Tag Archives: Amusing myself

Scam calls

About twice a week I get a phone call from an out of Canada number, and a heavily accented voice tells me they are calling “About your Windows Computer”. These calls annoy me because they are made by confidence tricksters, scam artists and liars who want to invade my writing time with their falsehoods.

At first I used to simply shut the call off with a snarled “Fuck off” but now I’m becoming more nuanced in my response.

One of my favourite tricks is to put the cordless handset back on its charging station and wander off to make a cup of tea, stare out at the weather, switch on the TV while the poor drone on the other end of the line witters on and on. I reason thus; if I can waste enough of their time, it will give the scam artists less time to find more gullible people, and thence I perform a valuable social service. Fewer people get conned because there are only so many hours in the phoning day. Unfortunately, the more savvy realise I’ve disappeared, and close the call to dial the next number, who may not be as cynical as myself.

My next line of response is more sophisticated, and relies on the ignorance of the phone drone making the scam call. “My Windows Computer? Oh, the thing I use for word processing?” Is my response. Let them witter on having placed the phone back on its cradle in hands free mode, and tell them I have an Imperial Safari word processor with manual keyboard and real time printer array. An old fashioned manual typewriter. Pre 1980. Having had one of the aforementioned back in the 1980’s, I’m qualified to do what my wife calls ‘going into full bullshit mode’ on this topic. You needed to hit the keys with some vigour to make an imprint of a carbon flimsy, but it was robust, and I must have rattled off over 100,000 words on it until it was passed on within the family, and I moved on to working with a word processor.

Regardless, next time one of these scammers calls, they might not be dazzled by my brilliance or lack thereof, but I’ll sure as hell baffle them with bullshit. I will waste their time and phone bill, which may be the only justice one can ever get when dealing with these bastards.

Highlight of this morning was getting namechecked by Wattsupwiththat.com for tipping them off about this story.

Canine Quantum Mechanics

Experimental proof of the work that just got David Wineland and France’s Serge Haroche the 2012 Nobel prize for Physics.

Proof is as follows. Dog is lying at my feet as I am working.

Wife enters room to fuss over printer / scanner, and asks me to move my old crash helmet into next room.  Dog is still in position and does not move a muscle as I step over him.  Wife accidentally kicks a lamp over and curses it.  I leave room to move crash helmet to back bedroom.

Upon entering back bedroom two seconds later, Dogs bum is observed, quivering slightly and sticking out from behind bed. The physical act of movement between the two positions (Under my feet in my office and behind bed in back bedroom some twenty linear feet away) was not observed.  Ergo, there must have been a moment when he was simultaneously lying at my feet and quivering behind the bed in the back bedroom.  Good gravy!  Canine Quantum Mechanics has just been experimentally demonstrated.  Move over Schrodinger’s cat.

‘Superposition’ is a real phenomenon. My Dog proves it. Now where’s my Nobel prize?

The art of creative cursing

Picked this up off a Groupon deal site. ‘Clean’ alternatives to swearing;

• Oh my biscuits!
• What in the hairdresser’s wet jar of tools is going on in here?!
• Sweet mother of hate!
• For the love of kisses, will you kids cut it out?!
• Holy soldiers of the underworld!
• Whoopsie poopsie!
• Stick it up your pneumatic tube!
• Gosh nosh it!
• Aw, Starbucks!
• Good sky-monster almighty!
• You can go to Florida, you disheartening grandfather!

My preferred options, which are mostly shorter and pithier (Although I’m shamelessly going to steal “Oh Starbucks”);

  • Ye Cats!
  • Kiss it!
  • Ihr va tha! (Made up Saxon / Old Norse style cuss)
  • Ach du lieber (German, short for “Oh dear God!”)
  • Ah, stuff!
  • What in the name of Burger King is going on round here?

A worthwhile read

To try and combat the post submission jitters, and the post natal (For writing in some respects is like giving birth – without the hospitals, screams, or sensation of trying to pass a bowling ball) depressions, augmented by the sense of; “Oh hell, was it really ready?” or the “Did I miss anything?”. I have been reading Mark Rowlands; The Philosopher and the Wolf.

For me, Marks recounting of his experiences and brotherhood with a wolf he called Brenin has led to a number of involved conversations over breakfast between Angie and myself. The ones you have about the cupidity of other mortals, the struggles of existence, and the sheer tsunami of oh-stuff-this-for-a-lark-what’s-the-bloody-point existential doubt and worries that threaten to overwhelm the day to day. For me his book confirmed that I wasn’t alone with some of my long-held suspicions about humanity, and along with reading about the motivations of those who commit mass murder, opened my eyes a little more regarding the dark side of our nature as humans. Although my cynicism on that score is pretty much hard wired nowadays.

Read it; Mr Rowlands work has just found a new bookshelf.

Murders most foul

Have just been writing a passage for Cerberus which gives any reader a chilling little insight into the perpetrators of a specific killing, and as such have had tremendous fun writing it. What that says about me as a person I’m not sure, but it can’t be all good. Still, I can see why people get off on reading the salacious details of a murder case. It seems to tap into something vicarious and cruel in the human soul. It even gives me the creeps, and I thought I was all creeped out many years ago after reading several illustrated manuals on forensic medicine and criminal psychology found by one of my then classmates.

Glad my version is fiction.

2401 words so far this morning, and I’m sitting in Nanaimo Waterfront Library typing this, listening to the Very Best of Billy Joel on my headphones. Aren’t laptops a boon to the time strapped wannabe novelist? Another forty five minutes and I have to go and pick Angie up from a do she has to attend. Then off to Coombs.

Curiosity on Mars, the movie

Watch all of this animation. This is gorgeous.

So far the MSL mission matches all of this eleven minute trailer. There is a shorter, one and a half minute trailer available on Youtube. Truly awesome.

Off to talk to motorcycle dealers today. If I’m really lucky, a test ride on (appropriately enough) a Triumph Rocket III.

A quantum of zen

The past few mornings, Angie and I have been having one of our philosophical conversations. About who we are, where we are going, what we really want, and about how to find the answers to these vexatious questions. Having made time to think about it for a few days I said; “There’s a one word answer to all of what we’ve been discussing.”
“What’s that?” She asked.
“Discrimination.” I replied. Which seems a bit glib until you actually put it in context.

One of the things I practice now and again is a little something picked up from Lyall Watson’s ‘Gifts of unknown things‘. Lyall described what some might describe as paranormal abilities displayed by the islanders he lived with at the time. He wrote about fishermen who could stick their head underwater to hear where the fish were, by ‘listening between the sounds’. As Lyall observed, the sea is a very noisy place, and understanding what each sound means is a complex business. Essentially what he described is an old hunters trick, which is to simply stand absolutely still and listen. Letting the consciousness spread. Paying attention to what can be heard, putting it in context. Applying a where, what and when to each individual noise.

For a city dweller, who hears mainly Traffic noise, the art is the same; to dissect and recognise sounds from a tumult. The bass rumble of a truck, the snap-snap-snap of a loose cargo strap in a vehicles slipstream. Shouts, horns, voices, snatches of conversation. The grumble-whoosh of the subway, grunt-squeal whistle and whine-thump of buses as they stop and their doors open. Snatches of sounds from open windows and shop doorways. The noise gravel stuck in tyre treads makes on ashphalt. How far away is it, what direction is it in? Which way is it going? Does it pose a threat? The same principle of listening applies. Hint; it is wise not to try this on pedestrian crossings at first until you can listen on the move and still pay attention to your immediate surroundings.

This is only some of the music the world makes all around us, all of the time. Like single melodies in an orchestral score, it takes an educated ear to separate them out. Where the uneducated can only hear the overall sound, the trained ear can pick up a dissonance in a heartbeat. At first, to be able to do this seems insuperable, the wall of sound is too high, too wide and deep. Yet to eat this metaphorical elephant simply requires a slow but sure ‘one bite at a time’ approach.

The good news is that people come with this ability built in as a feature, courtesy of several million years of evolution. The bad news is that like all vices, it takes practice and patience to perfect. Some people will never learn because they are afraid of silence, impatient with the enormity of the task, failing to appreciate is that there is no such thing as absolute silence. Others will pick up the skill without a thought and look surprised when others ask “How do you do that?”

All that is required is the motivation to sit quietly and open oneself up to the world, to drink it all in, take pleasure in learning a new ability. Learn that there is no such thing as silence. Even in the quietest moments your pulsing bloodflow thunders in your ears, breath rasps in your nose and throat. A leaf falls ten, twenty, thirty feet away. Air flowing makes noise, anything moving makes a sound, a tiny careening of air molecules spreading out to trigger a response. Caught by the pinnae, transmitted to inner ears via the tympanum and malleus, incus and stapes, tiny little bones forming a linkage to the inner ear and sensory nerves. So incredibly delicate and sensitive is this apparatus that anyone can train themself to hear all manner of things in the sounds between the noise.

Where to begin? With your favourite piece of music, your most loved sounds. Which bit do you like most? focus in on that one musical phrase. Which notes does it contain played on what instruments? How is it played? Now what are the surrounding musical phrases harmonies, beats and melodies? Once this is learned, moving to more complicated listening becomes easier. All it takes is practice.

The same principles can be applied to the other senses. Smell and taste can be similarly trained. Even sight. Being observant takes practice and time, but these are skills well worth developing, no matter what your time of life. Plato wrote in his dialogues that Socrates said; “the unexamined life is not worth living”. To examine life, we must practice sensory discrimination, like Lyall described in his book. This is the process I call ‘a quantum of Zen’, and oddly enough, anyone can do it. Anyone at all. No Zen master required.

We can all learn to discriminate, and in the process find out what we really want from life. I suppose you could call it part of the art of becoming truly human.

Destroying Brussels

Despite the title of this post, I actually like Brussels as a city, and have fond memories of visiting friends who used to live there (Hi Ralph & Sheena).

In the late 21st Century of the ‘Stars’ trilogy, I’ve used the city for a more sinister purpose. Brussels becomes the headquarters of the Gaian European Republic, a thoroughly unpleasant bunch of oligarchs. A superficially theocratic republic where dissidents are routinely murdered for parts of their brains which form the processing cores for the Gaians war machines. Where people’s remains are cultured and rendered to form ‘Go-Quarn’, a Tofu like substance given to citizens as part of a ‘healthy vegetarian diet’. They were great fun to write. Even more fun to destroy.

This is the great thing about writing science fiction on the grand scale. You can have a great deal of fun simply blowing things (Places, Cities, even whole planets) up. Although in the imaginary future of the ‘Stars’ trilogy, the Gaians see democracy as a primary threat, and spend a great deal of time trying to wipe out said dangerous creed. So it could be argued that the Gaians got what was coming to them.

Why Vampires and Zombies?

I was in Chapters, our local bookstore this afternoon, and couldn’t help wondering at the proliferation of Vampire and Zombie related titles. Is it just me, or does anyone else out there find the whole living dead thing a bit old hat and rather tired?

From the salacious covers on display, I’d say there was some serious pseudo-erotic component in there. Particularly as there were a lot of sexy female vampire type covers. Fangs, fancy corsetry, high hemlines and plenty of voluptuous décolletage, that sort of thing. Oh well, if that’s what a section of the public wants, I’m glad there’s someone to cater for that particular low taste in literature.

As for Zombies. Well, the thing about zombies is that they’re dead and decomposing. After death, flesh rapidly loses its cohesion as bacteriological processes run their course. Connective tissue shrinks and binds, proteins dissolve and bits drop off. As for the whole brain eating meme, the digestive organs and mucosa are among the first things to rot on a corpse. So the suspension of witting disbelief has to be pretty strong for readers of the genre. Even if a zombie could get up enough of a lick of speed to catch you, its body is falling apart, and the wretched thing will have no digestive system to absorb your living grey and white matter as a protein source, even if it had sufficient strength to kill you, what with wasting flesh and disarticulation of joints. Smelly, yes, unhygienic certainly; but scary? Hmm. withholding judgement on that one.

All very macabre, but can’t compare to what living people are capable of inflicting on each other without supernatural intervention.


I was checking my hard drive for archiving prior to a PC upgrade and came across this little collection of pictures which my Mother still keeps. I suppose just in case she forgets who I am.

The first is me aged four. The second (Bottom left) at twenty three in 1980 with my recently home built Honda motorcycle, and just to show some things never change; pictured leaving a friends house in Brussels in 2003 (Bottom right) with Angie, my wife, on my old Triumph 900 ST.

Three weeks and three thousand miles during a long hot European Summer tour down the Rhine Valley, across Switzerland into Italy and back up through France and Belgium. Magical.

I’ve got a whole heap of notes from that trip, but the one thing that brings it all flooding back is the smell of fresh Basil. Funny how memory cascades off a single trigger. The smell of hectares of Basil growing along the road from Florence to Genoa, Italy. It floods the mind and snatches me away to a happy vacation. Possibly the best of my life. Slumped in the paltry shade of Gas Stations signs on mercilessly baking days when it was too hot even to ride. Peeling out of sweat caked leathers in the wonderful cool of air conditioned hotel rooms to exhausted cries of “Aircon! Aircon!”. Must do another trip like it this side of the water.