Thursday, 10 March 2011

Smoking

This week the government has announced plans to ban the public display of cigarettes and tobacco in shops. It's odd to think that fags have finally swapped places with contraceptives and "feminine hygiene" items (now openly, if coyly, advertised on TV) as the unmentionable pariah product.

It's been 22 years since I last had a cigarette. Twenty two years and a couple of months, actually, as I gave up on New Year's Eve 1989. That's 7730-odd days without tobacco, and one of the few New Year's resolutions I have either made or kept. I gave up counting the hours and minutes some time ago, so I think I'm probably pretty much over it now. I remember we were in Pembrokeshire, I had a sore throat, and we were contemplating "starting a family", as people say. The medical advice was that my partner should give up smoking, so it seemed only fair that I should, too.

The sacrifices we make for children... The worst of it was that I immediately put on two stone (12.5 kilos) which I have never managed to lose, going from a thin man with a 30 inch waist to a tubby man with, ah, a much larger one. It doesn't help, of course, reaching for a biscuit when what one really wants is a cigarette, or cancelling all squash sessions in favour of afternoons on the sofa mucking about with Play-Doh.

Just the other day, I was looking for something, and wondered whether it might be inside one of the old tobacco tins I still use for storing odds and ends. Wonderful things, tobacco tins; airtight, compact, robust, and decorative. I opened one, and got a brief whiff of Golden Virginia, ca. 1980. Now, as it happens, I have a condition known as "anosmia", which means my sense of smell is practically non-existent, but there are a few smells that can break through, and tobacco is one of them. I love the smell of tobacco.

In fact, I used to love everything about smoking. I heard a radio programme recently where the Scottish painter Jack Vettriano was talking about his extensive collection of smoking paraphernalia, and I completely understood his obsession. Lighters, ashtrays, cigarette packets, cigarette cards, colourful adverts and shop placards from the heroic days of British typography... It's all so evocative of what was once one of life's simple, uncomplicated pleasures.

Nearly everyone used to smoke. I have a particularly vivid memory of being about four and watching my mother lighting a cigarette from a red hot cooking ring, with her eyes half-shut against the heat, before we sat down together in the kitchen for a nice cup of tea (little kids used to drink tea, too, in those days -- milk and two sugars, lovely!). She used to smoke the Guards brand, I remember, which had a particularly graphical white, black and red pack. The adverts ("They've got be GREAT to be Guards") often featured a mounted Life Guards kettle drummer which, as she often remarked, was what her Uncle Jim had been. It all seemed to fit.

Of course, in some trades, smoking was practically compulsory. Opening the door of any teachers' common room at lunchtime before the late 70s was like opening a fire-exit to Hell. A multi-branded fug from the massed ciggies and pipes would billow out in a solid toxic wall. "Passive smoking" is far too feeble a description of what must have been happening to any non-smokers on the staff. "Smokeboarding", perhaps.

I think it's true to say we were the last generation of "natural" smokers, growing up in respectable families and institutions where smoking was entirely normal, although we were all by then fully aware of the health risks. It's probably also true to say that the youthful fashion for smoking cannabis that swept the country in the late 60s prolonged the decline of smoking among the health-conscious middle classes. I'm sure I, like thousands of others, would never have started smoking tobacco if it hadn't been a prerequisite for getting high (in the UK, that is, where resin was then much more common than "herbal" cannabis). Crazy, really -- it's like using methylated spirits as the basis of a cocktail.

The best craic at work, I found, was always to be had at the smokers' table. So much so that -- even when we had finally been banned from the library common room and had to congregate over the road in the Staff Club for our morning coffee break, and our number had dwindled to three or four actual smokers -- a good number of honorary smokers would join us, to take part in the tobacco-fuelled badinage. Now, of course, it would have to be a smokers' pavement corner -- you still see sad little clusters of the poor sods hunched in the rain, but I suspect the quality of their conversation has diminished to phatic level.

I found the simple act of hand-rolling a cigarette very therapeutic. I never really enjoyed manufactured cigarettes, but the first few roll-ups from a freshly opened half ounce of tobacco were bliss. A light tobacco like Golden Virginia or A1 was my preference, using blue packet Rizla papers, of course -- thinner, and therefore requiring more dexterity to hand roll than the red or green ones, but giving you less burning paper to inhale. I did know people whose preference was for a dark, tarry tobacco, like Old Holborn, and some might even go so far as to roll it in liquorice-flavoured papers, but that, frankly, is a revolting combination, like sucking a burning Liquorice Allsort.


You're never alone with a Strand...
© 1976 Fiona Thompson

When the time came to give it up, I found that it was the rolling ritual that I missed more acutely than the actual smoking. I discovered that if I mimed rolling, lighting and inhaling a phantom cigarette, the craving could be held at bay. Unfortunately, this is not something you can do in public, without attracting the wrong sort of attention. But, at the end of a long day, it was oddly relaxing to pretend to have a couple of cigarettes. Somehow, though, I have never found that pretending to have a glass of whisky hits the spot in quite the same way.

How long will it be before smoking is made illegal, I wonder, or mothers are reported to the Social Services for smoking in the company of four-year old children? Perhaps they already are. It's hard to imagine what will then be next on the righteous puritans' checklist... Alcohol? Insufficient warm clothing in cold weather? Unwarranted pessimism?

It's enough to make you ... No, no, no, I mustn't go there. Not yet, anyway. Though getting into my old trousers again would be nice.

53 comments:

Martin H. said...

I also missed the act of rolling a cigarette, after giving up. Nearly 32 years now, without a puff. I stopped, the day our daughter was born, having had several years of consuming around a half ounce of Old Holborn during gruelling 14 hour days of road re-surfacing. Now, there's a healthy combination. If the fumes didn't get you, one of your psychopathic colleagues, might. Happy days!

Mike C. said...

Have a pretend one now, Martin -- here, have one of mine!

You certainly don't need liquorice papers with added road tar -- mmmm.

Mike

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Well, here's to a long life for "unwarranted pessimism".

Mike C. said...

Cheers, Bron -- here, you have a pretend one, too, it'll do you a power of good. I've got plenty.

The day optimism becomes compulsory is the day I take to the hills... I'm with comrade Gramsci: we need "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will".

Unfortunately, we tend to see the opposite at work in our institutions -- obligatory belief in half-cocked projects, which everyone immediately disowns as soon as they start to wobble...

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

An excellent post, Mike.

I actually gave up my occasional smoking on December 31st 1989. I haven't smoked since - I don't expect a medal, it's just a fact.

However, I grew up, much like you, in a family that almost actively promoted it. I quite enjoyed smoking - the weekend in Chellington working for the local Diocese in c.1974 where I managed to smoke some 90 Capstan Full Strength is proof of that - but, ultimately, it was easy to give up.

The one thing I really wished was available - and again, Mike, your post reminds me of this - is that I always enjoyed a) Gauloises and b) hand rolling tobacco.

Imagine my chagrin not long after the 1st of January 1990 when Gauloises hand-rolling tobacco became available.

I'm either ahead of my time or just basically unlucky.

This morning's news about pensions for the Public Sector suggests the latter.

'Ere, pass those cyber-fags over here, will you?

Mike C. said...

NINETY Capstans in one weekend? Blimey, Dave. Sort of reminds me of the bit I left out -- assembling a "tar baby special" out of the previous night's dog ends in the ash tray. Yuk.

There you go, have two -- put one behind your ear for later.

Mike

Gavin McL said...

Well I've never smoked but my father did and I loved the smell of the unsmoked tobacco. He smoked a pipe and for years afterwards you could get a whiff of the tobacco when you opened one of the tins which were pressed into service for holding odds and ends round the house. Erinmore was his brand.
The tins were just the right size for bits and pieces and robust - margarine tubs just aren't as good.

Mike C. said...

Gavin,

Pipe smoking is a whole other area, of course -- it was old-fashioned even when I was young, and irredeemably associated with tweed jackets and leather elbow patches. It was something you took up at university in the pre-60s era, and seemed to be more of a sort of scent-marking activity of "male only" areas...

I have not known many pipe smokers, but in my few encounters I have been impressed by the way a few puffs can fill a room with smoke -- the pipes were the heavy artillery of the teachers' common room.

I'm surprised no-one sells new, empty tobacco tins for household use -- plastic tubs lack all character, and don't age well.

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

Actually, Mike, they do - we have a sort of "hippy shop" called The Wharf where you can buy them.Also, for some illogical reason, cobblers seem to sell, ahem, "smoking paraphernalia".

They usually have paintings of aliens with large reefers on them.

It's a funny old world.

As for pipes - some of my colleagues from work (myself included) take pipes out with us and pretend to be college professors (we don't smoke them).

As I said, it's a funny old world.

Mike C. said...

"some of my colleagues from work (myself included) take pipes out with us and pretend to be college professors (we don't smoke them)"

I see. Right... And no smoking is involved? Are you sure about that?

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

Yep.

Mike C. said...

Interesting...

I'll have to see if I can raise a party of professors, who will pretend to be teachers, and we could all meet up and see whether we cancel each other out or create a pipe-force so powerful that the world will finally have to take notes.

"If you strike me down, I shall become more professorful than you could possibly imagine!"

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

Of course you have to understand that none of us has any actual experience of Uxbr. . . sorry, Oxbridge so it's all imagined!

Anyway, you're all welcome at the Keralam Indian Restaurant followed by a lock-in at the Dove Public House, pipes at the ready and the last one standing pays the bar bill.

Tony_C said...

Great, if I ever catch up with you in the flesh, you can roll my fags for me while we commune! I'm sure your obsessive nature would guarantee a perfect smoke every time.

Don't know whether you ever saw a situation comedy called "The IT Crowd". It was basically awful but with flashes of comedic genius, including a scenario where all the smokers are outside, plotting the revolution. Tickled me, anyway.

Didn't you take part in the Sixth Form fad for pipe-smoking, then? Me and Andy Haigh used to buy a different brand every week. I'd still have all the tins, too, if I hadn't left them at the mercy of my mum. Why haven't women, in the pursuit of equality with men, taken up never throwing anything out, eh?

I'd enclose a pinch of virtual Van Nelle Zwaar with this for you to get your nose round, but I don't know how, and anyway you probably wouldn't open it, would you?

Mike C. said...

Obsessive nature? Moi?

It must be truly difficult being a smoker, these days. Smokers are practically hosed down on sight in most public spaces -- the idea of smoking in a cinema is as quaint now as playing the national anthem at the end of the show.

Mike

Martyn Cornell said...

I don't know why I never became a smoker, given that I have a reasonably addictive personality: I spent enough time in pubs and around other smokers. I even married a smoker, and SHE never gave up, despite being an asthmatic, ffs, until a bout of pneumonia four years ago finally taught her. Maybe it was the sight when I was young of the soggy inch of roll-up apparently glued permanently to my grandfather's lower lip that put me off. He was a pipe smoker too, as was my other grandfather: there's a photograph of me, aged two or so, puffing on one of those kid's bubble pipes sitting next to one grandfather, who was smoking the real thing. Cigars: I love the smell of burning cigars, but I can't really be bothered to faff around with them. So if you've got any virtual cigars, Mike …

Word verification: upxxme.

Mike C. said...

Martyn,

Yes,I think disgusting old men are the anti-tobacco campaigners' best weapon. Given the gender swing in smoking, I suppose we can look forward to a generation of disgusting old women -- mind, I've always liked those pictures of ancient hillbilly women with a clay pipe.

I never understood cigars -- what's the point of smoking something you don't inhale? You're welcome to this entire imaginary humidor of prime Cuban Cohibas, given to me by Fidel personally for services to imaginary world revolution.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Ain't bovvered m8. Virtual spliff, anyone?

Checkword: conwifi. Is that what they call "piggy-backing", where you ride your neighbour's unprotected wifi? I hope we're not compromising your blog security, giving away this sensitive info, btw, Mike?

Mike C. said...

No, that's what is so amusing (?) about the verification words -- they're made up on the fly by Google's Blogger software, not by me.

The fact that they seem so often to be appropriate to the matter in hand is either (a) proof of a loving God, who amuses Him/Her/Itself by these little revelations or (b) proof that all such coincidences are just that, coincidences...

I think I will always be bothered by the coincidence of the sun and the moon being pretty much exactly the same size as seen from earth, mind you...

Mike

Mike C. said...

Sorry, been holding on to this virtual spliff too long. Back to you.

Do people still call them "spliffs"? It sounds as ironic as "reefer" -- funny how some things don't change in 30 years, and other things (like words for "good") change every other week.

Funny, I'm suddenly feeling very hungry...

Mike

Tony_C said...

Cheers. Phphphwwwaaaaagh! Whooooooohh! Nice.

Yep. That's what we call it.

Funny you should mention the sun/moon thing as it was brought to my attention recently (coincidence?), and has been exercising me somewhat. Almost as if "someone" had left it as proof it wasn't all just a big accident,isn't it?

Veriword: kenaude
That's easy: it's Latin for "Ken's listening", isn't it?

Mike C. said...

"Almost", yes, but a signed confession would be more convincing.

Somewhere in the human brain is a hard-wired mechanism that has got us a long way, in evolutionary terms, by spotting connections between A and B that are not immediately obvious. This mechanism seems to love a coincidence and insists they must *mean* something. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

Every unexpected noise is not a lurking predator, but it did no harm on the savannah to make that assumption. Does no harm on a dark street at night, either.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Not sure what you're getting at with the "signed confession" remark. In what form would such a document from (presumably) a superhuman purposive entity be executed?

Have you tried calculating (perhaps with a little help from a professional client?) the odds on a random satellite of a random planet having the property of same apparent size as said planet's star? Fairly long, I imagine. Now multiply that by what you consider the odds of a random planet being inhabited by creatures capable of appreciating the concept of "size". Beyond co-incidence yet? OK what about the triple: that the moon's orbital period is the same as its diurnal period? Multiply them all together to get the overall odds.(This argument contains a fallacy - spotted it?)

The human tendency to make causative links between things is primal, yes, and can lead to avoiding cracks in the pavement etc., but it's also the basis of scientific theory, isn't it? Isn't our basic understanding of the Copernican Solar System based on explaining the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies. Shouldn't we be looking for an explanation of the Moon's position, size and behaviour?

Check Word: uniedes (United Nations In Extraresolutionary Destructive Events Scandal?)

Mike C. said...

Tony,

The "signed confession" was kind of a joke, really.

FWIW, my thoughts on this matter may be read in the post "Blogs Which Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home" which is here:

http://idiotic-hat.blogspot.com/2008/11/blogs-that-know-when-their-owners-are.html

The only thing I'd add is that a sample of one doesn't prove much. But if it turned out (in, say a thousand years time) that every known planet that had evolved intelligent life also had a moon that looked exactly the same size as its star, then I'd say there was something going on that required explanation... (or a signed confession). But first, let's find another planet with intelligent life.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Hmmm... any luck with that, yet?

Actually, the fallacy is that that's exactly what you don't need to do.

We ARE a random planet (or let's assume we are, Genesis etc. notwithstanding), so we just need to calculate the probability that A random planet has a satellite and star with apparent equal size. Of course "equal" in this case means "approximately equal within limits we accept". The apparent size of both actually varies with time. It may not have escaped your attention that the Moon was recently at its nearest (and ergo, apparent largest) for some time. The Guardian last weekend(?) had a pretty picture in the regular centre-spread, so you probably knew that. Sometimes there are coronal(?) eclipses.

HOW you calculate that is beyond my paltry recollection of the relevant maths - I can't even do those coin-tossing probability conundrums set by Maslanka in his Pyrghic Puzzles (ibid.), though I can usually follow the solution (but only if I'm wearing my lucky underpants).

Mike C. said...

Tony,

I never really understood probability. I mean, I can see its usefulness as a tool in certain circumstances but if, for example, I discover tomorrow I've won the lottery, is that extremely "improbable" event *proof* of anything? In the end, everything is just what it is, no matter how unlikely, isn't it?

My understanding (which doesn't go far) is that to throw 100 sixes in a row is not any more remarkable, from a probability p-o-v, than not doing so. The probability relates to the situation before the dice is rolled, not after. Or maybe not. As I say, I don't really get it.

But, I can't believe that our failure to understand or explain why peculiar things are the way they are is, perversely, some sort of metaphysical clue. We are just monkeys, with an inadequate grasp of the universe, but there is no Supreme Monkey, compiling cosmic crossword puzzles for us.

One very likely thing, though is that in less than 100 years we'll probably discover that everything we think we know now is laughably wrong.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Yes, Mike, if you win the lottery it proves you are a mug who got lucky. Only a mug would waste a £ on such ridiculous odds, but paradoxically some mug wins nearly every week.

"to throw 100 sixes in a row is not any more remarkable, from a probability p-o-v, than not doing so".

That's not correct (otherwise you'd throw 100 6's every second time you tried it, on average); it's just that it's no less probable than any other particular sequence of throws.

There are six possible outcomes when you throw 1 die, and each of thease can combine with six outcomes on a second throw, giving 6x6=36 possible outcomes for throwing two dice, and in general 6n for n dice. The number of (equally likely) possibilites grows "exponentially" as n increases (n is the "exponent" of 6 in the calculation). Throwing 100 6's in a row would be remarkable, not because it is inherently more likely than any other sequence, but because of the simplicity of the "pattern" and hence its special significance to our pattern-seeking psychology.

Perhaps there is no Supreme Monkey, but there is definitely a supreme Monkey Puzzle Tree (araucaria) who compiles THE best crosswords for the Guardian, including (I think) the one in early 2000 which included STEVENAGE and ANTONY in the lights, as well as many other words of special significance to me personally. Coincidence?

Tony_C said...

Oops! Your comment-box dropped all my Wordpad formatting when I cut-and-pasted!

It's not 6n ("six times n"), but 6^n ("six to the power n")

You'll have to guess where the italics and boldface should go (or get a better comment editor)

Tony

Mike C. said...

"the one in early 2000 which included STEVENAGE and ANTONY in the lights, as well as many other words of special significance to me personally. Coincidence?"

Um, yes. A good coincidence, if you're a collector, but: yes.

Alternatively: no, you've convinced me, now -- a strange force is trying to speak to us, through the medium of crosswords compilers and strange coincidences. It's all so obvious once you're alert to the possibility. Damned if I know what it is trying to say, though...

Take your pick. I prefer "yes", if only because it *sounds* like the saner option when I say it out loud.

Mike


N.B. if you want to format, you are limited to using simple HTML tags for italic, bold, etc.

Tony_C said...

Mike -
Aren't you confusing cosmic "coincidences", like the moon's size, with human ones? There's really no reason why Auracaria (or someone) might not have wanted to send me (not "us" - you don't even DO the thing)a message. I seems a priori unlikely, but doesn't necessarily require the invocation of superhuman entities. It was not hard for me to see the "message", btw. I ignored it.

Then again, you will have heard of the Telegraph(?) compiler who was questioned by MI5 after including the codenames of some of the D-Day landings shortly before the operations began. He, of course, insisted it was just a coincidence and they couldn't prove otherwise.

What is HTML? How would I use it to create a link in a comment?

[Checkword balindi, an anagram of 'inlaid B'. Is that HTML for something?]

Mike C. said...

Ah, well... If you're saying the compiler *might* have known you -- e.g because of your frequent entries to the competition -- and felt like giving you a smile, then that's a different proposition. Always "show your working" is the lesson here.

As to MI5, I suppose they're employed not to believe in coincidence. "The name's Bond, James Bond..." "Really? Me too -- how amazing." "Couldn't hrelp but overhear, but that really is astonishing, my name is also James Bond!" etc.

HTML -- sorry, I forget you've been out of the loop for a while. It's the markup language used to make webpages, and your checkword anagram is remarkably apposite -- a "b" enclosed in angle brackets (the second with a forward slash to close the markup) is the code for "bold" e.g. blimey is made with \ blimey \<\b\> (not sure that will work -- the backslashes are meant to "escape" the angle brackets from HTML's beady eye).

Mike

Mike C. said...

Nope, doesn't work -- look it up!

Mike

Tony_C said...

Yes, I knew that, but I don't know any HTML and don't intend to learn it just to write boldscript on your blog! Or at all, for that matter!

Yes that's one possible theory which would explain such facts as I revealed to ypu about the ANTONY/STEVENAGE Xword, but certainly not MY working, which will not be revealed now or, probably, ever.

I think you would really like cryptic crosswords if you learnt how to do them. They make you look at words and meanings in different ways, and there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of solving a really good one. Try Rufus in Monday's Gaurdian (which I believe you subscribe to). Clever, but not TOO difficult. Phil Jupitus once told me Rufus is the pseudonym of a serving prisoner, but he may be out by now. A lot of his clues are actually straight puns, e.g.: A sick gag(5). RETCH.

Tony

P.S.Lots of people seem to know how to create links in their comments. Why have I got to cut and paste URLS?

[Checkword: precc - an objectionable New Zealander.]

Tony_C said...

Btw, Mike, going back to Cosmic Coincidences (you never thanked me for the probability lesson, did you?), The Rev. Peter Ratcliffe of Carmarthen wrote in the Times on 8th April(?), in reference to the award of the Templeton Prize to Martin Rees:

"...Intelligent Design is not Creationism..... [an] example is the expansion force of the universe after the Big Bang compared with the gravitational force needed to form stars and planets etc. The probability of this happening by chance is 1 in 1x10^60 [1 followed by 60 0's] - or the same chance as firing a bullet at a 1cm target at the end of the observable universe and hitting it."

I can't comment on the scientific accuracy of this statement or its ultimate source. Obviously a real bullet would run out of enery long before that, even if it could escape the Earth's gravitaional field, but you aee his point.

Mike C. said...

Why, where are my manners? Thank you for the probability lesson, Tony!

Still don't get its relevance in this context though -- is hitting the target on the other side of the universe by chance the same as aiming at the target and hitting it? What are the chances of the first raindrop of a shower landing where it actually does? No matter how unlikely, that *is* where it landed.

Do you know Douglas Adams's parable of the puddle? I think it's very wise. It's about the sixth quote down here:

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Douglas_Adams

Mike

Mike C. said...

Tony,

Crossword puzzles -- no, sorry, they don't work for me. Someone explained it all to me long ago ("we hear" = sounds like, "in" = anagram, etc.) and it's a kind of cleverness that simply doesn't excite or entertain me, not least because I'm not clever in that kind of way.

This reminds me that, years ago, I took the Civil Service "fast stream" exam, which is in two parts -- a puzzly-mathematical part and a wordy-language part. I scored badly on the puzzles, but scored so highly on the language part that they passed me anyway. Luckily for me I came to my senses and turned them down -- close thing, I might have ended up as second ambassador's assistant's word-person in Chad or somewhere.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Hi Mike

Had a quick look at the Adams quote and will have to consider it before responding.

Meanwhile on personal messages in crosswords, have you heard about:

http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/861367-man-proposes-via-crossword-puzzle

So it is possible to have a national quality broadsheet let its crossword be hijacked for personal use. In this case the sender and motive were clear to the recipient. In my case, although there was a suggestion to do something, I didn't know who the sender was, or whether so acting would be to my benefit or detriment.

I really must try and get another copy, as the one I kept in my wallet suffered ultimate attrition.

Must fly.

[Checkword: hobnet - now we're cooking!]

Mike C. said...

Tony,

Hmm, something from a source which features "Kate Middleton's face on a jelly bean" and "Jesus's face appears on a tea towel" is not what I'd call the gold standard of peer-reviewed evidence... But I take your point.

I can see how a crossword compiler might enjoy planting messages, given that he knows hundreds of people will be racking their brains over his 16 square inches of chequered newsprint...

Mike

Tony_C said...

The Metro's not my favoured source of news, either, just the first version of the story meeting my Google search for the item I'd heard on BBC R3 (the perverted, truth-twisting propagandists!).

According to R3, it wasn't the compiler sending the message, but the Washington Post going along with Corey What-his-name's desire to propose by crossword. They (allegedly) made no charge for this subversion of their own medium in view of the wholly noble purpose of the venture.

Mike C. said...

Tony,

Glad to hear you're not a Metro reader, and suitably impressed you listen to R3. Are you a Late Junction listener?

Mike

Mike C. said...

Tony,

Now here's a coincidence -- have you seen the latest Wondermark?

http://wondermark.com/723/

Mike

Tony_C said...

Mike

What are wondermarks?

What about the meta-coincidence of that bloke proposing like that just as we were talking about crossword messages?

The key clue by the way, was an excellent example of the most beautiful and satisfying type, not at all like the mechanical "about means backwards, shaken means an anagram" variety you mentioned, one very much in the style of Rufus. It was:

Words that have a certain ring to them. (4,3,5,2).
WILL YOU MARRY ME
(Geddit?)

It's good hanging about in this corner of your blog, innit?

You ready for another virtual spliff, yet?

What's Struan bin on, btw? (Maybe it's just the time of year?).

Mike C. said...

Tony,

"Wondermark" is the web cartoon I mentioned in my post 7th April -- really funny use of collaged 19th c. engravings, you'd like it. The one I linked to is (a) directly relevant to our exchanges above, and (b) coincidentally very timely (or: is it?? Yes: yes it is).

Yes, this is a good place to hang out, a virtual bike-shed. No, ta, that last one gave me a virtual headache, and I ate half a pack of virtual digestives.

N.B. rule #2 is "no commenting on other commenters" except to comment on the substance of their comments. Struan can't help himself, he's a scientist.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Yes Struan's a phenologist, isn't he? ("Maybe it's just the time of year", geddit, now?). I tried chatting him up when I thought he was a female, asking about his name, after (I thought) reading he attended a famous girls' school in your neck of the woods, but couldn't find the blogpost afterwards, which is one reason I stick to certain areas for chit-chat (I like to think of this as "the Smoking Room" of your little club).

Sorry about breaking the (unwritten?) rule. What's rule No1? Don't be rude? Where can I get a copy of the rules? I thought I suggested you should post them somewhere prominent when I first got in touch?

The remark was made because the comic verse (very much my type of thing) seemed out-of-character from what I've seen of his (mostly very interesting, but usually quite serious) comments. Also I thought he might say something if he noticed it, which was a little experiment to see how private the Smoking Room is.

Oops! Done it again!

Struan, my sincerest apologies for any offence caused and thanks for reminding me of "sweeter/meeter ", a cracker!

Tony

PS Mike, how come you never come back on the bits I want you to come back on?!

Mike C. said...

There are no rules, as such, obviously... I simply mean the accepted "netiquette" of blogging -- don't be offensive, don't make "ad hominem" attacks or comments on other commenters, don't reveal personal information (your own or that of others), remember that another 200-300 strangers are reading what you write (500 for the first time last week), etc., etc.

That's why I discourage Stevenage chat -- it shuts out everyone else, and gives the impression this blog is "private" to a clique of friends.

"how come you never come back on the bits I want you to come back on?!"

Because (a) I'm not psychic, and (b) only have so much time to spend doing this, so I concentrate on the things I find interesting!

Mike

Tony_C said...

Sorry, Mike, I'm just a rough boy from the real world and don't no nuffink bout netiqette, but it's good that you're letting me practise in your Snoking Room. Perhaps if I hang around here long enough, I'll pick up the unwritten rules which decent, upstanding members of the blogsphere live by.

Congratulations on hitting the 500-mark. That's 1 of the things I asked you about you never answered. Had a hit on Ken Bruce the other day when he was "doing" pedantry (how many pedants does it take to change a lightbulb? You don't change them, you REPLACE them! etc.). I suggested that ZZTop's Sharp-Dressed Man would more properly be called "Sharply-dressed..." Ho!Ho!

Yes I used to listen to Late Junction a lot but got put off because there's always one which sounds like ambient sound in a workshop where the machines haven't been oiled lately, so I'd have to turn off.

Ken's not just a Popmaster with a good sense of humour, but a proper presenter and covered topical events live today. My latest brickbat arrived just as those people that got married were about to kiss on the balcony but I doubt it's suitable for publication here. Which of the Guardian Poem-Vows would you and the Prof adopt, if obliged to?

Take your point about Time. Is that what D.Adams was talking about, or the Earth's finite resources, d'you think?

Tony

Mike C. said...

Tony,

Rough boy, eh? Well, who'da thought it, 45 years ago...

I don't really get this Ken Bruce thing (I'm not a R2 listener, much, nor R3 that much either) but you can explain it to me some other time, some other place.

Vows? Not being married in the first place means we don't have to worry about that kind of toe-curling nonsense -- don't understand why the Guardian gave it room.

re. Douglas Adams, did you mean the quote about the puddle? If so, what he means (I think) is that (a) the sense that things must have been designed for us because they match us so well is an illusion -- the fit of the puddle into its hole is a consequence of physics, not intention -- and (b) that the sense of entitlement (that we're *meant* to be here) that illusion (a) bestows on humanity is also an illusion. It's a sort of riposte to the religiously-inspired "intelligent design" mind-set that plagues parts of America. I like it because it's an easily-grasped analogy.

Mike

Mike C. said...

Tony,

I got the usual email telling me you had commented yesterday, but the comment hasn't appeared. I don't think there's a limit on comments, so I'm not sure why this is (other than Blogger's inherent flakiness).

Have another go?

You were going on about the "rules" again, for some reason. To repeat: there are no rules (other than what I make up), and other blogs are radically different -- if you use the "next blog" button up top you'll see a random selection of Blogger blogs.

You also asked about "rites of passage" ceremonies. It's an interesting area, and I have a post on "choice of funeral tunes" in preparation. At my friend John Wilson's humanist memorial we were played in to "Sit Down" by James and played out to "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead. It was strangely moving -- I'm not normally one for crying in public, but the college chapel was full of weeping people. John was an outstanding person and much loved by many people.

Mike

Tony_C said...

Hey, Mike, somewhere on your blog I quoted Sean Locke on Twitter, but now I can't remember where, so I didn't pick up your response.

[Checkword: slypal (res ipse locitur)]

Mike C. said...

That's interesting, I didn't know that -- it seems I can search my posts, but not the comments. So, sorry, no idea where that comment would have been. What was the quote?

Mike

Tony_C said...

"Twitter is a service for people who won't shut up, even when they're on their own." It was the post where you said, "blogging is so 2006".

Mike C. said...

Good quote, but it wasn't that post ("Well, that was weird") -- maybe it got lost when Blogger crashed.

I simply don't understand "social networking", but need to, unfortunately, as all the students expect to use it as their main form of interaction with the university. Come on, guys, wouldn't a pin-board in the main lobby do?

Mike

Tony_C said...

"Messaging" has taken on a life independently of the internet; in the lift of a certain infernal tower block the other day I saw three handwritten messages on bits of paper stuck to the wall: the first, a rant concerning the alleged status of all inhabitants of the block as benefit-scroungers, the second, a rebuttal and counter-allegation regarding the initial poster's paedophilic proclivities and the third, a general rebuttal of the initial posting and an appeal for moderation. All anonymous, of course.

Can't wait to read the next installment/ new thread. Who needs Facebook? More power to their pencils!