Sunday, 30 September 2007

At crastinating I am pro.

Lectures to write, essays to mark, loo paper to procure. I know, I'll take photos of my hands.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Phun with Fonetics

Phlegm. That many consonants and you know something's got to be wrong. But I would take my bronchitis, and gladly, if it meant the full and proper acknowledgement of those consonantal clusters. Time and time again, I hear the phonetic glories of "phlegm" reduced to - ho hum - "flem". (This, a pronunciation so pervasive that my first born niece, in sicklier and less literate days, believed that she was coughing up "flame". This would have been perfectly charming if she'd been a dragon, but altogether dangerous given that she's not.)

Phlegm is a subject close to my heart. In my lungs, to be precise. For a limited time only. So I am seizing the chance to militate for a fully fledged articulation of all those consonants. "Ph" is /f/, plus aspiration, then there's a "leg", then an /m/. I suggest a glottal stop between the "leg" and the /m/. One, two, three, repeat after me: f-puff-leg-m!

Next week: Rasp sputum and the Fall of the Russian Empire.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Mr September

"Okay, okay, okay. Can't a guy lie around on his own verandah without the paparazzi turning up? How do my ears look, anyway? A little to the right?"

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lexicon Harlot, Match-Unmaker

It's happened. My lucrative career as essay adjudicatrix has spilt over into real life. Not content with the impress of my pedantic pencil upon the collective undergraduate disquisition, I'm now getting up the goats of Voltaireans across the nation by ripping down hand-penned personals notes.

On the subject of personals notes, I'm not - in principle - against 'em, though it would take a braver person than I to risk a couple of hours of precious weekend on the strength of "N-S G.S.O.H. 28-35". But no, far be it from me to disdain a desperado. Indeed, I hereby tender for your consideration that there are far worse preliminaries to a human couplet than a rhyming one.

"Handsome yuppy, seeking other,
To replace his much loved mother."

"Hello! My name is Susan Bretts.
If you refrain from cigarettes,
Like jazz and books and croissants three,
It sounds like you're the one for me."


So what, you ask, could possibly move a Harlot About Town to remove a hand-penned personals note from the public domain? Try this on for size (we're talking A4 paper, lined, blue texta, posted on the noticeboard outside the library):

Hi! I am an Aussie guy, did 5 yrs at uni, looking for an Asian girlfriend. Interest? SMS/Call: *********** C U Soon"

Now call me picky, but "Aussie guy", "5 yrs at uni", replete with own mobile phone number, doesn't really cut my mustard. What we all want to know is whether he makes a good basil sauce, promises not to watch televised ballsports, and will occasionally consent to being dressed up in viking regalia and wheeled around the carpark in a shopping trolley. But that's all by the by. If self-styled "Aussie guy" with mobile phone is your cuppa tea, then dunk your biscuit, by all means.

Equally, my predilection is for persons who write in words, rather than lone-rangering alphanumerical symbols. In my book, "C U Soon" is a poor substitute for "every minute will be an agony of anticipation", but I suppose our "Aussie guy" is affecting a casual tone to help distract from the out and out creepiness of - and here I get to my point - "looking for an Asian girlfriend".

The United Republic of Asia is a very big country these days, but even if it didn't stretch between the regions formerly known as the sovereign states of East Timor and Turkey, there'd be something a little troubling about the notion of "Asian" as a homogeneous category. (Equally, there's something a little troubling about the idea of "Aussie guy" as a homogeneous category, but blah blah.) This particular "Aussie guy", I can't help thinking, thinks of prospective girlfriends in terms of different flavours, like ice-cream, flavours that are best described, not by referring to the prospective girlfriends' politics, ethics, aesthetics, preference for wearing corduroy dungarees, or snail-racing prowess, but by alluding to the geography in which their grandparents grew up. Of course, "Aussie guy" isn't actually interested in geography; it's this, that with an "Asian girlfriend" he knows what he's going to get. I could speculate about his assumptions, about what's encoded for "Aussie guy" in the words "Asian girlfriend", but I'd only be doing so in order to invigorate my indignation. His assumptions, whatever they are, are predicated on a notion of cultural (and genetic) homogeneity sprawling across an entire continent, on that enlightened "they're all the same" position, and what I want to know is what he was doing for those five yrs at uni.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Finding Nemo (in all the wrong places)

Corporate fish mongery has really lucked out with this Omega 3 fatty acids hoopla. Apparently Omega 3 fatty acids are good for kiddlywinks' brains. Apparently Omega 3 fatty acids reside in fish (and flaxseeds and walnuts, but that's beside the point). "Boo yah!", says everyone from the fish monger to the candlestick maker, "Let's put essence of fish where it's never been before and market our fishified wonderworld to the Omega 3 crowd".

Yesterday I bought pomegranate juice. "Pomegranate juice", said the label, which also happened to sport the letters "OMEGA 3". Omega 3, schmomega 3, thought I, and thought nothing else of it at all, until, idling away from the juice providore, inspecting the packaging from all angles, indulging in pomegranatical thoughts, I glanced at the list of ingredients. Refined fish oil. This, in letters the size of flea droppings, tucked down the bottom of the rear guard label. Refined fish oil. And why would it be, I wonder, that they don't mention the refined fish oil somewhere where an unsuspecting pomegranate juice fancier might actually notice it? Big letters: Pomegranate and Fish Juice, Freshly Pressed European Carp and Fruit Extracts, Do Not Sup From This Bottle Oh Ye Who Would Prefer Not to Drink Liquefied Fish, etc. I'm in a minority, I know, but these things matter to me.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Wherein Sir Isaac Newton Turns in His Grave

Many years ago, somewhere round the midpoint of my life thus far, I signed up for Maths Club. Maths Club was run by a couple of civic-minded mathematicians from the University of Sydney, who once a week plonked a page of problems before a roomful of empassioned teenage algebraicists. The empassioned teenage algebraicists would solve two, perhaps three, of the problems. They did this by steaming up their glasses, nibbling the overhanging tendrils of their incipient moustaches, and thinking. I, on the other hand, generally solved none of the problems, in part because I lacked the right sort of brain, in part because I never mastered the moustache trick, and in part because I spent most of the two hours of Maths Club declaiming to Bernadette and Jane up the back of the classroom.

I didn't attend Maths Club because of my mathematical aptitude. I attended Maths Club because I thought it would be good for my image. You know how it is; fourteen year old kids are constantly trying to pass themselves off as mathematicians in an attempt to impress their peers. Also, my big sister had gone to Maths Club. For the three years this sister had worn dental braces, I had tugged at my baby teeth with a bobby pin, trying to twist them out of alignment so that I too could wear dental braces. It didn't work, but the attempt at least shows that I was keen to tread where she had trodden. Maths Club had big sister prints all over it.

I developed a lot of theories at Maths Club. This is because whenever I am in the presence of thinking people, I think. I don't necessarily think about what the thinking people are thinking about, but I think about something. Their brains emit a low-pitched hum, and mine starts to resonate along. The person next to me is proving Fermat's last theorem, and suddenly I figure out why you have to put the peanut butter on the toast before the marmalade.

The best theory I ever came up with at Maths Club (a mathematical theory, no less) is the Theory of Why One TimTam is the Same as Two TimTams (and by Analogy Why Doing Half My Homework is the Same as Doing All My Homework). It goes like this:

1. One TimTam consists of an infinite number of infinitely small bits of TimTam;
2. Two TimTams consist of an infinite number of infinitely small bits of TimTam;
3. One TimTam equals two TimTams.

Genius. Adaptations of the theory hold good for most measurable quantities. Three kilometres are divisible by an infinite number of infinitely small distances; likewise three centimetres; so three kilometres equal three centimetres.

(Anyone who's tempted to mention asymptotes can go get infinitesimalised. As the Spice Girls so memorably sung, sometime around 1997, "This is the night when two become one".)

Anyway, I mention all this by way of preempting observations that I have only written one blog post in the last week. One post consists of an infinite number of infinitely small wordments; forty posts consist of an infinite number of infinitely small wordments ...

Blah blah blah.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Not dead, just marking.

And the prize for best inadvertent pun in a first year essay goes to "not a footprint anywhere, not a sole in sight".

Friday, 14 September 2007

No need for applesauce

I just consulted my almanac, and it's been six months and four days since I forsook the motherland for the Deep South. HMAS Earth has made 'alf a blooming orbit around the Sun in that time, and what have I got to show for myself? I've seen 0 (zero) giant East Gippsland earthworms, spearheaded 0 (zero) revolutions, published 0 (zero) novels, learnt to play 0 (zero) sitars, been to 1 (one) biology lecture, drunk 3 (three) bottles of cider (2 [two] in pubs), 2 (two) pots of shandy with far too little lemonade in 'em, lost my oregano (one) to the green caterpillar (one) of doom, achieved a tram trip/essay marking ratio of approximately 2:1 (two to one), learnt to pronounce "rascal" as "rassc'l" and "castle" as "cassel" (when I remember), and borrowed 4 (four) dining chairs from my esteemed colleague. Thus the State of the Nation. Things had better perk up soon.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Up the oxter

Though I am no henchperson of the deodorising industry, though I refuse to police the pore, though it pains me to know that fully grown humanians anxiously bedaub their every nook and cranny with (in parfumiers' parlance) toilet water, I was almost converted to a policy of government-mandated full-body unguentation this morning when a gent sat next to me on the tram smelling from head to toe of ripe foot. There one is, scoffing at the Lynx Effect, telling all and sundry that nutmeg and water and a change of clothes every couple of weeks served one's ancestors for generations, when suddenly one is mere centimetres away from a genuinely smelly man, a man who pongs as if he's winched himself into a rubber jumpsuit for six months and run laps of the Sahara, occasionally tucking a dead mouse up his oxter.

He was probably a genius mathematician, or clever with his garden, or a kind soul with a fondness for small mammals - but I am so busy trying not to wretch that I never find out.

Oh nose, you do him wrong.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Out on a limb

Why tripod, but octopus?

The Erotics of Telescope Assembly

The unexpurgated and compleat printed text of Section AZ3 from "Refractor/Reflector Telescopes With Altitude/Azimuth Mount Instruction Manual" read one giddy morning in Spring, for adults only.

Adjusting Tripod Legs
1. Slowly loosen the height adjustment clamp and gently pull out the lower section of each tripod leg.
2. Spread the legs apart to stand the tripod upright.
3. Adjust the height of each tripod leg until the tripod head is properly leveled. Note that the tripod legs may not be at same length when the equatorial mount is level.

Attaching the Accessory Tray
1. Place the accessory tray on top of the bracket, and secure with the locking knob underneath.

Attaching the Tube Rings to Mount
1. Remove the tube rings from telescope by releasing their thumb nuts and opening their hinges.
2. Fasten the tube rings to the mount using the wench [sic] provided.

Attaching the telescope Main Tube to Tube Rings
1. Find the center of balance of the telescope tube. Place this in between the two tube rings. Close the hinges around the telescope and fasten securely by tightening the thumb nuts. Do not overtighten the thumb nuts.

Installing Control Cables
1. Slide the sleeve end of the cable over the nipple on the end of the worm gear. Secure the cable by tightening the set screw against the flat surface of the nipple.

Attaching the Finderscope
1. Locate the finderscope bracket and carefully remove the rubber-o-ring from it. Position the o-ring into groove on the finderscope tube.
2. Slide finderscope assembly into the rectancular [sic] slot and tighten the thumbscrew to hold the bracket in place.

Eyepiece Assembly
1. Loosen the thumbscrew on the end of the focus tube.
2. Insert a diagonal into the focus tube and re-tighten the thumbscrew to hold the diagonal in place.
3. Loosen the thumbscrews on the diagonal.
4. Insert the desired eyepiece into the diagonal and secure by re-tightening the thumbscrews.

I let these lines speak for themselves, except to add that I've always had my doubts about the astronomical fraternity. They didn't excommunicate Galileo for nothing.

Friday, 7 September 2007


A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of confetti.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

I ate the world's last Tasmanian Tiger

I was reading this here book about how to write your life. How to write your life retrospectively, that is. I don't bother with books about how to write your life prospectively, as I already happen to be the world's foremost authority on writing my life before it happens. (Not, mind you, in some sort of spooky prophetic time-bending sense; more in the "having imaginary conversations with absent friends/adversaries/gurus, wherein I come across all witty and bilingual and have compliant hair, in the hope that when the moment of embodied colloquy actually falls upon us [me and the friend/adversary/guru], I do not appear to have a mouth full of turnip" sense.) So, I was three pages into this book about how to write your life retrospectively, when I came across authoress Miller's most tantalising subheading so far: A Confession, she wrote. Whoohoo, thought I, A confession! Only one more sentence before Patti Miller reveals her secret addiction to dressing up in women's underwear.

But what do I get for my trouble? This: "I probably should, here at the beginning, confess the true extent of my passion to know what life is like for other people." Thence ensue the scandalous details of her longing to ask persons in supermarket queues what it's like to be a person in a supermarket queue. Quel jolly horreur. There's nary a lady's knicker in sight.

It is my firm belief, as the world's foremost authority on writing my life before it happens, that if you're going to go about offering up confessions, then you'd better have something decent to confess. Something criminal, or arguably immoral, or at the very least antisocial. "I killed JFK", for instance, or "By the by, I think it's time I told you, I ate the world's last Tasmanian Tiger". "I have a passion for knowing what life is like for other people" doesn't even begin to cut the confessorial mustard.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Name of the Feather

I'm thinking of getting me a better nom de plume.

Dammit if "the Scarlet Pimpernel" isn't already taken (thanks for nothing, Baroness Emmuska Orczy).

Alexis the Hun? Alias the Hun? Esmerelda de Taco? Le Bagpiper Noir? George Smith? George Smith the Hun? George Smith the Hun de Taco?