Monday, October 25, 2010

Insert sarcasm

When asked about what is the lowest form of humour, a lot of people would say sarcasm. I personally do not think that sarcasm is the lowest form; a good pun will alienate you from your audience and a bad pun will do worse for your chances at being citizen of the year than being pro climate change. Yes I know that was so funny.

This is my point, that last sentence was sarcastic, but how clear was it? Sarcasm is lost in writing because it is so hard to translate to an audience what the intention was. A good writer can do this, the rest of us struggle. Are you being cheeky or are you an idiot? Generally you are doing both, but it is hard to tell.

There are two types of people for which sarcasm is lost; drunks and Germans. Germans do not laugh in awkward situations and they are way too sensible with their Inspector Rex and the like to be concerned with sarcasm. Drunks on the other hand are lost to everything. Like balance, small motor skills, where they left their phone, a sense of hygiene (I know that meat has been sitting on the barbeque for the last six hours, but I’m going to eat it anyway without washing my hands). So it is no surprise when your sarcastic comment returns you a punch in the face.

Throughout history different punctuation marks have been proposed to indicate sarcasm. There were backward question marks, ~ tilde, /s, exclamation marks in brackets and sometimes upside down. Instant messaging and texting has recently given us a rolling eye emoticon, but in any other situation they are tacky and lost on people over the age of 35. If I was to use any of the above symbols in the first paragraph, there will still be misreads, misinterpretations, and people missing the point. None of them work because they are unknown.

What we need is a special way to alter the font; something like underlining or italics. Something people on the internet can take and run with, because that is how it will become popular and identifiable. Take an internet memes for example, how long has “lol” been around for? We all know what it means now and it took millions of people on the internet to make it possible. That is the key – get it started on the internet and it will spread like the plague.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm no pack horse

Earlier in the year I went for a five week holiday in Hong Kong and Japan. It was fun, I did some face sliding down a mountain in Niseko (gravity did not care if I had either skis or a snowboard attached to my feet – it still kicked my arse). I watched the 2010 New Year Sumo Tournament in Tokyo; that was awesome, you would not think it but nothing says “a good day out” like two fat men running at each other in nappies. I did try and lose my passport in Hiroshima, but despite my best effort, the horribly nice people of Japan returned everything, including all the money in my bag. Criminals of Japan must try harder.

Because we went in January, it was winter in Japan, and it got bloody cold. We left Adelaide on the tail end of a heat wave, and in Niseko it reached -20 degrees when we were learning how to ski. I had two pairs of gloves on and I still could not feel my fingers. And then the wind picked up.

There I was, an Australian tourist with not a whole heap of exposure to sub zero temperatures, and therefore I was wearing a long sleave t-shirt, a jumper and a rather large coat on with really big pockets; still feeling cold. The big pockets were great, because it was so cold outside every shop keeper in Japan set the thermostat to 50 degrees. Every time you walked into a shop you basically had to strip down to your undies so you would stop baking.

In one department store alone I could have heated up a roast chicken in each coat pocket. They were huge! Probably still are. It got so hot I stuffed my beanie, scarf, gloves (two pair), and whatever paraphernalia I felt appropriate at the time like into all the pockets available. Sometimes even my wallet, camera, or map.

Our last stop in Japan was Sapporo, which is on the North Island, and every year they host the “Winter Snow Festival”, because what people want to do when it is freezing cold outside, snowing, the wind is biting through your clothing, and ice paving the streets is to spend more time outside looking at ice sculptures. I am well known to not being the art world’s biggest supporter so let me make this clear; Leonardo Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a master piece because it can stand against the test of time. Ice sculptures on the other hand could not even stand up against a hair dryer.

Sapporo does have some good, indoor attractions, like a brewery and a chocolate factory. When people ask about holidays in Japan, the Japanese Tourist Board does not answer ninja, sumo, sushi, chopsticks, or the nation who has been on the receiving end of the most nuclear bombs; they say beer and chocolate.

The best and worst thing in Sapporo was in fact the chocolate factory. Every factory tour you go on there are tasting areas and cafes where you can eat, but this little ripper had itself an all-you-can-eat cake buffet. And it was awesome. I have never been that sick on sweets before, even in my childhood I did not get much of a chance. I must have had myself five or so plates of cake and tarts and two pots of tea. So good.

When the nausea set in we were leaving the buffet, via the gift shop of course, so I just shoved everything in my pockets that was on the table, rather than putting things like my video camera away. Every pocket was full.

Tea drinkers might be aware that when you drink tea, it just goes straight through you, and when you have two pots, you will spend the next three days peeing. I needed my first wee within five minutes of leaving the factory, and fifteen minutes later I found my first available toilet.

The odd thing about Japan, but not the only one I assure you, is how mental they are on their hygiene. They are so obsessed about not wanting to touch things almost every toilet you walk into has automatic everything. Therefore I was a little surprised, and a little shocked, that this toilet had the traditional western twisting taps. I was also a little surprised and a little shocked about the fact that the traditional western twisting taps had left hand thread. No longer was it “righty tighty, lefty loosey”, and it took me a while and almost a dislocated shoulder to work that one out.

Before I washed my hands I walked quickly to the toilet. I fumbled at my fly, but I had too much stuff in the way. So I then thought it was a good idea to unpack my coat pockets onto the shelf above the urinal; that way I would have better access to my gear and able to hold my jacket away from it.

So onto the shelf went my maps, gloves, scarf, used tickets and my video camera.

The unfortunate thing is that my video camera was facing to my left, towards the door, and at first I thought nothing of it, and then the moment I started making water a Japanese man walked in. He strolled up to the urinal on my left, unzipped, saw the camera, re-zipped and left. He did not say a word. Or wash his hands.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Reasons to stop swearing

A study in the UK has shown that people who swear have the capacity to endure pain for longer. After putting 64 volunteers’ hands in freezing cold water Dr Richard Stephens from the University of Keele in Staffordshire England, found that with swearing they could handle the pain for a longer period of time. It sounded like a little bit of a stretch to me; I was swearing throughout the entire article and it did not lessen the pain once.

My girlfriend has commented a few times on the frequency of my swearing and after watching the video of the ultra marathon I did recently, I can see why. It was a good 20mins of gratuitous f and s bombs. Granted that I was pretty buggered at the time, but it is not an excuse, but more so the point – have I lost the ability to communicate?

I did swear growing up, but my swearing problem developed from a long period of working away in a swearing dense environment. Even the women I worked with at the time would drop a c bomb without blinking – sometimes people were c’s that rhymed with punts, and there is no way around it. The time has come to fix it, so here are 10 reasons to stop swearing.

  1. It lowers the effectiveness of the curse. If I call you a dickhead, I want people to say “Whoa, that guy must be a dickhead” and not “meh, he says that about everybody”.

  2. It does make you more of a Bogan. Do you want to admire the view of an empty Commodore shell from the couch on the front veranda? Enough said.

  3. Swearing does make you sound more aggressive. As a guy with a smart mouth and a history of broken noses, I do not need any more reasons for drunks to hit me.

  4. Cheap laughs will only fill your soul so much. Think of something clever to say; people will not always be shocked like four-year-olds when someone utters a rude comment. Stick to fart jokes for that result.

  5. Swearing limits your ability to describe things; I understand that you are tired/frustrated/overworked/drunk/post coitus but is that any reason to describe it “fucked”?

  6. Professionalism aside, it will do your career a world of good to limit swearing. Unless you are a writer for People magazine for example.

  7. Swearing proves that you are down to earth and not stuck up, but gratuitous swearing shows a lack of respect for the people around you. Everybody deserves your respect until proved otherwise and you may have just proved otherwise to everybody in the room.

  8. In making you approachable swearing does help a fraction, but the relationship is not linear; the more you swear does not make you more approachable. Unless you are trying to attract police offices with capsicum spray. If you break your leg, drop a couple, if you stump your toe, toughen up.

  9. Swearing will limit the time you will be around children. Not in a weird do-you-want-to-see-the-puppy-in-my-van kind of way, but in limiting the time other parents would let their kid’s hangout with your kids. A young child has moved in next door to me, with his mother obviously, but I would not let a child go to his house to play, not with us cursing Bogans sitting on a couch on the veranda next door.

  10. It will stop the boffins doing bullshit research and start spending their grants on things that matter. I'm pretty sure that cancer thing is still kicking around.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Locked in nut

As an engineer, it is a general policy that I do not handle tools. There is a reason why tradespeople do what they do, and there is a reason why I just stand around looking useless, because if you give me a screwdriver I am still mostly useless.

On the October long weekend last year, my Girlfriend and I were planning on going out to Monarto Zoo just outside of Adelaide. We met at my place, we got in my car – which I had for only a year at that time – filled it up with petrol and checked the air pressure. After making sure everything was shipshape, we set off on our 45mins journey down the Prince Highway.

Upon leaving the petrol station, I was hearing an odd sound coming from the car. I pulled into another petrol station and evaluated the situation trying to look as masculine as I could. I had picked up a text screw in my right rear tire and I was about to get a flat. There was a long period of swearing. My Girlfriend pointed out the irony of only just checking the air pressure.

After seeing the screw, I started emptying the boot and reassured my girlfriend that we would still be on our way. I got out the spare, the jack, and the tools. Luckily I have had plenty of practice in changing tires on my older cars and there was no need to contact the RAA.

First I got the tire spanner out to loosen the wheel nuts. It did not fit. There was a long period of swearing. I put everything back into the boot, and I drove to the nearest auto part dealer that was open on a public holiday (luckily car lovers do not like to spend time relaxing on a day off).

I bought one of the T shaped multi-sized tire spanner thingy’s, and it was awesome. Four out of the five nuts did not stand a chance, but the fifth one put me on my back. I had not seen anything like it before. All of my previous cars were circa 1983-1992, all with stock wheels and one or two hub caps still attached.

The nut was not hexagonal like a normal nut is. It was round with two little pits. There was a long period of swearing. I stormed back inside the auto part shop.

“What the fuck is going on? What sort of piece of shit nut is this on my car?”

Doesn’t the T spanner fit sir?” asked the shop attendant professional enough to be oblivious to my swearing.

“It fit for most of them, all but fucking one. This piece of shit is not a normal nut, it has round fucking edges.”

“Do you have mags?” asked a customer, “it sounds like a lock nut.”

“What the fuck is a lock nut?”

“A lock nut is used to stop people from stealing your mags. Is this a new car?”

By now I was starting to realise that I am still useless. “Yeah, I’ve only had it for a year. First time I’ve had to change a tire for it though.”

“There should be an adaptor in either your glove box, or around where you spare tire is kept”. The customer looked at me with a questioned look. As if assessing if my reason were a valid one and he had not just busted me in an attempt to join the lucrative stock wheel theft market.

My ego burst and flew about the room like a deflating balloon. I thanked both the customer and the shop attendant, apologised for my language, and scurried out of the store.

Sure enough, there was an adaptor for the cursed lock nut. It came off easily. I changed the tire, the spare was a normal non-mag rim, and therefore I used the normal wheel nuts that were stored with the aforementioned cursed adaptor. I found them along with another adaptor that would have let me use my original wheel spanner fit the nuts on the mag. There was a long period of swearing.

We took my Girlfriend's car to the zoo. And she drove.