Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Doctor-patient confidentiality

These are some real-life gems as told to me by some of my friends who are doctors…

A concerned parent brings in a child who’s skin has worryingly turned orange.

“Has he been eating a lot of carrots?”
“Ooh, no, he can’t stand them.”
(after a pause)
“Does he drink Sunny Delight?”
“Oooh, yes, he loves it! Can’t get enough of it.”

Imagine if you had to treat a patient called Brian Brain without laughing…

A young lady comes in. Despite being on the pill, she’s pregnant. Then she explains that she’s been INSERTING the pills because she didn’t know what “ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE” meant!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Funeral for a friend

In remembrance Marion Pearce 1921-2006

I shared a birthday with 'Granny P' as she came to be known in our family. True she was already 55 when I appeared on the scene, but we still shared a birthday. This year on 2 April, we jointly celebrated the milestone of 30(me) and 85(her).

I liked sharing a birthday with her - it gave us a link that no one else had. It's amazing really how quickly I became a second grandson to her, included in the list "Abby, Cathy and Jon". (Her other grandson, Rhys, was a source of great pride to her too.)

The first time I met Granny P, she was in hospital for some reason. Cathy announced one Friday afternoon towards the end of term that, because one of our lectures was cancelled, she was going over to Gloucester on the train, and would I like to come. I said 'yes', even though I was having a particularly scruffy day and was quite stubbly - not the best look to meet your girlfriend's family. I remember Granny, a bit groggy in bed, but sharp enough to say "and this must be Jon!" It's hard to believe that was 12 years ago now.

Today, at the thanksgiving service I read Psalm 100 - eight years, less one day, since Granny had read it at our wedding. It was truly an occasion of giving thanks, including tributes from longstanding friends (70 years in one case!), and hymns selected from the two lists Gran had left behind.

We had the burial before the service, in a shady spot in St Katharine's churchyard in Matson. I was a pallbearer, but being a bit short and in the middle, I don't think I really carried my fair share of the weight until we lowered the casket into the ground. Kevin, the minister of Matson Baptist where Granny had worshipped since becoming a founder member of the church, spoke about the perishable seed which goes into the ground, to be raised imperishable.

Some of my favourite Granny P stories
Gran was notoriously impatient in restaurants - often complaining that we hadn't had any food yet before we'd even ordered.

She spent a number of Christmases (with Ab and Cath too) up in Shrewsbury where she tag-teamed up with my Grandma as partners in crime. One Christmas, when me and Dave were exiled to the dining room downstairs to sleep due to a shortage of beds, the two Grans decided that 7AM would be a good time to start hoovering the living room. They then opened the dining room door and announced loudly (they're both a bit deaf) "Oh, there's people sleeping in here." At which point Dave said "There's people TRYING to sleep in here!"

Granny was a compulsive tidy-er. So if you left her unattended when she visited, there was every chance she'd end up rooting through your cupboards hiding stuff to make it look neater.

Once (at Christmas) Dave went to pick up the two Grans from the cinema, only to find Grandma had somehow lost Granny P, who had exited the ladies and proceeded to walk in and out of every auditorium hunting for the exit! Poor old Dave had to go and ask a member of staff and admit that "I've lost a Granny" before they eventually found her.

Despite Abby's protestations, Granny would insist on Windolene-ing her windscreen if it was dirty, resulting in a smeary mess. Once, after Abby had firmly told her not to do it, we found her sneaking out to surreptitiously give it a squirt of Windolene. After that Abby always made sure the car was tidy before arriving at Gran's, although that still meant Granny would try to pick up all the rubbish INSIDE her car!

A Granny P quote:
Scene: we've just got back from a meal out, or sat down in the lounge after tea, or whatever: "So, when are you leaving?"

Her testimony
The key thing, in all seriousness, that stood out from the many tributes at the service today was Granny's Christian witness. I remember she always used to pray for us as we left (which was especially needed if Abby was driving us home!). She'd always finish with one of her favourite Bible passages - from Romans: "for we know that all things work together for good, for those that love God."

It's tempting to be sentimental when someone you love dies, but that phrase, which I will ever associate with her, was her testimony. She had known difficult times, family tragedies, and towards the end struggled with both her physical health and her deteriorating mental state, but I know she clung to that promise: that all things would work together for good. Eventually.

She was a saint and she stands with the rest of the saints now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Steady hands, lads...

The Padres are leading their division with only 7 games to go, but the Dodgers are close behind. The good thing is that the divisional championship is entirely within their hands - really they have to lose it now.

I've supported the Friars since Cathy and I went on our megatour of California and we saw them beat the Giants (complete with homerun king Barry Bonds) at Petco Park. Since then I've kept an eye on their results and now I'm nervously counting down the days till the end of the season. It's amazing that in a season of over 160 games, it can be quite so tight at the end of the year.

Baseball is, of course, the American game, which might be why the mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders, declared last Friday as 'Friar Friday' and told people to wear Padres gear to work to show their support. "And if your boss has a problem with that, tell him to give me a call!" At last! A politician with a sense of what's really important in life.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Stupid spam names

Inspired by Tez, the Tokyo-based hurrah maiden, and her comments on stupid spammers, I had a look through my yahoo bulk mail folders (yes, I’m that lucky – I have two). I have to agree with TLB that the people who set up spam are obviously idiots, and all the evidence can be found in the names they use (culled and presented below for your amusement) to try and convince you that they’re genuine. Losers!

Hmm, yes, I’d open an email from someone called…
Hung Mahoney
Octavius Herbert
Aurora Law
Geralyn [that’s not even a name!]
Gertrud Nanette
Henriette Frost
Claudius Le [Roman mum, Chinese dad?]
Jonah Rodriguez
Clementina Pratt
Aurelia Wylie
Adalbert Jensen
Benedikta Dantzler
Jolene Jeffers
Yesenia Cullen
Kresten League
Edna Gore
Barra Spikes
Montagu Fuller
Swapnil Moffatt
Bozidar Downey
Prem Scoggin
Cronus Mosier
Gunhilda Danko

But this stupidity has given me a certain amount of inspiration – now when I’m looking for potential characters for a story, I’ll just refer back to this post. I’m already imagining glamorous lesbian private detective/part-time lapdancer Benedikta Dantzler investigating the evil crime syndicate run by Septuagenarian mob-boss Edna Gore, whose deadly assassins Hung Mahoney and Gunhilda Danko killed innocent bank-clerk Adalbert Jansen, when he inadvertently discovered the mob’s money-laundering plan. Can Dantzler foil the bad guys, console Adalbert Jansen’s grieving grown-up daughters Clementina Pratt and Aurelia Wylie, avoid the amorous advances of Jansen’s estranged thrice-married bi-curious wife Yesenia Cullen, and find out more about the alluring and enigmatic Aurora Law – a fatally beautiful femme with her own score to settle with Gore. And who are Cronus Mosier, Swapnil Moffatt and Barra Spikes, and why are they sitting on Benedikta’s couch drinking espresso at 7am?

Nizlopi @ Greenbelt

This is going back in time a couple of weeks, because since then I've seen Nizlopi play Cardiff, but here's some pics to give you an idea of what these guys are like...

Shortly before the mother ship beamed them up...

... and with added bubble ambience!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On this day in 1937...

...JRR Tolkien published The Hobbit.

I think The Hobbit was spoilt for me because I read Lord of the Rings first. After that The Hobbit was a bit childish.

See, I can be literary too. It's not all gigs and movies on here.

Small Screen review

A couple of movies I’ve watched on DVD recently…

My friend June introduced me to the genius that was Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a genre-defying sci-fi series that was cruelly cancelled by the kind of idiots responsible for Brainmush TV scheisse like Love Island. Serenity is the feature film version of Firefly, which reunites the original cast and takes the story to a whole new level.

What I admired most about this was that it lost none of the raw energy of the TV series, and it didn’t try to retell the story so far. Instead it filled in the gaps, but in such a way, that I don’t think you’d have to have seen Firefly to get what was happening. True, seeing the TV series first will make it more meaningful for you, but Serenity isn’t just for Firefly fans. It has zippy dialogue, an interesting plot and isn’t afraid to dispense with some pretty important characters (no spoilers!).

Jongudmund’s rating: 8/10

Where the Heart Is
Irony Boy put up a strong fight, but eventually succumbed to watching this chick flick with us last night. It’s got Natalie Portman in, who I’ve always rated since seeing Leon years ago, despite the mediocrity of Star Wars 2 & 3 (Garden State redeemed her after those disappointments). She seems to be one of those movie stars who divides opinion – you either loathe her, or aren’t bothered. I’m not quite sure why she generates such dislike, but my sidekick and my sister-in-law both reckon they can’t stand her.

Anyway, moving on to the film. I thought it was OK. Portman is good as the pregnant heroine who is abandoned by her feckless boyfriend at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma. After living and giving birth in the store she makes friends with a bunch of odd characters, including the perpetually sprogged up Ashley Judd, while Stockard Channing steals the show as the slightly batty “Sister”.

The only major criticisms I’d make is that this feels a bit dated (it’s six years old); a couple of important plot-twists happen off-screen and are then ‘explained’ by the characters; and much of it is predictable. When a character says “I’ll be right back!” before wandering off into a tornado, you know they’re being optimistic. But there were some laughs, mainly at inappropriate graces said before meals, and it had a happy (if cheesy) ending.

Jongudmund’s rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nizlopi (you know, the guys who did that JCB song)

It’s been a tough time for us recently with a family bereavement last week. We’d spent several weeks waiting in the hospital for the inevitable to finally happen, so when it did there was the sense of relief that the pain was over; but also some sadness as reality sank in.

I took a couple of days off work at the start of this week, just to get some rest and spend some non-hospital time with my better half. We had a day out down in Torquay on Monday, followed by a quiet day on Tuesday. Then on Tuesday night we went to see Nizlopi play at The Point in Cardiff.

Most people, it seems, haven’t heard of them, but they did that song about riding round in a JCB that was a pretty big hit last Christmas (and was made massive by this video). We saw them at Greenbelt at the end of August and thought they were great, but last night they were so much better.

Despite living just round the corner from The Point, I’d never been to this venue before and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s in a converted church, with intact stained glass, which meant it had a lovely high ceiling, but was dark and gothic enough to feel like a proper venue. What the people who built the church would have made of some of the live acts they have there is of course a matter of conjecture (I’m betting they wouldn’t be thrilled).

Unique and intriguing
Nizlopi are apparently Britain’s only folk hip-hop duo, comprising Luke on guitar and vox and JP on double bass and beatbox. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it. And in fact it is captivating. Not only do they play heartfelt songs, but you can tell they love the music itself. It’s refreshing to see a live act who aren’t full of themselves, but genuinely want to use music to communicate.

They began the show by wandering through the crowd, playing a guitar and singing, which was amusing as it took a while for people to cotton on to who they were. There was one awkward moment when someone almost told them they weren’t pushing through to the front because, you could see them thinking, ‘I’ve been here ages…oh it’s you…’

The band broke with convention a few times – instructing the crowd in group harmonies, coming down off the stage again to stand in the middle of everyone, and performing one of the best covers ever: Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. They also sang a song about being a bit gay, which they introduced as a potential England world cup song, only twigging later why a Cardiff crowd would boo such a notion.

JCB or JVC? Who cares?
The highlight of the show for many people was The JCB Song (have I mentioned that??). During their instrumental odyssey into the crowd one mouthy ‘older’ Kairdiff girl (you know the type, or if you don’t, consider yourself lucky) had demanded they sing “the JVC song”, so when they eventually did play it, they introduced it as a song about video recorders. Cue much laughter. In truth, for a band with only one bode fide hit, it must get wearing knowing that people have only come to hear one song, but they made a decent fist of it, even if Luke did start by playing the wrong notes, much to JP’s amusement.

The gig ended about 2 hours after it began and, with a return to work looming today, we went home, tired and happy, with an autographed copy of their mini-album. Luke, in his hand-written message urged us to ‘Rock from our hearts forever’.

We will.

There are also some Nizlopi tunes/videos to download here!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yay, I'm postmodern

And I've done the quiz to prove it, although interestingly I'm more of a Wesleyan than anything else...
You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


Reformed Evangelical


Classical Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with

I'm not at all surprised that fundamentalist came bottom of the list.

Five years on

It seems weird that we’re already five years on from 9/11. Much has changed in those five years – not least in the way militant Islam in this country seems to be increasing all the while. I’m under the impression that there’s a lot of doubletalk among Muslim leaders – on the one hand they’re constantly saying that terrorism is the work of a few malcontents, the next they’re saying that unless Muslims are better treated there’ll be two million terrorists living in Britain. It seems that Islam isn’t a threat, unless the Muslims want something…

But, back to 9/11
I was working back in my Minimum Wage Hell that was the cinema at the time and I remember one of the projectionists coming down from his booth to say that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I assumed he meant it was a stunt in a film he’d been watching, until he said he’d seen it on the news. From then on we took it in turns to watch the news coverage in the staff room. So I saw the second tower fall, live, in a state of numb disbelief.

This really was one of those events that just happened out of the blue. If we’re honest and say that this marked the beginning of a war that is only now just getting into gear, then it’s comparable to the blitzkrieg attack on Poland. There were rumours, apparently dismissed in the upper echelons of the US government, but nobody really thought a war was going to kick off as a result of those rumours. But it did, and it has, and in many respects it’s going to be a long and dirty war fought on multiple fronts.

I worked in MWH with a number of Somali Muslim lads; all of whom were shocked and horrified by the events of 9/11. For them the benefit of living in a stable and prosperous society instead of the war-torn hellhole their families had escaped from was obvious. How any Muslim could launch such an attack was beyond them.

One more voice

I imagine there’ll be loads of people blogging about this, talking about it on the radio, replaying the news footage on TV, and so on. Normally I don’t bother to comment on the things everyone else is talking about – what’s the point of adding one more voice to the maelstrom of conspiracy theorists, platitudinal pietists and would-be societal commentators? But, for what it’s worth, this is my story about 11 September 2001.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The hoodoo continues

2 years ago, on Shrewsbury Town's first game back in the league, they lost at home to Lincoln 1-0. Last year they lost to Lincoln 1-0. This year... yeah well. These things apparently come in threes.

The annoying thing is that the boys in Blue and Amber played pretty well for most of the match. In particular, strikers Derek Asamoah (ironically ex-Lincoln) and Andy Cooke both looked useful. The team played some attractive football and missed a penalty as well as a couple of other gilt-edged chances, all the while looking a real possible threat. But after Lincoln scored a sucker punch goal against the run of play, then got ten men behind the ball at every opportunity, they won it with a solid lesson in how to defend a 1-0 lead.

Of course, they were helped by a twelfth man: Mark Haywood, a ref who was so absolutely poor at spotting Lincoln's persistent fouling that he may as well have been wearing a red and black shirt. He missed a clear professonal foul on Asamoah in the first half, and, again in the first half awarded a penalty against the Lincoln 'keeper for deliberately bringing down a Town player, but mystifyingly didn't even book the goalie.

Added to that several blatantly wrong decisions (including awarding one of the most obvious Town throw-ins ever to Lincoln) left me convinced that he's banging a bird from Lincoln and was hoping for some decent head that night. Either that or the LCFC team bus was travelling home via Yorkshire to drop him off. (Although in the interest of fairness, he did apparently admit to Town boss Gray Peters that he made a mistake when Asamoah got brutally scythed down. Like that's a lot of help! You have to make the call at the time, not with hindsight. Any idiot can do that!)

On the plus side it was nice and sunny and I got to sit next to me Dad, which made it feel like a proper day out. The last time it was just us sitting together was watching Clachnacuddin beat Elgin in the Inverness Cup. The score then was 1-0 as well.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hurrah for football

118 years ago today, on 8 September 1888, the first ever season of the football league kicked off.

And, if all goes according to plan, on Saturday I'll be seeing the mighty Shrews take on the Lincolnshire scummers who beat us last year. Hopefully, Town will do the business and this bloke who used to play for us won't get a look in.

Usually I've seen a game by this stage of the season, so I'm really looking forward to the match. I also want to meet the Arsenal fan that my brother and his comrades bought off eBay and who will be at his first Town game on Saturday.

With this weekend and also having a ticket to see Wales take on the might of Cyprus in October, it looks like my season of spectating at football matches is finally starting.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Million dollar ideas

Every so often I get a brainwave for something that would be a ‘million dollar idea’. Recently Irony Boy has been the recipient of frantic emails from me outlining a potential million dollar website – ideas that are usually swiftly rebuffed by the self-appointed Web Tyrant.

Anyway, the other day I had a brilliant idea. In my office the one smoker in the building often nips out the back door for an ‘oxygen break’. Unfortunately this means that his pungent cigarette smoke wafts up through our second floor windows, which are always open because we have no air-con and the office is always way too hot. The other day, when the second hand smoke was being particularly annoying I joked that I was going to bring in a super-soaker water pistol to douse the source of the toxic fumes, and that’s when I had my idea:

Million dollar idea #1: The Smoker Soaker
This would be a small, concealable, but highly accurate, water pistol that you could use to squirt people smoking in annoying places, like restaurants or cinemas. For added irony, they’d come in a variety of colours, all of which looked a bit like cigarette packets, e.g. red/white, gold, purple, white with a royal blue stripe. That would make them collectible as well.

Million dollar idea #2: The Car Trainsporter
I don’t know why we don’t have roll-on, roll-off car-carrying trains in this country. It would make a lot of sense to me to be able to drive onto a train in Cardiff, then have a nice relaxing train ride up to Newcastle, drive off and have all the convenience of having my car with me and none of the six-hour cross-country slog.

I’d envision this working with car-loading points in big cities, away from current stations, as usually there are loads of redundant minor stations in areas ripe for redevelopment (or even using stations just outside big cities but which are right on the motorway). The trains, of course, wouldn’t need to stop in itty-bitty places and because you’d have your car with you, it would be fine if say the nearest car-loading point was fifty miles away from your home, and your exit point was fifty miles away from your eventual destination.

The pros of car-trainsporters:
Not having to drive on Britain’s hellish motorways for hours and hours and hours.
More environmentally friendly than air travel
No check in palaver – again better than air travel
Saves on petrol and wear and tear on the car – lower mileages mean lower insurance premiums; no chance of breaking down on the way
The trains could have buffet/restaurant cars, newsagents etc – this would also be a pro from the point of view of the train operator because they’d virtually have a captive audience
Much quicker journey times, although that is dependent on the reliability of the rail system. Hmmm.

The cons of car-trainsporters
Britain’s railway system sucks and it’s getting worse
Rail travel is already expensive – this wouldn’t be cheap
It can be pretty boring sitting in a car or sitting on a train, so how boring will it be sitting in a car while on a train?
It would take time to load up and unload
New car-loading stations would need to be built, and possibly new motorway junctions

But even so, it’s a million dollar idea. Feel free to use it…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I went to see this with Irony Boy on Monday night, having gotten quite excited by the trailer. I have to say it didn’t disappoint. I’ve been quite keen on Jason Statham since his turn as The Broadhurst Monk in Vinnie Jones’ Mean Machine, and also The Transporter’s pedals-in-an-oil-slick fight scene. (If you haven’t seen The Transporter then that will mean nothing to you. Your loss!) He was also great value in the Jet Li vehicle, The One.

Crank definitely lives up to its hype. The basic plot is that Statham is a hit man, Chev Chelios, who gets injected with a poison that will kill him if his adrenaline level drops. So, it’s basically Speed with a bloke instead of a bus. There’s lots of mindless violence, gratuitous sex and unnecessary profanity. I really enjoyed it, although the public sex scene with an enthusiastic Chinese audience was a bit OTT, especially as his girlfriend (played by Amy Smart) is initially reluctant, but then gets turned on by the attention. I have to admit that’s the only bit of the film I baulked at, because ‘no means no’ and a scripted reverse from refusal to compliance will surely send the wrong message out to the majority-male audience.

But, dubious sexual conduct aside, Crank was also very funny. Statham’s schizophrenic switch from outraged frustration at getting his chick’s answerphone, through to calmly leaving a message, followed by an outburst of f-words after hanging up is brilliant. There are plenty more moments like this scattered throughout the film, like when he disposes of a gun-toting would-be assassin while his oblivious ditzy girlfriend picks up the dropped contents of her handbag.

Another destined-to-be-classic line is when he’s in a pharmacy trying to remember the name of the drug that will save him…
Chev: I need something beginning with E…
Counter girl: England?
The look on his face at this smart-ass comment is priceless.

Overall, then I’d give this the two thumbs up if you like tough comedy, don’t mind swearing and (frequently bloody) fight scenes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Have we evolved to be religious?

An interesting idea that’s been put forward by Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol, claims that the human mind is adapted to reason intuitively, so that it can generate theories about how the world works even when mechanisms cannot be seen or easily deduced.

Professor Hood believes that this intuitive ability can sometimes make a misguided logical leap and assign supernatural causes to something which isn’t understood. He also believes it explains why people develop a sentimental attachment to an everyday object. Most importantly he challenges Richard Dawkins’ ultra-rationalist view that supernatural belief is caused by religions spreading beliefs among the gullible minds of the young and ignorant

Instead he thinks that: “Religions may simply capitalise on a natural bias to assume the existence of supernatural forces.”

He also tried an experiment to prove his theory: he asked a group of people if they were prepared to put on an old-fashioned blue cardigan in return for a cash reward. He had no shortage of volunteers. He then told the volunteers that the cardigan used to belong to Fred West, the mass murderer.

“Most hands went down,” he said. “When people did wear it people moved away from them. It’s not actually West’s jumper. But it’s the belief that it’s West’s jumper that has the effect.

“It is as if evil, a moral stance defined by culture, has become physically manifest inside the clothing.”

So, Professor Hood concludes that "Magical thinking" is hard-wired into our brains, which means that:

"It is pointless to get people to abandon their belief systems because they operate at such a fundamental level that no amount of rational evidence or counter-evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon these ideas."
Which explains such a lot about some of the Christians I know…

As reported in the Times:
Evolution keeps us superstitious. Now that's lucky!

And in the Telegraph:
We're born with a belief in the supernatural, says scientist,

NB: Here’s a little exercise in journalistic fact-checking. In The Times, Professor Hood offers people a tenner to wear Fred West’s old cardie. In the Telegraph it’s twenty quid. Who’s right?

Happy Birthday Lorenzo

A big Pantperthog happy birthday to Lorenzo, who is the grand old age of 26 today. He doesn't look a day over 40!

Incidentally, Lorenzo's blog is quite worth a look because he's a witty chap. Even if he did THIEVE THE LINK I PUT ON HERE TO FUNNY RECORD COVERS and then not even credit me! Cheeky bugger!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

B-daman (no, you da man!)

Yesterday I bought a B-daman launcher in Woolworths on Cowbridge Road East, mainly because it was reduced. I've been looking at B-damans for a while as they have that nice manga styling that you get in the Japanese toys, plus they're quite funky little ball launchers.

Helen had told me how tricky they'd found building one for their lad Adam, but I can only conclude that they obviously aren't very adept at putting together kits. It took me about 15 minutes to get it ready for action. One cool thing about them is that they give you some extra stickers to customise him.

My little guy is called Proto One.

As you can see he's mainly red and white, with a nifty little shield. The grey bits you can just about see underneath are the b-daball launcher, and all the rest is just for show. This wouldn't be my first choice for a colour scheme. I'm going to keep and eye out in case there's one in blue and amber.

I went into Toys R Us in Gloucester today and they had loads more of them reduced, including some in import Japanese packaging. I'd be tempted, but the instructions were a bit tough to follow in English... No point making it harder for myself.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Beware the vampire antelope

It truly is amazing what you can find when you have a sort out. I was going through some old folders of writing and misc scribble the other night when I found 'Dreamship', a story that I wrote a number of years ago and had completely forgotten about.

There was no date on the ms, but given that it was printed on Ab's old dot matrix, it must have been written on her ancient computer that was dumped at the tip a while ago. That means I'm probably going to have to retype it up, but hey, at least that means I can make a few changes.

Also in that file I found a doodle of a antelope with vampire-like fangs, hence the title of this post. He also had a name - Vlad the Impala. I thought that was pretty funny, although when I told my work collegues none of them really got it. (An impala is a kind of antelope and Vlad the Impaler was the historical figure behind the Dracula myth, in case you're wondering.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The good, the bad and the Uzbek

Today is National Day in Uzbekistan.

I know very little about Uzbekistan, except that it used to be part of the Soviet Union until independence on August 31, 1991. So, I thought I might try and find some stuff out about it, which I’ve handily categorized for readers as The Good, The Bad, and the Uzbek.

The Good
• Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country with a population of 26.9 million people. So, it is a real country, unlike say Leichtenstien.
• The most popular beverage in Uzbekistan is tea and teahouses are impirtant social meeting places. Liking it!
• Tashkent, the nation's capital and largest city, has a 3 line subway built in 1977, and expanded 2001. (OK, perhaps not so good if you aren’t interested in underground railways, but I kind of am, so it’s going in as good)
• Uzbekistan is now the world's second-largest exporter of cotton and the seventh world major producer of gold. Good for them.
• The life expectancy in Uzbekistan is 63 years for men and 70 years for women.

The Bad
• Uzbekistan is doubly-landlocked, meaning to reach a proper sea you have to cross at least two borders because all it’s neighbours are landlocked. The only other country like that is, coincidentally, Leichtenstein, but that’s not a proper country anyway (see above). Uzbekistan does have access to the Aral Sea, which is really just a big lake… so no beach parties in Uzbekistan.
• Uzbekistan possesses the largest military force in the Central Asian region, having around 650,000 people in uniform. And it’s a repressive police state that’s pretty much a dictatorship in all but name.
• In 2005, Uzbekistan was included in Freedom House's "The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies". In May 2005 security forces in the Andijan province carried out what Time magazine called “one of the bloodiest assaults any nation has inflicted on its own population since Tiananmen Square.”
• Although it’s a secular country that allows freedom of religion, president Islam Karimov is worried about the growth of militant Islam and has been cracking down on it. Which, as we all know, tends to make the nutters even more dangerous…

...and the Uzbek
• The name Uzbek, both for the people and for the nation itself, is said to be self-referential from the period the Russians first encountered the people, parsing as ozum bek, or "I am the lord (or ruler)". You’ve got to like that!
• Another Uzbek phrase I learned during this research is: ‘qovoq kalla’, which means ‘pumpkin head’.
• Football terms include: ‘Qanot yarim himoyachisi’ (chap, o'ng) = Winger (left, right); ‘Yarim himoyachi’ = Midfielder; ‘Himoyachi’ = Defender; ‘Hujumchi’ = Forward/striker. The national team play in the Pakhtakor Markaziy Stadium in Tashkent.
• The word for ‘sneeze’ is the wonderfully onomatopoiec ‘aksirish’.
• The currency is 1 Uzbek som = 100 tiyins.
• Uzbek websites have the suffix .uz; the international dialing code is +998.
• The 12 stars on the Uzbek flag (above) represent the 12 months of the Islamic calendar, while the new moon is both an Islamic symbol and represents the rebirth of the nation following independence.