Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Cutting the Mustard

"Cut the Mustard" - what does it mean? What are its origins? I have been pondering these questions since I saw the plastic squeezable bottle of mild American mustard on the morning tea table when I came in. How do you cut a liquid - but I think you do - cut whisky for example -which essentially means adding just the right amount of water (maybe ice). But where does "cut the mustard" come few? There is some suggestion that it might be about soldiers being mustered - and only the ones who passed muster were called on to fight - or about not being able to harvest (cut) mustard (plants). Or not being able to cut very tiny round mustard seeds. The general consensus is that if you can't cut the mustard, you can't make the grade, are somehow sub-par etc etc ... but what a funny way to say it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Handwriting is on my mind at the moment ... I'm reading a novel (Last Writes) about a forensic handwriting analyst - and I have started following a blog where one of the key focus areas is handwriting and how to improve yours. It's quite interesting (both of them) - especially for someone who loves handwriting. One of the recommended exercises is filling out crossword puzzles neatly, or writing out your favourite quotes, and, of course, practice ... and lots of it. But it has to  be good practice - mindful of the implements you use, taking care to form each letter, and aiming for consistency. Also recommended - keeping (and dating) your practice sheets so you can come back to them later. The thing that strikes me about this advice is that it seems that the handwriting is an end product, more important than what is being communicated ... when "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." is one of the suggested practice exercises.
I wonder how Claudia Rose, handwriting expert, would cope with line after line of handwriting practice and what she would be able to tell about the writer ... their motivation ... state of mind. She's currently holed up in a sect hideaway looking for evidence of less-than-pure-of-heart converts as she seeks out an-about-to-be-three-year-old girl who is about to be given over to be "sacrificed" (not literally - or so we're being led to believe at this stage) into a subsect of the sect.
Meanwhile, closer to home, I'm wondering about the difference in writing - and if there is one - depending on whether writing is done digitally by typing, or through transcription Software, or by handwriting. Probably different input methods work best for different uses.  I prefer handwriting unless I'm in a hurry - or in a typing mood!

Monday, October 10, 2016


One of the "quizzes" doing the rounds on FaceBook at the moment is "Your Life Quote" - which is fairly easily arrived at.  You select the provided link, then "sign in with FaceBook" and it gives you a quote ... and, the good news is that if you don't like the quote you get .. you can go again (and possibly even  again and again and again) to see if you like that quote better!  I know I did!  But why would people believe that something as generic as FaceBook is (as it must be) could provide something of personal significance?  Who's your soulmate? Who makes you laugh the most? You get the idea.  And you know they can only take names from your FB friends, possibly even friends of friends, or from your contacts (if you've allowed access).  The whole idea intrigues me because I know (from my cyber-security friend) that you should never click on those links (they can be as dangerous as opening that email attachment) but I know I keep doing it!


We used to play Trivia regularly on a Monday night and while we often had some good scores, there was another team who often had great scores, only missing one or two answers some nights - other nights not doing so well at all.  In the end, after a change in format, and because the night dragged on for too long and various other reasons, we stopped going ... and have been trying to find the same trivia game at another venue.  I've sent emails to the company that supplies the trivia questions but they have not responded, and when I did ring their number, I was told person who managed the Trivia was out of the country.  But yesterday, quite by accident, we stumbled across a game - at the Nerang RSL.  We were having a late lunch and at some point I noticed what I thought were fairly familiar Trivia sheets ... and they were ... and Trev's Trivia Show.   And even though I recognised the sheets, Sooz did a better job ... recognising someone we knew from our old Trivia - none other than one member of the "performing incredibly well most of the time" team. Hmmm ... we thought ... hmmmm.  Could this be the secret of their success?  I suggested that it might be that they had stopped going to the Monday night Trivia and be coming here instead - and Sooz was inclined to agree until she made eye contact with the man in  question ... and he looked away (guiltily?).  What a turn-up that would be ... attending Trivia a day before so they could win the half-time game ($15 voucher), the full-time game ($50 meal voucher) and the Baffler (drink vouchers for the table)!  And here we were thinking they were just good at Trivia ... except for those nights when they weren't.  The question for me is why anyone would want to cheat at Trivia at all?  Surely the reason for playing is to see how well you do using your own resources? 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

A mix of words and pictures

Once upon a time we had "mixtapes"  - a hand-made compilation of music (typically copyrighted songs taken from other sources - thank you Wikipedia) recorded in a specific order ... although with shuffle on an MP3 player these days, that's not always necessary.  Before we did it though, they were typically compiled by DJs in the 70s and 80s who "mixed" and recorded them onto cassette tapes - hence the name.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they had a less eclectic batch of songs - and possibly shorter - than on the mixtapes I currently have on my phone - which are running at 40, 41 and 55 tracks long.  I don't play the songs right through - sometimes just listening to the first few seconds of a song reminds me of where it's from and why I like it ... most of them are "favourites" because they remind me of people or places or ... sometimes something else which I can't quite describe, just evokes a particular feeling ... a bit like visual art.  There was one piece ... a painting ... I heard about recently where people would look at it - and start crying. It sounded to me like it had "E Flat" in it - and while that sounds a little out there, when you think that vision and hearing both relate to "waves", anything is possible!  And who knew there was at least one book about such things - James Elkins' "Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings".  Of course, art, in its many forms, has been making people cry for about as long as it's been around - and the "why" is the subject of much speculation and discussion ... and seriously worth a bit more consideration.  I remember someone saying once that an artist spends their life trying to create that perfect piece and then, if/when they do, trying to do it again.  You have to think that part of that drive must be left in the piece ... perhaps it's that which strikes a chord in the rest of us.

To remake or not to remake?

Why do they have to remake movies? I watched the remake of Poltergist today - possibly because of the clown news out of the U.S. (nothing to do with their Presidential race). Over the last few months there have been random (?) sightings of clowns - not nice ones - around various areas of the States. One with a machete apparently even tried to lure a woman into the forest - although I'm not sure that even something as fun (to some folk) as a clown would be able to lure anyone anywhere if it was carrying a machete! I'm not one that;s afraid of clowns - there's even a name for it - but I do know some folk who are! It could be they have seen IT (the Stephen Kong miniseries) with Pennywise the clown or Poltergeist - old or new - with its horrific clowns. Come to think if it even the Simpsons with their Krusty the Clown also has the less than nice clown bed that Bart sleeps in in a Tree house of Horror. For such figures of mirth you have to wonder how clowns ended up with such a bad reputation and why they're always called so-and-so The Clown - as if we can't actually tell that they're clowns by how they look!  But back to the remake of Poltereist - which I'm not giving a rating but which was vastly different and oh so much less subtle than the original.  I understand that technology changes when it comes to movie-making but there was nothing wrong with the old one and so much right with it that it makes me wonder if there isn't any way they can come up with new ideas for movies rather than doing remakes. 

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Lost my way

Nooooooo .... is it really months since I last made an entry here?  Alas, I think so ... I fear somewhere over the last couple of years, I have lost my way - doing shares on FaceBook rather than taking the time to write.  Not that I haven't been doing some jottings in that time ... there was Jannie Jaunts and This is what's happening ... but it's time to turn my attention back this way for a while.  Hopefully I haven't forgotten how.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brain training?

I'm currently doing a daily dose of Brain Training via Lumiosity.  Whether it can actually be called "brain training" is under discussion after the US Federal Trade Commission earlier this month announced a settlement with Lumosity over charges that advertising its games as "brain training" and that they were designed to improve cognitive skills such as attention and memory and that they were capable of improving an individual's performance on everyday tasks may not be supportable.  Either way, I'm prepared to give it a go after my brother said it was helping him ... and I think there are some games there that do stretch me ... especially with visual memory tasks.  One of the hardest things though is remembering what the rules of the games are ... and yes, mostly I do the traing "daily" but sometimes I don't get to it.  I wonder how much science the FTC would need to see to be convinced that it did support Lumosity's claims.  Maybe it's a matter that the games are "designed" to help with brain training ... and they don't always work. 
Some people don't need to do the training of course ... they just have it.  Like the time my sister and I were peeling potatoes and popping them into a saucepan of water ... and then a potato went in and the water was close to overflowing.  We angsted over how to carry the saucepan to the sink so we could pour some water out until my partner suggest we "take a potato out".  Oh my goodness ... what brilliance!  One of my work colleagues came very close to that level of brilliance yesterday ... we were trying to print out a file which had too long a name - once the directory information was added. We couldn't change the file name, nor copy it, nor get it to do anything really ... every time we tried the name "too long" rewarded our efforts.  Finally, Del solved the problem ... she renamed the folder the file was in!  Bravo! 

No. 1 in shoplifting?

Why are razor blades the most shoplifted item in the world?  What do people do with them ... besides shaving, cutting drugs, eating them?  What else can you do with them.  Artists use them, people use them for cutting things ... but you would have to think there are safer ways where you're not going to risk losing a finger.  And how on earth did they decide blades were the most desirable target for our light-fingered friends?  When we discussed the possibilities at Trivia we considered chocolate and other confectionery, pens, and other things but we didn't give razor blades a single thought.  And how would you best test their answer?  A quick interweb search shows that razor blades (Gillette Quartro or something like that) is on the list, but around 4 or 5.  Gourmet meat and expensive perfume are right up there as well.

Starry starry night

Normal bulbs around the world are being replaced with LED (light emitting diodes) which, while they are energy efficient and much cheaper to run, do generate much more light pollution.  This means that even though astronauts can see Earth, Earth may not be able to see them.  I wonder if it would be different if they gave them a red hue - like the red lighting they use in some centres in the US (and possibly elsewhere) where all the exterior illumination is red, which throws very little light pollution and makes the environment great for star-gazing. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Heavenly bodies

$4 million ... that was what NASA had originally budgetted for Earth defence a few years ago - and while that could be defence against anything (or anyone), I think they meant asteroids and other space bodies.  Well, the good news is that the budget has just been increased to $50 million and there is now a Department at NASA with the responsibility of keeping us all safe from "potential doomsday asteroids".
As the report said: The Planetary Defense Coordination Office will oversee all of the space agency's efforts to detect and track near-earth objects, and coordinate with other federal agencies as well as other nations if and when it becomes necessary. 
It doesn't say more than that ... so people can use their imagination to work out what that might mean.  The Head of the Department, with the title Planetary Defense Officer, would probably know though.
"The formal establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office makes it evident that the agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defense," Lindley Johnson said in NASA news release.
Word is that, closer to home, there's also a US plan to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse. 

Sounds rough

There was something in one of the media outlets the other day asking why it was that animals make different sounds in different languages.   I've not had the much experience with animals overseas but it does seem like they would make more or less the same sounds the world over ... but apparently you wouldn't think so if you heard "Old McDonald Had a Farm" sung in different languages.  It just makes me want to travel overseas and listen to some animals ... like the cats throughout Rome, some bears in Yosemite, dogs in San Ramon, and some otters in Scotland.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Changing times

The only thing constant is change ... isn't that what they say?  One of the cleverest things I think a barista can do is coffee art ... drawing something in the foam on the top of your drink.  I've seen people draw some amazing pictures ... and somewhere deep in my photo archives I have some wonderful shots of those pictures.  But it looks as though this might be a dying art ... according to recent reports coming from the CES in the US, a company has invented a device which will be able to print images on the top of your coffee.  The "stencil" will come in hundreds of designs and will be customisable for company logo, football team emblems, almost anything.  It means the days of the leaf design on the flat white are well and truly numbered.  And while this may be "progress", it does feel as though the world has somehow become a sadder place.

Word/s of the year

Even though it says on social media that any quiz you do on Facebook can lead to your data become less than private, it seems very difficult to resist them.  It was interesting that both a friend of mine and I had obviously both done the same quiz ... what is your word for the year.  I tried my name and came up with "Joy" - which was fair enough; but I wondered if it might be rigged in some way ... so I put in my nickname and the quiz came back with "Innovation" - much better ... but all in all not a bad combination.  When I was telling my friend this, she told me her words of the year were "Beauty" and "Simplicity".  Not bad ... not bad at all ... but then I wondered how she was able to get two words ... had she put in two names as well?  Well, as it turns out she hadn't put in any names.  She had just decided that she would have two areas to focus on this year and there were ... Beauty and Simplicity.  She didn't even know there was a quiz on Facebook!

It can't be true!

Who knew that something on the internet could be false, untrue, even a fib!  I refer of course to the story I read some time ago .. and why would I doubt it ... even question it ... that Winston Churchill's level of anger in the WarRoom could be judged by if his teeth flew out of his mouth while he was shouting - and then smashed against the wall.  The false teeth were of unconventional construction ... they were made of wood.  And I believed that until last night at Trivia when we were trying to work out the baffler - one of the questions was "I used to be made of wood" - and, of course, I trotted out the Winston Churchill story.  St questioned it ... and based on that, I went for another look on the internet ... and what do you know, there was a different story this time ... about the sale of Winston's Churchill dentures ... and they weren't made of wood!  I felt cheated!