100-110k total in the first book of my fantasy series. Any hints leading to the capture of a suitable beta reader will be much appreciated.)

Terry Pratchett – A to Z: T

T is for Terry Pratchett, OBE, author of the insanely funny Discworld series. Sir Terry was one of the pioneers of writing on computers and one of the first authors to have an active online presence (back in the days when “social media” meant “Usenet newsgroups”). Sadly, he suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but is still able to write using voice recognition software or by dictation. Hopefully, he will continue to amuse the world with his unique blend of fantasy and comedy for a long time to come.

I read The Colour of Magic a very long time ago, but still remember giggling like a school girl at some of the jokes. I still haven’t read all of the Discworld books, but some of my other favourites are Mort (Death is one of my favourite characters), Eric, Hogfather, Night Watch, and Going Postal.

My apologies, I could and probably should go on writing a bit more about this great author who deserves better than one of my shortest posts ever, but I’m battling a cold and will have to call it a night here. Good luck to anyone still doing the A to Z Challenge!

Douglas Adams – A to Z: D

D is for Douglas Adams, the author who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Dirk Gently series, and a number of other books, TV series scripts (including Doctor Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus), and many scripts for BBC radio broadcasts. He was born in 1952 and passed away in 2001, depriving the world of one of the greatest comedic writers.

Apart from being a writer of some of the funniest books I’ve ever read, he was also actively engaged in raising awareness of endangered species and environmental issues.

Some of the things that still make me smile years after last reading the HHGG books (I really should make the time to re-read them, shouldn’t I?) and the things that are running “insider jokes” among many people I know who have read them as well, are listed below. If I really stopped to think about it, I’d probably write half a novel’s worth, so here goes, just off the top of my head:

  • Towels – never go anywhere without them.
  • 42 – the answer to the ultimate question about Life, the Universe, and Everything. Seeking an answer to this ultimate question, some hyper-intelligent beings build a supercomputer, which, after several million years of calculations, announces that the ultimate answer is… 42. They then figure out that they may need to find the actual ultimate question, and end up building an even more powerful computer, which is so huge that it is commonly mistaken for a planet (sorry, slight spoiler: that computer is… Earth). The number of cultural references to this number is staggering.
  • Don’t Panic” – one of the reasons the HHGG has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica is that it has these words written on the cover in large, friendly letters. (The other being that it is slightly cheaper.)
  • Mostly Harmless – the two-word entry in the HHGG on the topic “Earth”. The entry used to be “Harmless”, but Ford Prefect, after spending years stuck on earth, submitted a lengthy article to the HHGG, which was then edited down to these two words.
  • An SEP – anything not your problem, or something you don’t want to deal with just now, is considered to be “an SEP” (Someone Else’s Problem).
  • The Rain God – a truck driver who doesn’t know he’s actually the God of Rain and absolutely hates any form of rain. Of course, since rain loves its god, it always rains wherever he drives, and he is constantly miserable. He’s read that eskimos have 217 (I could well be remembering that incorrectly, but you get the point) types of snow (including the yellow kind on which the sled dogs have peed), and he has names for over 300 types of rain. To confirm his theory that the one currently happening is the one he thinks is a particularly nasty type where it doesn’t matter whether he has the windscreen wipers on or off, he switches them off. It gets worse, and one of the wiper blades starts to get loose. In the book, there follows a one-sentence paragraph that, despite being made up entirely of onomatopoetic words, describes what follows to such perfection that I start giggling stupidly just thinking about it (sorry if I don’t get this entirely right, I don’t have the book in front of me): “Swish swish swish flop swish swish flop swish flop swish flop flop flap scrape.”
  • This is not her story” – after the prologue introduces a character who finally figures out how everyone in the world can live together in harmony, and has the reader wanting to know what this wonderful solution is, it ends with the sentence, “This is not her story.” (I think it was the fourth book that has almost the exact same prologue, except that it ends with, “This is her story.”)
  • Pain – there is a section in one of the HHGG books where Arthur Dent tries to figure out where he is hurt, and every body part he touches causes a jolt of pain. After a while, he finally figures out that it is in fact his hand that is injured….
  • Marvin the paranoid android – worth a separate blog entry in the A to Z Challenge.
  • I’m sure there are countless more… but I’ll stop here 🙂
Don't Panic - Towel Day

“Don’t Panic” – the famous words written on the fictional “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the (real) novel of the same name are shown here on a towel on Towel Day… if that doesn’t make sense, read at least the first HHGG book.

Thank you, Douglas Adams, wherever you may be (he was a self-declared “radical atheist”) for many, many laughs.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.