Friday, April 27, 2007


This morning, while I was walking down to work from my parents' house, I found a dead lizard. Being me, I thought it was really interesting, and I decided to take it home so that I could look it up in one of my nature books and find out what sort of lizard it was. I needed something to carry it in, so I put it in an empty cigarette packet that was in my pocket.
I forgot about it after that, until I went to look for a cigarette and pulled out the empty packet by mistake. I remembered that I'd put it in there, and tipped it out to show Chris. At this point, it started crawling around my hand...
That's right, I'm a lizard-napper!
I felt so guilty, and kept apologising to the poor little thing. It seemed healthy enough, although really pissed off! (Well, you would be, wouldn't you?)
I did a bit of online research, and found some photos here. The fourth picture down is most similar to how mine looked, but since adult Common Lizards grow to between 10 and 16 centimetres long, and mine was only 7cm, I think it was a baby. Apparently, young ones are very dark in colour. It had an orangey-yellow underside with black spots, so it's a boy.

Here he is...

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We decided that if we kept it, it would die, and I felt bad enough about taking it anyway, so we took it down to the stream near here, and tucked it safely down on the bank. I hope it'll be ok.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Bee Gees Vs. The Harlequin

We've just had our second Easter weekend, due to our parents having visitors from France staying over Easter.
On Easter weekend itself, Boo, Matt, Chris and I went to the beach for a picnic. A traditionally bracing Scottish picnic, of course...
Boo and I spent a happy hour or two hunting for bones. I needed lots of tiny ones, because I want to make my own mummified/fossil fairy. That one on ebay, while cool, was just too expensive, so I decided that I needed a Project. I found quite a few bird bones, and Boo found 3/4 of a somewhat dried out frog, and gave it to me. Its tiny little foot bones should come in handy. (Pun most definitely intended!)
It was nice to have a couple of days holiday from work. We didn't do much, except for some tidying round the flat. We also sorted out some videos and DVDs to sell at a car boot sale. Since we'll have to be moving house soon, it seems silly to pack up things we don't really want...
Chris and I went to the Pixar exhibition at the museum too. It was really interesting, although I would have liked more information about the technicalities of animation, and a bit less of the 'look at us, aren't we great?'
The 3-D zoetrope (bottom right picture) was absolutely amazing!

This weekend, we all went through to my parents' house for a belated Easter dinner, and an Easter egg hunt. We each wrote a series of clues for one other person to lead them to their eggs. My dad used to write them, but he says that we're all old enough to write good clues, and he can't be bothered anymore! Everyone found their eggs... eventually.

However, the most anticipated part of the day was the premiere of the film we made a few weeks ago. Most of you will have heard of 'The Bee Gees Vs The Harlequin'. The weekend we spent making this film was one of the most fun times I've ever had, I think. Pretty much everything that could go wrong when making a film, did. We spent less than £10 on props (as is plain to see) and were basically making it up as we went along. Try to ignore all the continuity errors - we did!
Here's your chance to finally see it. Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Books I Bought (and some I borrowed...)

The books that I've most enjoyed reading recently (in the last several years, actually) are the 'Callahan' series by Spider Robinson.

The series consists of:

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
Time Travelers Strictly Cash
Callahan's Secret
Callahan's Lady
Lady Slings the Booze
The Callahan Touch
Callahan's Legacy
Callahan's Key
Callahan's Con

I love these books! As soon as I was a little way into the first one, I was looking forward to reading some more - it's like knowing that soon you get to meet up with some old friends. I really hope that he writes more in this series, and that I can get my own copies.
Oh, and *hugs* to Colin for introducing me to this series!

As soon as I could, I went out browsing charity shops hoping to find some of these books. I didn't find any, but I did find Telempath. It's not part of the Callahan series, but very good nonetheless.

I also borrowed Night Of Power. It's very different from his other books, but since I like his writing style, it was ok.
Spider Robinson often refers to other writers who have been a big influence on him, and someone frequently mentioned is Robert A. Heinlein. I've never read any of his work, but I thought that it would probably be worth taking a look.
While I was at the charity shops, I found three of his:

Space Cadet
Revolt In 2100
Podkayne Of Mars

I've borrowed a copy of Variable Star too, a collaboration between Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson.

Ok, so on to the other books I've bought.

Other sci-fi...

Isaac Asimov - I, Robot
Ray Bradbury - The Small Assassin ( a book of short horror-ish stories)
James Patterson - Maximum Ride
Doctor Who books -
The Price Of Paradise
The Art Of Destruction
The Nightmare Of Black Island
William Nicholson - Slaves Of The Mastery and
(these are the second and third parts of a children's fantasy trilogy)

Crime fiction -

Patricia Cornwell - At Risk I was disappointed by this one.
John Harvey - Ash & Bone This was ok.
Kathy Reichs - Break No Bones I always like her books.
Ian Rankin, 'Rebus' books
Fleshmarket Close
A Good Hanging
Dead Souls I'm really glad I got into reading these.

Non-fiction -

Tony Hawks - One Hit Wonderland and Playing The Moldovans At Tennis He's a funny man!
Torey Hayden - Beautiful Child She works with children who have psychological or emotional problems. Her books are very interesting.
Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? I love this book. It's one huge rant about a lot of the things that annoy me! I need to get the second one...
March Hares And Monkey's Uncles This is a book all about the origins of some of the funny little phrases people use.

So. There we go. You now know more about the soon-to-be contents of my bookshelves than you ever thought possible!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar, Oh My!

I know that I tend to be somewhat tetchy about a lot of things, but the standard of English these days really annoys me. I have severe doubts about the state of modern education.
When I was at school, we did worksheets that were all about using the right version of words and using punctuation correctly. Apparently, these aren't used any more. The emphasis is now on trying to get children to write at all, without putting them off with technicalities like spelling. Don't get me wrong, I think that encouraging creative writing is a great thing, but without accurate spelling and punctuation, the meaning of a piece of writing can be completely lost. Most of the people working with me frequently make basic spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. I don't point these out, because, if I do, I'm accused of being fussy (me?) and bothered about things that don't matter. The thing is, it does matter!

When the wrong version of words such as taught/taut, there/their/they're, where/wear, rein/reign/rain, etc. are used in books and magazine articles, this contributes to the idea that spelling doesn't matter as long as other people know what you mean.
Punctuation is used randomly, when at all. The misuse of apostrophes is especially bad. I've been known to rub misplaced apostrophes off chalked signs in pubs and shops. A pub where I occasionally drink has a chalked menu for the restaurant area which has such announcements as;
'Please take a seat and a member of the waiting staff will take your "order"'
and, on the dessert menu
'Ask us about today's "special"'
Once, when somewhat tipsy, I ended up removing all the offending punctuation...
Thankfully, signs in a cobbler's shop that I pass regularly have recently been replaced. Every time I went by, I would cringe at signs including;
'Key,s copied'
Bag,s repaired'
and 'Shoe,s Mended'.
It would be bad enough if they had apostrophes that were in the wrong place, but the commas almost made me want to stick labels on the outside of the window, correcting them.

I think that misuse of words is often caused by people's desire to appear more intelligent or educated than they really are. There is this idea that long words are automatically more 'right'.
Some of the magazines I read have a page for readers' household tips and hints. Recently, there have been two tips which particularly annoyed me.

'After having my guttering replaced I wished to recycle the old pieces...'
'I wished to liven up my old and redundant fireplace...'

No! No, you didn't! You wanted to do these things. Unless you have a DIY genie, perhaps living in an old watering can or an empty paint tin, you don't 'wish' for these things - you want to do them. To me, this is a subtle but important difference.

'Required' is a word that is being used more and more often, almost always wrongly.
When some building work was being done on the roof of the building in which I work, a sign was put up to inform visitors of this fact.
It read 'As the bank is having work done on the roof, the builders will be requiring to put ladders up to the roof.'
Again, no! The builders need to put ladders up to the roof. Almost every time 'require' is used, 'need' would be the right word to use.

A few weeks ago, a sign appeared in my local station which went one step further than the usual misuse of words.

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They could have said 'when asked by a police officer'.
They could have said 'when requested by a police officer'.
If they want to sound like they mean business, they could have said 'when told' or 'when ordered', but instead they went for the option that sounds like the police patrolling the station really need a drink every now and then. The wording that they chose could be argued to be technically correct, but to me it looks clumsy and irritating.