30 April 2011

Z is for Zap! You’re Dead.

There is one creature on this planet that I despise.  I would love to rid the world of it as it offers nothing of value other than being fodder for creatures higher up the food chain.

It is the deadliest creature known to man, and yet it can fit tightly inside the palm of your hand.  No, it’s not a spider or a very small tiger.  It’s a mosquito, and the death and misery it brings is unmatched by anything on this planet.

Malaria infects 250 million people per year – that’s over 4% of the entire human population!  One million of those infected every year die.  One in every five children that die in Africa, die from malaria.  That means every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria.  And the female Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of this terrible parasite.

I am lucky to live in a city just below the malaria belt.  But that fact plays no role in tempering my hatred for these creatures.  They keep you awake while you are trying to sleep; they melt into the background while you are trying to track them; they hide against dark furniture while you try to stalk them; and they silently attack you while you sit peacefully enjoying a summer night on the patio.

I dislike insect repellents. They smell, asphyxiate you and leave your skin feeling dry and pasty. Over the years, I’ve dreamt up countless inventions to kill mosquitos, but I recently came across the most awesome mosquito destruction weaponry this world has ever seen.  I present to you… the mosquito racket of doom:

IMAG0054(2)

It’s a piece of perfectly-balanced Chinese engineering. The plastic handle creaks solidly in your palm.  The button of death a thumb’s twitch away.  The racket head, lashed with wires of instant death and primed to energise any mosquito into an instant flash of blue light and a toasty burning mist.

Nothing is more satisfying than, in the darkness of your room just as sleep is descending, reaching over to the side of the bed, picking up your trusty weapon, and waving it slowly in the air until you hear that beautiful snap and the room lights up momentarily in a blue blaze and silence returns once more.

Silence.  Peace.  Now I can sleep.  The A-Z challenge is over.

Z is for Zap! You’re Dead.

Y is for YouTube, Twitter and Other Internet Sensations

I would list these as the big Internet giants as of 2011.  I think I got their chronological order of inception correct:

Google and Amazon have been around since the 90’s, while Facebook exploded to 500 million users over a period of just 7 years.

When I heard about YouTube many years back, I thought no way was it going to be a hit.  Who wants to watch clips of rubbish home footage?  Well, I was horribly wrong there.

Then when I heard about Twitter, I thought no way was this site going to last.  I mean, who wants to post 160 character messages?  Strike 2.

As a budding internet entrepreneur, my track record for identifying great ideas isn’t looking too hot, but that doesn’t stop me from scanning the horizon for new and exciting companies.

The current darling of the social media clan of sites is FourSquare, a site that mixes social interaction with their users’ geographic location. Sounds to me like they are just jumping on the social bandwagon.  No way is that going to be a success!  :-)

Groupon, the discount coupon site, is the latest sensation that is taking the world by storm.  It’s officially the fastest growing company of all time.  I’m sure you’ve seen their adverts mushrooming up on every site you visit.  They are an amazing marketing success story.

I wonder what the next big internet sensation is going to be?  Will I have the foresight to see it coming this time...

28 April 2011

X is for X, My Favourite Letter and Number

Roman numeral X.  Arabic numeral one followed by a zero.  The mathematical sequence 1 0.  The number ten.  My favourite number.

The house that I was born in and raised in was number 10.  I lived there for 22 years before moving out to rent a series of flats.  Seven years ago I bought my first house.  By total coincidence, it too was number 10.

I’m a computer scientist and work with the binary number system on a daily basis because, well, that’s the number system computers understand .  Binary numbers are comprised of only 2 digits: zero and one.  This is in contrast to decimal numbers that are comprised of 10 digits: zero, one, two… all the way up to nine.  So again, the zero and one play a pivotal role in my life.

The number “10” in binary represents the number “2” in decimal (I’ll explain how to count in binary in some future post).  Two is also a great number.  Two is a couple.  Two is symmetrical.  A lot of life is arranged in twos: legs, arms, eyes, ears, kidneys, hemisphere’s of the brain.  Two is better than one.  There’s always a backup!

Of course, the letter “X” is also the coolest letter in the alphabet.  It’s mysterious and secret and sexy and it’s always used for cutting edge stuff, such as X-Factor and XBox and X-Men.  Throw an “X” after a dull name and it’s now cool.  Draw the “X” in italics and it’s cooler still.  :)

So when it came time to name our company, me and my partner settled on the name “ModX Software”.  “X” for all the reasons above, and “Mod”… well that’s a story for another day.

27 April 2011

W is for Winner of the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award

Tonight the winner was announced for the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award… and it was awarded to Lauren Beukes for her cross-genre cyberpunk, urban-fantasy novel Zoo City.

The exciting thing for me is that Lauren comes from my home country of South Africa.  I love hearing about South Africans that excel on the global stage.  Well done Lauren!

And in related news, at last night’s BFSA Awards in Birmingham UK, Joey HiFi (also a South African) received an award for Best Artwork for his black and white illustration used as the cover art for the UK-print of Zoo City.

Congrats to both South Africans!  You guys make us proud.

V is for Very Very Very Big

We live on this planet we call Earth and when we stare up into the night sky we see little pinpricks of light.  From our early childhood education we know that each of these little pinpricks is in fact a star, just like our very own sun.  And in a quiet moment we may reflect on this and wonder to ourselves how many stars are there actually in the universe?  This post should hopefully give an answer to that question in a format that you can can comprehend.

When you stand in your suburban garden on a clear moonless night and look up into the night sky with your naked eyes, you may be able to see a few hundred stars. Journey into the country away from the effects of the city lights and you would count maybe 2000 stars.  2000 – not such a big number.  If you count really fast, you could probably reach it in about 10 minutes.  2000 is a number we humans are pretty comfortable with.

So what’s the big deal with the number of stars then?  Well, the number of stars we can see with the naked eye is a rather small amount compared to the number of stars that are actually out there.

Before I tell you how many stars there are in the known universe, just take a guess.  A million? A billion?  A trillion?  The answer is big.  Very big.  Very very ginormously hugely massively big.  It’s so big, a person is not able to comprehend the vastness of it by just looking at the number; there are just too many zeros!

The number is: 150,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Before I get into describing how big that number really is, I’d like to talk about another interesting fact about stars.  Stars don’t just float around randomly in the universe.  They are instead clumped together in large clusters.  These clusters are called galaxies.  Our very own galaxy is called The Milky Way.  There are about 500 billion galaxies in the universe with each galaxy containing on average about 300 billion stars.  We as humans think we understand a billion.  We know it’s a big number.  But how big is big?

Well, since this is a blog about writing, I thought it might be fun to try put it into terms that a bookworm would be able to understand.  So here goes.

Let’s start with a standard paperback novel.  It has about 350 pages, each with 300 words per page, giving a total of about 100,000 words.  As authors, we can understand the sweat that goes into generating 100,000 words, and as readers we understand the time taken to read such a novel.  It’s not a trivial number.

Now let’s imagine we are standing in front of a bookshelf in a library.  The bookshelf is quite large - 1.8 metres (6 feet) high and about 3 metres (10 feet) wide – and it contains five shelves.  Now imagine us packing all 5 shelves of this bookshelf with brand new crisp paperback novels.  After the packing, each shelf ends up with about 100 novels.

The architect has built the library to be long and thin – similar in shape to Manhattan Island – so we decide to create 2 long aisles down the length of the building with a bookshelf to the left and right of these two aisles, giving us 3 bookshelves in a row.

To save space we place a second bookshelf back-to-back with each of the bookshelves already assembled. We then repeat this arrangement down the length of building.  In the end we manage to squeeze in 20 rows of double-sided bookshelves  And then we fill all the bookshelves with our novels.

That’s a big library of books we have there.  But we aren’t done yet, because we’ve still got more books to pack.  So we build another 80 floors onto this building, and we fill each floor with the identical arrangement of bookshelves and pack them full of novels.

And we are finally done!

Now you arrive at the library.  You take the elevator to the 62nd floor.  You walk down the second aisle, skipping 15 set of bookshelves before making a right turn into the next row.  You move to the bottom shelf and scan across until you find the 87th book.  You take the book out, and thumb through to page 238.  You scan down to the 5th line and locate the 4th word in that line.  That word is “home”.

That single word “home” represents The Milky Way galaxy – all 300 billion stars in it!  Every individual word taken from every novel in that library represents it’s own unique galaxy in our universe.  A galaxy brim full of stars.

If you then wanted to catalog every star in the universe, you would need to build a brand new 50-story building for each and every word in every novel housed in that 80-story building.  That is 500 billion new libraries you’d need to build.  And once you’d done that, each individual word from all the books in all those libraries would then represent a single star in our universe.

And that is how big the universe it.  It is a fantastically huge place.

25 April 2011

U is for Universal Address

Should you like to write to me from anywhere within reality, here is where I can be contacted:

my name Grant Bruce Elliott 1 of 1 humans and 2 cats living at
my unit Number 10 1 of 30 in
my complex Fantasy Forest * 1 of 2 in
my street 3 Fictionary Grove * 1 of 19 in
my suburb Somerset Park 1 of 12 in
my town Umhlanga Rocks 1 of 32 in
my metro Etekwini 1 of 11 in
my province KwaZulu Natal 1 of 9 in
my country South Africa 1 of 195 on
my planet Earth 1 of 8 orbiting
my star The Sun 1 of 300,000,000,000 in
my galaxy The Milky Way 1 of 30 in
my galactic group The Local Group 1 of 100 in
my super cluster The Virgo Supercluster 1 of  30,000,000 ** in
my universe The Universe 1 of an unknown number in
my brane Our D-Brane 1 of an unknown number in
  The Bulk  

* My Complex and Street names may have been altered to protect my location from stalkers and US cruise missiles.

** My rough estimate based on another estimate that there are 80 billion galaxies in the Universe.

24 April 2011

T is for The Easter Bunny Revisited

An Easter Bunny Visits

Hop hop hop;
12 little eggs I did drop.

T is for The Easter Bunny

May the Bunny bring you boundless balls of yummy badness :)

Happy Easter everyone!


The Easter Bunny (Part 1)

The thick wet vegetation slaps at my bare arms as I slowly pull myself through the marsh. It’s painfully slow going, but I must push on. My backpack tugs at my shoulders, heavy from the water it’s absorbed and the canisters of chemicals it’s carrying.

A jumble of roots catches my foot and I almost topple into the tepid, foul water. The weighty leather strap slips down my arm as I struggle to find my balance. I groan and uncomfortably roll my shoulders to reseat the heavy smoking weapon that hangs to my side, balanced and always ready. And I move on.

Despite my weariness, I remain alert. I must. All too clearly, I remember the day they arrived. The smoking fireball arcing across the sky, hissing and spitting fire and ash and sulphur as it came. I remember the smouldering scrawl of earth that ran for kilometres as the ball of burning metal sliced a long deep wound into the flesh of the country-side.

And I remember the people. The crowds of people. The crowds that collected at the rim of the crater, some silent, some scared, some excited, some wary. But all of them stared; through the thick pall of acrid smoke they stared. And then they died.

I remember the screaming. The horrible horrible screaming. The sighs of gurgling blood as their throats were torn from their necks. The feral panic. The wild, mad eyes. The primal instinct to run, to flee and to survive. And like rabbits they ran, scattering in all directions, screaming and crying and running. But death followed close behind, shredding their bodies as they fell.

And from my solitary position on top of the hill, I saw her. The pale white delicate dress she had unwrapped just that morning, flowing behind her like a silent sail. And I saw her fall. The slashing fangs, the tearing cloth, the frenzied ripping cries of pain. And then silence. Total silence, as the long dark crooked stains of life spread slowly over her lifeless dress.

I have no idea how much time passed. I only remember it was dark when I lifted her body into my car and drove her home.

Easter Sunday. The day of hope. The day of Resurrection. The day my wife died. And the day the Easter Bunnies arrived and everything changed.

I grip the slippery butt of my weapon tighter, and squint into the low sun. Five years on to the day. The world is a very different place now, but I have learnt a lot since that fateful day. Today will be the start of a something new. Today will be mine. Today the Bunnies will die.

23 April 2011

S is for Show Not Tell

Escape

My heart is pounding and the blood runs thick and furious in my ears. A sudden surge of nausea builds in my cramping stomach and I collapse on the floor and retch, a thin stream of salty bile the only thing of substance that trickles from my mouth. I know I can’t stop. Not here. Not now. He’s right behind me. So I get up and run.

The dark sun shimmers, deep and dangerous, probing the corners of the streets with its long desperate fingers while the city bends around me like a wolf encircling its exhausted prey.

I stop for a moment. Have I lost him? I tighten my senses and listen… the distant cries of taxis, the splash of water from an open window, the crash of glass and an angry voice… and then, beneath the skin of the dying city, I hear the slow grind of metered steps that haunts my dreams and consumes my waking hours.

I turn to run, but my foot twists on a piece of broken concrete and I collapse in a jumble of bones and searing muscle. My eyes stutter in saccadic panic as I scan for some way out: a storm water drain.

I tear at the road and drag my heavy body towards the opening and slide inside. It’s dark and dank and wet. And then I hear that unmistakable dragging gait. He stops beside the drain and I can see his brown scuffed boots and smell the stench of alcohol and rusty sweat. And I know he’s finally caught me.

But then he leaves. And darkness enfolds the city and I drift off. Tonight I dream of a big white building. Grand Central Asylum for the Criminally Insane. But I have no idea why my dreams take me there.


Today I started following Rachael Harrie’s Blog.  For her “S” posting, she offered up a challenge:

In 300 words or less, write a passage that shows (rather than tells) the following:

  • you're scared and hungry
  • it's dusk
  • you think someone is following you
  • and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.
  • For extra points, see how many words beginning with “s” you can use.

The story above was my attempt at meeting this challenge.  It just made it inside the maximum word limit, achieving a final total of 299 words.  My S-word count ended up at 29 words.

22 April 2011

R is for Revisiting Flash Fiction

A while ago I wrote an entry about Flash Fiction and posted my first 69er story.  Today, I wrote my second piece of nano fiction.  The first draft was 104 words, but it was a little too rushed.  So I reworked it and the final version I’ve posted below ended up a total of 122 words.


Alone

I am alone. Every night I sit on the cold stone wall that runs along the beachfront promenade and watch the happy couples pass me by. Once in a while a girl will sit down next to me and say hi and my heart will soar. And sometimes, if I'm very lucky, we will walk along the beach, and I'll listen to her sweet laughter fizz off into the cold night air to be roughed up by the crashing waves and splintered shards of moonlight. And when we’re alone at the end of the beach, sitting quietly under the pier listening to the tired drag of the sea, it is then, usually, when I strangle her. And then I am alone again.

Q is for Quora

Quroa.com is a new site that I believe you will be hearing about more and more over the next few years.  It was developed by some ex-Facebook employees not too long ago, and already I’m finding Quora results popping up in my Google searches.

Google has no human editors.  They simply scour the internet, downloading every single page from every single site, and then, using some very clever software, automatically rank all the pages and deliver to you what they think the most “relevant” page for your query is.

Wikipedia on the other hand, uses a large collection of human editors distributed around the world to edit and maintain a single, canonical reference page per subject.  The content is focused on facts with citations as “proof” of those facts. There is no space for differing opinions or personal viewpoints on a subject, since all voices are merged into a single document page.

Quora fits somewhere between Google and Wikipedia.  Their aim is to be the definitive resource for any “question” you would like answered.  Users post questions on the site and other users can reply.  Replies are ranked by the community of readers, and the replies with the most votes bubble to the top of the list of answers.

There are two big differences with Quora when compared to similar sites.  Only the author who wrote the reply can edit it.  Others may comment on the reply, but only the author has the right to change it.  Secondly, as with Facebook, every user on site uses his or her real name and includes a personal biography page.  This lack of anonymity is an important factor in ensuring quality posts, since the author’s reputation is on the line.  Furthermore, readers can see a poster’s credentials and thus weigh the value of a particular post.  For instance, a reader is more likely to accept a reply that is written by the CEO of a big corporation on a subject related to his company, than something a Joe Soap may have penned.

I think this idea has great legs and will grow with time.  The community voting model has been proven to work very well in the software world with sites such as StackOverflow.  I believe Quora will bring a new level of quality to our ever-growing pool of knowledge that is available directly to anyone, at any time of the day, wherever they may be.  The internet is surely the most life-altering technology of the last 20 years.

P is for Poetry

If you’ve ever read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams you will know about the Vogons.

The Vogons are an alien race from the planet Vogsphere.  They are described as mindlessly bureaucratic, aggressive and having "as much sex appeal as a road accident".

They are also terrible writers of poetry.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide has this to say about Vogon poetry:

Vogon poetry is widely accepted as the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem, Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning, four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council, survived by gnawing one of his own legs off... The absolute worst poetry was written by Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex... luckily, it was destroyed when the Earth was.

And this is some actual Vogon poetry:

Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.

Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,

Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!

In the TV adaptation of the Hitchhikers Guide, an example poem by Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex (the worst poet in the universe) was presented.  It was written by the real poet that inspired the character, a close friend of Douglas Adams.  For your reading please, here then is the worse poem in the universe:

The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool. They lay. They rotted. They turned Around occasionally. Bits of flesh dropped off them from Time to time. And sank into the pool's mire. They also smelt a great deal.

Poetry presents quite a different canvas for expressing yourself in a literary sense.  I don’t have the skills to deliver great poetry, but I still like to make use of this medium from time to time, especially when I come across an interesting angle.

One such poet I enjoy is e.e. cummings.  He sprinkles eccentric punctuation throughout his pieces and uses the physical canvas and white space of the page to great effect.

When I come across an original artist or a concept I like, I sometimes attempt a personal interpretation of that style.  Here is my homage to e.e. cummings, although I’m sure he’s groaning in his grave right now.  I’ve had to post it as a graphic due to it’s requirement for very specific layout.


The Smiths Go To War (1 of 2)

The Smiths Go To War (2 of 2)

O is for Other People’s Pain

A lot of people in this world are in pain.  Some of them you call friends.  Some of them you call relatives.  Some of them tuck their sorrow inside a false brave shell.  Some of them wear their pain bloodied on their sleeve.

When you see one of your friends in pain.  When they reach out to you with trembling hand and empty cup of solitude.  When they open their mouth to talk and only silence fumbles from their lips.  When their eyes stare forward grey and blank or dance wildly in the dark.  When they need your help and support.  Open your heart and let them in.

This is a story about two such people.


The Sad Boy and the Sad Girl

Part 1: The Sad Boy

Once upon a time there lived a sad girl and a sad boy.

Every day, the sad boy would wake up, take a bath in his aging, stained white tub, brush his teeth exactly 25 times in each of the four corners of his mouth, and then slowly, and with much concentration, comb his hair into a perfectly neat left-sided parting.

The sad boy would then venture downstairs to his kitchen, and prepare his lunch-time meal, every day cutting four equally-sized slices of bread and layering each with a thin film of butter. Carefully, he would wash the knife and dry it off before using it again to slice 4 pieces of tomato and 4 pieces of cheese which he would rest on the slices of bread before meticulously wrapping them in perfectly stretched cling-wrap. The sad boy would pick his keys off the third hook where they were always placed, before opening, closing and locking the door and slowly, very slowly, walking away from his dark, silent life.

Part 2: The Sad Girl

Unbeknownst to the sad boy, across the road lived a sad girl.

Late every night, the sad girl would return home. She would open her door, climb the stairs and draw an ice cold bath whilst she slowly and painfully removed her clothes. With the water still running, she would climb into the bath and, shivering ever so slightly, lie down and watch as the water level slowly rose to cover her body.

When all but her head was submerged, she would turn off the flow of water and lie in silence listening to the slow rhythmic dripping of the water from the tap. Then she would reach for the blunt razor blade resting on the table, and with practiced precision, reopen the wound that stretched across her left wrist and watch as the blood bubbled, collected and dripped into the water. She would breathe out slowly and the beating of her heart would slow until the blood was dripping in perfect rhythm with the water from the tap. And there she would lie. Staring. Unblinking. Emotionless.

Part 3: The Meeting

The sad boy sat on the ground, the cold hard steel and rough texture of the gravel uncomfortable against his body. He unwrapped his sandwiches from the cling-wrap packaging and placed them neatly on the ground. As he lifted the sandwich to his lips, he stopped with his mouth slightly ajar and stared at the girl who was staring back at him. For a full minute the two just froze and looked at each other. Then the sad boy ever so slightly, barely imperceptibly, nodded his head once.

The sad girl moved forward and sat down opposite him. The sad boy offered his hand to the sad girl, who reached out and, without any expression, and without losing eye contact, took the sandwich and slowly bit into it. The sad boy looked down, collected the other sandwich and took a bite out of it, chewing slowly as he stared into the eyes of the girl opposite him.

And there they sat, the sad boy and the sad girl, eye’s locked, connected together in a place so very deep and profound that they didn’t even flinch when the train carried them away.

N is for Ninth Planet

My Very Eager Monkey Jumped Straight Under Nine Planets.

That’s how we were taught as children to remember the order of the nine planets of our solar system.  But I was a geek, so I could rattle them off in order by name:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.

But on 24 August 2006, that all changed as the scientific community decided our solar system had only eight planets.  Pluto, the smallest and furthest of the nine solar bodies, had been demoted from planetary status.

The road to this decision started in 1978 when astronomers discovered a moon orbiting Pluto called Charon.  This discovery allowed the mathematicians to accurately calculate the mass of Pluto, and they found it to be considerably smaller than expected.  So small, in fact, that it was only 4% the mass of Mercury.  Even the Earth’s moon was larger. 

Then during the 1990’s further astronomical bodies were found beyond the orbit of Pluto that had masses larger than the tiny planet.  If Pluto was to remain a planet, then they too would need to be classified as planets.  In the end, the simplest solution was to create a new definition for a planet and to do so such that Pluto did not fit that criteria, but instead fell into a new category called a dwarf planet

So as of today, 22 April 2011, we officially have eight planets and five dwarf planets (called Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris).

However, the story is not yet complete. Earlier this year, two astronomers postulated the existence of a new massive ninth planet which they named Tyche (pronounced “Ty-kee”).  If this planet does exist, it will be huge – 5 times the size of our largest planet Jupiter!

Tyche_proposed_nith planet
Credit: Ben McGee - Astrowright

The evidence for its existence comes from a detailed analysis of comets entering the solar system in orbits that are inconsistent with the current theory of the operation of the solar system.  The existence of a large planet at the outer-limits of our solar system could explain the strange orbits of these comets, since its gravitational pull would yank them into their current non-standard trajectories.

NASA has a satellite called WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) that over the next two years should be able to prove or disprove the existence of this new planetary neighbour.  But for now, we’re stuck with eight planets.

My Very Eager Monkey Jumped Straight Under Nothing.

21 April 2011

M is for Mehari

Strangely enough, my blogging editor stuck a little red little squiggly under that word.  So what, I hear you say, exactly, is a mehari?

That was question 11 in the Hillcrest Pub Quiz two nights ago.  Question 11 is always a strange word that no-one has ever heard of before, so to help the teams out, the quiz-mistress supplies 4 multiple choice options:

(a) a thin bladed sword
(b) a fast camel
(c) a light snack
(d) a stuffed green olive

So which one would you have picked?

We um’ed and ah’ed and tested out the word in various contexts…

  • sword - “One step closer, boy, and I’m gonna stick you with my mehari!”
  • camel - “Ag, Bill man! Your bloody mehari spat on me as it charged passed.”
  • snack - “I’m stuffed!  I couldn’t even squeeze down a mehari.”
  • olive - “Oh, Giles, be a dear and pass me that last mehari.”

…and in the end we concluded that it just had to be option (d) the stuffed green olive.

But we were wrong.  It is in fact a fast camel, bred for racing and fighting.  I’ve attached a picture to the end of this posting so as not to give away the answer too easily for anyone who wants to guess :)

When I got home, I did some googling on the word mehari and found some interesting alternatives.

#1 on the search results was a Citroen Mehari.  Obviously named after the fast camel although I personally wouldn’t associate my car brand with a flea-ridden, spitting, smelly, slow and sluggish desert ship that, it is boasted, “can travel 120 to 190 kilometres a day at a steady trot of 14 to 16 kilometres an hour”.  But maybe that’s just me.  The French marketing manager is obviously way ahead of me there.  In the desert.  Lost.

#2 was MEHARI - Méthode Harmonisée d'Analyse de Risques, interestingly also French-related, meaning Harmonised Risk Analysis Method.  Wikipedia informs me that this is a method for risk analysis and risk management created by CLUSIF (the French association of information security professionals).  So now you know!

I still hadn’t hit an actual camel yet – not that I often actually hit many camels, of course.  So I cruised over to the authoritative Internet reference on all things word related – urbandictionary.com – and pumped mehari into their search engine.  This is what I got back:

  • Normally a cool character loved by everyone for his humour and friendliness.
  • A name for an Asian guy with a penis ranging from 3-4 inches.
  • Loveable and funny.

Example Usage: “Thomas is really nice but I bet he’s a mehari!”

Umm, yes, moving on.  Here’s your camel:

A Wodaabe man holds his Mehari camels reins

Postscript: At one quiz evening last year, the word was another M, M is for Merkin.  You can go look up the definition yourself because I’m not explaining it here!  The embarrassing thing is that one of our team members already knew the answer.  We didn’t ask how.

20 April 2011

L is for Ligaments Ripped To Shreds

1965. 112 minutes long.  6.4 / 10 on the IMDB-orometer.  That Darn Cat!

That Darn Cat! Poster

But he wasn’t Siamese…  Not on Monday, April 17, 2011 he wasn’t.  He was a big bad-ass ginger male – strawberry shortcake was his name – and he ripped my ankle to shreds!

1 hour after The Event, I was as happy as a lemming in a box.  The pain I had experienced at time 0 had all but dissipated and I could rotate my foot easily with no discomfort.  I wondered what all that gristle-grinding histrionics was all about.  My super-human Adamantium skeletal constitution was obviously just too awesome for any one stupid cat to vanquish.

2 hours after The Event… and the Adamantium wasn’t working too well anymore.

Throb.

So I remembered Jeremy Maggs’ magnanimous offer, and I phoned a friend.  Ice ice baby was the 30 seconds of advice I got.  So I limped down to the kitchen, threw 2 ice cubes into a kitchen towel and applied the dressing to my foot.  It was cold.  Duh!  But I manned up and kept the pressure applied, removing it periodically to thwart any frost bite gangrene that my over-anxious brain was panicking over.

4 hours after The Event…  and the Adamantium was just Adam Ant now.   My foot had totally seized up.  I couldn’t move it without sharp shards of pain firing up my calves.  I tried to walk and could barely apply pressure to it without wincing like a baby girl.

I hobbled down the stairs.  Left foot first.  Hold the railing to release the pressure… aaaaand right foot to follow.  Repeat.  20 gruelling times.  I grimaced my way to the fridge and assembled a second ice-dishcloth sling and applied it tenderly to my useless limb.  It helped a bit, but I knew I was doomed.  Tomorrow when I woke up, I just knew it would be swollen and blue and I wondered how the emergency helicopter was going to land on my 3 square metres of duplex garden grass.

But before retiring to bed, I remembered one final bit of advice my friend has managed to squeeze in before being cut off.  Get some anti-inflams from the chemist tomorrow.  Hmmm, I wondered if maybe there was something in my medicine cabinet.

And lo, glowing like a lost artefact 2 hours into an Indiana Jones movie, was a non-expired pack of Cataflam.  I popped one of those little puppies into a glass of water and dissolved it.  The way they dissolve is so cool.  They don’t fizz and pop, they just kinda balloon up into a little marshmallow floating blob thing.  No spoon to stir it with – that was downstairs and no way was I attempting that voyage again – so I just twirled my grubby index finger around in the glass.

Downed the drugs – tastes nasty bitter – and settled down to sleep.

The morning arrived…  I got out of bed, foot hit and floor… and the pain was almost non-existent.  WTF?  I took another Cataflam that morning, and one day further on, the pain has almost totally gone.  Was it the wonder-drug Cataflam?  Was it the icing?  Was it the sleep?  Was it not that badly damaged in the first place?  I’m not sure, but I am very surprised.  I’ve used Cataflam before on a very painful muscle spasm and it helped hugely.  I’m sold on that drug, and so in my totally non-medical opinion, I give Cataflam the credit for my super fast recovery.

And yes, the title of this posting was rather sensational wasn’t it.  Sue me.

18 April 2011

K is for Kittens

I have no children but I do have two babies.  They are both female chocolate point Burmese cats.  Almost everyone knows a Siamese, but not many people are familiar with the Burmese breed, probably the closest relative of the Siamese.  That’s me guessing on the closeness of their genetic ties since they are both oriental sounding, both talkative and social, both intelligent and both end in an “-ese” :)

Burmese are short-haired, but their coat is super soft.  They are often described as a “brick wrapped in silk” because they are much heavier than they look.  If you pick up a Siamese, they feel like a feather-light scrawny bag of bones.  A Burmese is solid but not fat.  They are much clumsier than a Siamese but they think they are very smooth operators.

Burmese are referred to as the “dog cat” due to their social and loving nature.  They talk and shout a lot and demand a lot of affection.  My one cat even plays ball.  She brings the ball to me, drops it at my feet and expects me to throw it for her.  If I don’t engage her, she’ll take the ball to the top of the staircase, drop it to the floor, and then bash it down the stairs, chasing after it, just to return to the top and repeat the game.

I call them my kittens even though they are now 6 years old.  Their official names are Pixel and Mimo, but I never use those names.  Pixel is called “bigcat” and Mimo is called “babycat”.  Their big Siamese friend from down the road goes by the name of “biggestcat”.  And then there’s their nemesis, “strawberry shortcake”, an evil nasty ginger male who is constantly invading their garden and beating them up.

101_0196101_0197

Today strawberry came a-visiting while they were playing outside.  I’m alerted to his presence after a loud crashing smash as kitten’s body collides with Trellidor as we try furiously to get inside away from the nasty boy cat. I charge downstairs to see four big eyes, two fluffy bottle-brush tails and a big bully cruising the garden.  So I grab the first weapon I can find which is a tennis ball and rush outside.

Strawberry sees me and bolts.  I take aim and fire the projectile.  My hand eye coordination skills are disastrously bad and the ball flies off at a tangent disappearing into the dense jasmine hedge.  Sod, I’m not going in there to get it.  Ginger nimbly scales the neighbour’s adjoining wall and disappears from sight.  Oooh, this is war.  I’m gonna get me that cat!

So I climb the wall.  It’s a mere 1 metre high, child’s play for my 1.8 metre frame.  I balance on the top of the wall and survey the battle field.  No ginger in sight.  Where did the little shit go?  No matter… I’m going in recce-style.  So I gracefully disembark from my perch, and land left-foot first on the uneven grass.  I hear a grinding ripping tearing gristly sound as my foot rotates under me and I go crashing to the ground.  After the blackness and nausea dissipate I survey my surroundings; no ginger in site.  Today the little bugger won.  But next time strawberry… next time… your ginger ass is mine!

I hobble back to my sanctuary in search of a dish cloth and some ice.

17 April 2011

J is for Jabberwocky

I love clever writing, be it prose or poetry.  One of my best poems of all time is the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.  I find it amazing that it is able to portray such wonderfully vivid imagery using rubbish meaningless words.

Take the first paragraph:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

All words besides the conjunctions, definite articles and the word “gyre” are meaningless.  What do these words mean: brillig, slithy, toves, gimble, wabe, mimsy, borogroves, mome, raths, outgrabe?  Nothing.  Yet they engender feelings of anxiety and fear.  Cold.  Dark.  Slimy.  A cave or a forest.  Well, that’s the feelings I get from that passage.

It is interesting that Carroll used the word “gyre” (a valid English word meaning “to cause to spin around or whirl”) when all the other major words are meaningless.  The word “gyre” comes from the Latin gȳrus “circle” and from Greek guros so its existence in the modern English lexicon is not due to this poem, as far as I can tell.


The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll (from Alice in Wonderland)

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.


I did a quick Google image search on the word Jabberwocky and these are the first 5 unique image hits.  Notice the similarity in the artwork.  I bet this is exactly what you visualised.

j1j2j3j5

j4

I is for iPhone Autocorrect

The latest generation of touch-screen phones have taken the world by storm.  And to speed up text messaging, they offer predictive word suggestion and auto-correction.  The technology is accurate, saves you time and works really well most of the time.  Most of the time.

I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have an HTC Android handset which also has a touch screen and auto-correct functionality.  Last week I was chatting to a female friend over SMS about something she asked me to get for her.  She was busy at the time and requested that I contact her later.  So I replied with “Cool, I’ll give you a shout when I get home”, but my awesome autocorrecting phone mutated my innocent comment to:

Cool, I’ll give you a shot when I get home.

Sigh.  Luckily she has a good sense of humour.

Here are some very funny autocorrect fails of note.  I haven’t laughed as much in a long time.  Enjoy.

Autocorrect Fail 1

Autocorrect Fail 2

Autocorrect Fail 3

Autocorrect Fail 4

Autocorrect Fail 5

Autocorrect Fail 6

Autocorrect Fail 11

Autocorrect Fail 12

Autocorrect Fail 13

Autocorrect Fail 14

Autocorrect Fail 15

Autocorrect Fail 7

Autocorrect Fail 8

Autocorrect Fail 9

Autocorrect Fail 10

H is for Hillcrest Quiz Night

One of the extra-mural activities I enjoy doing is going to Quiz Nights at the Hillcrest Keg.  For those of you who have never been to a pub quiz before, this blog posting will explain the format of the quiz as used in this pub.

The quiz takes place every Tuesday evening from 19:30 till about 22:00, but our team goes once every two weeks.  Each team sits around their own table and can order food and drinks and have a nice social chat.  Each person taking part pays an entrance fee of R10 with team sizes in excess of 6 people getting penalised 5 points per extra person.

The quiz-mistress starts off proceedings with 20 general knowledge questions.  The first ten are “easyish” and the next ten more tricky.  You are given time to discuss the answer within your team, but since there is no negative marking, you can often “deduce” the answer by making an educated guess or by taking a stab in the dark.  We stab a lot of people in the dark.

The 20th question is an anagram for a famous movie and you are given a good five minutes or so to work it out.

Following the anagram is a music round.  The music round consists of 10 snippets of songs from which you need to guess the artist and title.  Plus, the last two songs are played backwards!  The song selection crosses all genres and all decades which makes it fairly well balanced for the wide age-range present in the teams.

After the music round comes the picture round.  This consists of identifying 25 items off a photocopied piece of paper.  Each week is a different theme, so one week you will need to identify famous actors, another week famous sports trophies, another week countries in Africa, and so on.

Finally, the quiz reverts back to the general knowledge questions – ten more tricky ones and ten more easy ones.

Each team then hands in their answers and these sheets are distributed randomly among the other teams.  The quiz-mistress then goes through the answers and each team tallies up the score for the team assigned to them.  The results are handed in and announced, with the losing team getting a dummy prize and the winning team getting the spoils of all of the R10 contributions.

And thus ends a very enjoyable evening.  So Tuesdays, 19:30, Hillcrest Keg.  Why not get a team together and come join in the fun.

15 April 2011

G is for Gnawman

Gnawman is the handle I use on the dating site.  There is a little story surrounding my choice of this name.

A number of years back, a little rat found its way into into my parents’ house and chewed a raceway of tunnels through the chipboard cupboards in the kitchen.  For a month at least we never saw him and obviously couldn’t catch him.

One Saturday evening we were chatting in the TV room and down the corridor the little fellow strode, nose all twitchy and quite proud of himself.  We raced to catch him but he dashed behind a large sideboard through the tiniest of tiny gaps.  Quite amazing to see how narrow they can make their bodies when they need to.

After grabbing a trout fishing net and executing some hefty muscle-man sideboard manoeuvres, we manage to coax him out and into the net.  I popped him in an ice cream tub and drove him down to the Umgeni River where I let him free.  I named him Gnawman.

There is a wry postscript to this story... The following day I open the Sunday paper and there on the front page was a picture of a woody stalk immersed knee-deep in the Umgeni with a large rat dangling from its beak.  Poor little Gnawman.  One last night of blissful freedom before scuttling off to meet his maker.

Of course, based on the timing, that obviously wasn’t Gnawman.  Still, it was rather ironic I thought.

14 April 2011

F is for Flash Fiction

I have always been interested in the concept of very very short stories.  I recently found out the official name for that style of writing.  It’s called Flash Fiction.

There is no formal definition of flash fiction, but as a rule of thumb, any piece of writing less than 1,000 words falls into this category.  There are also various sub-categories of this form of writing, many of them based on the specific number of words allowed in the story.

One such sub-type is called the 69er story.  No, it’s not what your dirty mind is thinking.  It’s a story that is exactly 69 words long – no more, no less.  Two more technical details: the title is excluded from the word count and hyphenated compound words (such as blue-green or two-thirds) are counted as multiple words rather than a single word.

I wrote my first 69er story about two weeks back after completing a Creative Writing Workshop I attended.  It’s quite an interesting writing exercise.  The writing technique required is very technical since you need to focus on a single concept whilst carefully selecting your sentence structure and grammar and being very vigilant about the word count.

For my story, I thought up the concept and then wrote the story in as terse a manner as I could.  It ended up around 95 words.  I thought wow, that’s quite a lot of trimming I need to do.  So I edited and reworked, welding sentences together, removing clauses and extra adjectives.  In the end I got it to just under 69 – around 65 words.  Then I tweaked a little here and there, added an extra adjective and increased the pace of the story towards the end using some short sentences.  Eventually I hit my 69 word count exactly.

So here then is my first 69er story:


The Rising

The beast thrashed violently against the metal chains that held him down. He could feel them giving way, the encasing concrete crumbling and shearing against his powerful blows. Soon he would be free of this dark, dank dungeon. Soon he would rise, rise and exact vengeance against the pathetic creatures that ruled above. Soon they would fear him. Soon. Very soon now. Alan screwed up his face and farted.

E is for Eish! SAA Screwed up my Holiday

Ok, maaaaybe my procrastinating nature helped a teeny tiny bit.  But in this modern age of always-on internet and 24x7 support, I kinda expect to be able to make a booking for a flight the evening before it leaves.  Is that too much to ask of South Africa’s National Carrier?

It’s 6pm and your Hero decides that maybe it’s a good idea to actually make that booking for the Durban to PE flight that he’s supposed to be getting on tomorrow morning.  So I launch my go-to browser and point that bad boy straight at flysaa.com.  The page renders furiously and I clickity-click “DBN. PE. Tomorrow”.  Go!

The web page thinks for a while before spitting out a single available flight.  It’s got a nasty 6AM departure time and only the expensive seats remain.

Whatever, I’m a man.  My credit card can take the beating.  Just hit me baby.  Confirm!

Please wait… processing…

Hummm… hummmm…. hummm…

Please wait… processing…

Dummm… diddddly… dummm…

ERR_TIMEOUT.  This website is taking too long to respond.  Please try again later.

WTF!  So I try again.  Denied!  And again.  Denied!  And 30 minutes later.  Denied!  And 1 hour later.  Denied!  And 2 hours later.  Denied!

At about this time I recall that great one-liner definition for insanity: “repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

Ok, so time to change my strategy and go speak to an entity that can actually be reasoned with logically over the telephone.  I thumb thought my phone book and find the SAA 24 Hour Reservations Hotline.  Fan-bloody-tastic.  This is gonna be just too easy.

I crank out the 0860 number and run headlong into the computer voice menu system.  To be expected from a 21st century bleeding-edge airline.  I listen intently as the confident but polite lady reads me the level 1 voice menu.  Of course the option I want is the last one.  It’s always the last one.

I pass that test and move onto level 2.  Option 1 - no, not the right one.  Option 2 – oh, could be that one.  Option 3 – oh no, definitely that one.  Option 4 – ooh, now I’m confused.  Option 5 – press to listen again.  Damn, which one was it again?

I eventually make it past level 2 and manage to negotiate the level 3 gauntlet with adept ease.  I feel I’m getting close to that elusive human contact.  Victory is near.

Level 4 presents me with a simple challenge.  2 options only.  Pathetic.  Everyone knows the final level always has the difficult boss creature to beat.  This is child play.

Press 1 if you already have a reservation. Press 2 to make a new reservation.

I press 2 and the phone starts to ring.  I’m so excited now.  The labyrinth has been navigated and the beast vanquished.  My heart rate is elevated and my irises are fully dilated.  Off to PE I go!

The phone rings once more and someone picks up.  It’s a female.  An operator.  It must be!

The number you have dialled does not exist.  Thank you for calling.  Goodbye.  Click.

By now it’s 21:00 and I feel my enthusiasm hit the bottom of that long well with a loud gong.  The sound is just like one of those nasty old grandfather clocks.  Really, what is the point of going gong every hour?  It’s stupid.  If you live in the house with the gong, your brain switches it out.  If you’re visiting, it’s just scares the crap out of you.  But I think I may have digressed…

So I phone the 24 hour hotline again but get the same response.  It’s now officially time to accept defeat graciously.  Next time I’ll book earlier.  Of course, that’s what I said last time too.


Postscript:  For anyone reading this outside of South Africa, you may be wondering what the word “Eish” means.  It’s one of the New South Africa’s most amazing words, and I have no idea how to define it.  There isn’t an English word I can think of that captures it’s essence.  It’s all of the following and more: “oh sod, oh wow, sigh, ah man, oh no, really?, bugger”.  Maybe someone can describe it better in the comments.

12 April 2011

D is for Dating Online

I’m a geek.  Us geeks aren’t exactly the types that have that alpha male presence and a different girl poured over their arm every weekend. And within the circles I move, I find it difficult to meet single, available females.  So I decided to join an internet dating site.

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the sordid details of my personal failures on the site.  Well, in this post anyway :)  But I would like to share two aspects of online dating.  The first is a bit of an overview of what to expect when using a dating site (because I suspect many people have never used one before) and the second is related to the content of my personal “profile” on the dating site.

The site I have used is called DatingBuzz (www.datingbuzz.co.za) but various other large South African portal sites use rebranded versions of the same site. So, if you go to IOL Dating or Ananzi Dating or M-Web Dating, you are basically using the same site as DatingBuzz, it just uses different colours and a slightly different layout consistent with the mother brand.

When you join one of these dating sites, you are asked various questions about yourself: your age, your likes, your religion, your education, your sense of humour, etc.  Then you are asked a similar set of questions about your ideal match: acceptable age, acceptable height, their qualifications, and so on.  Those are pre-set questions and have pre-set multiple choice answers.  You are also requested to complete a free-form block of copy about yourself and another free-form block of copy about your ideal match.

These questions and the free-form copy serve two purposes.  Firstly, other users can browse your profile and see the answers you’ve provided to the various questions.  This is great because you get to know a fair amount about a person before you’ve even met them, and for the less socially forward of us, this provides nice content to use to break the ice.

The second use of the answers is for automatically generating a list of “Ideal Match” candidates.  The system compares the answers you supplied against the answers that every other person of the site provided and generates an “Ideal Match” candidate list, sorted in order of most compatible to least compatible.  This automated list sort of works, but I have found - for me at least - it is better to actually do some leg work (ahem) and invest the time in reading people’s profiles.

Now if you’ve actually ever used a dating site before, you’ll know that almost everyone’s profile has pretty much the same boring content.  Fair enough, not everyone is a writer.  But I wanted to stand out a little and perhaps catch the eye of a slightly quirky girl.  So I broke my free-format profile up into two parts: a pure piece of silly creative writing, followed by a more serious overview of who I am and what I like.  I won’t bore you with the second part, but since this blog is focused on creative writing, I thought it may be nice to share the silly part.

My dating profile

I like fish. Especially big ones. I had a shark once. He kept chewing on the creepy crawly. Then he ate my gardener. So I had to give him away.

But he was the cutest little fellow. I used to take him down to the public pool on weekends and ride him like a pool noodle. We would see how many limbs we could remove before the lifeguard caught us and said we had to go home.

After the premature departure of my shark, I couldn't bring myself to get another fish. I measured a killer whale, but found he wouldn't be able to turn around in my Jacuzzi. So I got an ostrich instead. We had lots of fun together. He would stick his neck down my sink the whole time. Then one day he got stuck and I had to cut his head off.

Naa, just kidding. I didn't really cut it off. I unbolted the sink and now he wears it as bling. The other birds think he's really cool and the u-bend stops him from hitting his head on the roof of the canary cage when he's playing on his swing.

C is for Caught Stealing!!

It’s Saturday afternoon.  I’ve just done a lunch at Fego coffee shop in Gateway.  The egg and cheese tramezzini was too much for me to finish, so I’m carrying a brown paper doggie bag.  I walk passed Stuttafords and – for the first time ever – I decide to enter the shop on a clothes-shopping whim.  Me. Clothes. Shopping. Not in this universe.  Over the years I have tuned and tweaked my clothes purchasing technique to a fine art.  It’s called the Birthday and Christmas List Super Shopper Saver technique.  Zero effort required. And ladies, I can truly say, everything is really on sale – 100% off guaranteed!

Unfazed by my transgressing of the natural order of things, I venture into the gloomy world before me.  Strange long-legged ladies dressed in black suits swirl passed me brandishing bottles of exotic fragrances and tubes of war paint.  Deeper into the catacombs I go.  No, no, don’t look there!  It’s black and lacy and naughty and draped all sexy-like over their naked lifeless plastic bodies.  Look away look away. Oh crap, that attendant caught my eye.  I know what he’s thinking – freako perv!

And then as quickly as this alien world formed, it dissolves and I’m in my happy place  again.  I see shorts and shirts and – ooh, men’s underwear.  I need a new pair.  So I whip a pack off the hook and continue my quest for the holy grail.

The Jeans section.  The Levi’s sub-section in the jeans section.  Levi’s 505 - the only style of jeans on the planet that actually fits me properly.  And they got it in one colour only…  Faded blue… the single colour I already own.  So sod.  Quest failure of note.

Your hero groans, reminding himself that this is exactly why he hates clothes shopping.  In a huff of irritation, he stomps off down the corridor, passed the security guard, passed the sliding doors, out the shop and he’s free!  The tension lifts, the air smells clean and -

“Excuse me sir,” as I feel a short tap on my shoulder.

I turn around and an unimpressed guard points at the underwear that I have jammed in my sweaty criminal fingers, cleverly obscured by my large brown paper bag.  Oh… my… God…  I am sooooo sorry.  I didn’t realise…

You know, there isn’t really anything you can say at that point.  It just looks bad.  But the guy was actually very cool about everything.  I mean, we had a good laugh about it after he had put his rubber gloves and lube away.  So I went up to the counter, mumbled some weak self-effacing joke about trying to steal the merchandise, and then left the shop at a brisk pace.

There was only one thing left for a boy to do.  One thing that would lift the black pall of the afternoon and relax and de-stress the mind.  Browsing gadgets at Incredible Connection.  Mmmmm, feeling muuuuch better now.

B is for Birds and Bees

This is a piece I wrote last night.  It was written “pantser” style (which means by the seat of your “pants” – i.e. I had no idea where it was going).  I generally prefer writing with a plot outline, so this was rather out of my comfort zone.  But I think that it’s good to exercise your skills by stretching yourself.

The second area that stretched me was in the style of writing.  I usually write adult fiction and have absolutely no experience with very young children’s stories.  I have no children myself so don’t even have that to go on.  I’m sure my vocab and style are probably a disaster and the language is targeted at a mythical child of some impossible age.  But maybe someone can point out any style or content errors and I can rewrite the prose over time.

I’ll post the story now so I don’t give too much away.  Afterwards I’ll add a small postscript commentary.


The Little Bird and the Little Bee

Once upon a time there lived a little bird and a little bee. The little bird lived in a little nest right at the end of a very big branch in a very big tree. On the other side of the tree lived the little bee, all happy and free in his little hive.

One day while the little bee was buzzing around in the flower garden below, he felt himself being picked up and carried away. What is happening to me, he wondered. Where I am going?

The little bee felt himself soaring up, up, faaaaar up into the air. And then, suddenly, he was dropped into a lovely warm snuggly bed. Weeee, the little bee giggled. How nice and soft is this place.

But then he opened his eyes and wider and wider and wider they grew. Because above him sat the sharpest, nastiest, biggest beaked bird he had ever seen! Aaaaaah, thought the little bee. Iiiiii am going to be eaten all up inside this nest.

So he buzzed and buzzed his wings and tried so very hard to fly away, but his one wing was hurt and he just went around in a circle and around and around and around he went.

The little bird looked down at the little bee and felt sad for him. But if she didn't eat him, she would grow hungry and then she would not be able to look after her baby birds. So the little bird opened her beak and got ready to eat the little bee. But just at that moment she stopped for behind her on the branch, slithering closer and closer, was a big fat green snake!

The little bird flew up into the air and shouted and cried and swooped and dived. But the green snake just kept on coming. Closer and closer to the nest he slithered. And when he was right there, he looked down at the three tasty eggs and opened his forky mouth and got ready to eat them.

But the little bee got angry. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and buzzed his one good wing so hard and so fast that he took off into the air and he stung the green snake right on the end of his forky tongue.

The green snake cried out and turned very fast and slithered and slimed and slide away  and the little bird’s eggs were safe. The little bee fell back down into the nest, and he lay there quietly because now his stinger was gone, and he knew he would never be able to leave the nest again.

The little bird flew down and looked into the sad eyes of the little bee as he was lying on his back in the nest.  And she felt sorry for the little bee. But then suddenly the little bird got an idea and off she flew. For a long time she was gone. The little bee wondered where the little bird had gone and when she was going to come back and eat him all up. And no sooner had he thought that, that the little bird was back!

But in her beak was a rose thorn. The little bird placed the rose thorn on the place where the little bee had lost his stinger. And then the little bird took some sticky sap from the sticky-sap tree in the garden below and stuck the thorn so very tightly onto the little bee.

The little bee looked down at his new stinger. And then he looked up at the little bird. And he smiled. And from that day on, the little bird and the little bee were the best of friends and lived happily ever after.


Man, I struggled to keep this story upbeat and on-track.  First it was that damn bird that just wanted to munch the little bee.  Then as the story developed, it kept pulling me to a Tarantino ending where the bird ate the bee who then stung the bird and they both died a bloody death.  Well, all’s well that ends well.  And it did.  Happily ever after.

11 April 2011

A is for About Me

We’ll kick this off with a short summary of me.  My name is Grant Elliott and I live in Durban South Africa and this is the tree I liked to climb.

The Tree I Liked To Climb

I’m a software developer geek guy. I used to manage the software department for a company that builds vehicle simulators for the military and construction industries, but I quit that job two years ago to start up my own company.  So now I spend my days building web sites and planning my pose for the next edition of Wired Magazine.

Although software development is my passion, I also love to write and be creative.  As you can see, I also have an amazing artistic talent, latent though it may be.  But I haven’t done much writing in many years, so after going on a Creative Writing Workshop, I got inspired again and here I am.

I was raised on a diet of science-fiction and fantasy, so those are the genre’s I have the most interest in, but I actually enjoy experimenting with different styles of writing.  So you are likely to see on this blog first-version attempts at quite varied content, some pieces considerably crappier than others.  I love dark themes, so some content may be sensitive to younger readers.  And I love humour, so hopefully you’ll have a giggle here too.

A-Z Blogging Challenge

So there’s this challenge that runs in April every year called the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  Basically, you need to write a blog entry for each day of the month of April (excluding Sundays) and by the end of the month you’ll have 26 posts.  Each post needs to start with the next letter of the alphabet.  It’s a nice way to develop some sort of consistency with blogging and practice your writing skills.

So that sounded like the perfect vehicle for me to get going with this whole blogging thing, even through I’m 11 days late and missing letters A-I so far.  I’ll try some double poste to try catch up.

Follow this link for more information about the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

10 April 2011

Commentary on the virgin post

In the software world, when faced with a new computer language or technology, it is common place for software developers to write a very simple program to test out the new technology. Through the ages, this program became known as a “Hello World” application, because it’s sole purpose was simply to display the text “Hello World” in as few lines of programming code as possible.

So now you know why that was my virgin post. And it only took 1 line of “code” and consisted of exactly 12 characters (including the space and the full stop). So that would make it the shortest Hello World program ever written. And you thought software programming was difficult. :)

The virgin post

Hello world.