Friday, November 21, 2014

Well This Sucks.

While doing the grocery shopping at my nearest Sainsbury's earlier, I was browsing the soups when StereoNinja took me romantically by the arm and led me over to the produce. When I asked what he was doing he said "Getting you away from the spider." I turned around and there was a massive spider on the floor right where I had been standing: he'd been coming right for me.

So anyway, now I can never go shopping in that Sainsbury's ever again.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stay At Home Mehs

I've been home for the entire day and holy mouse balls I miss my job. Basil, my beautiful MINI Cooper, is not feeling very well in second and third gear and is essentially undrivable at speeds less than 40 mph which makes it a no-go for driving to work at rush hour. The garage can't look at it until Monday and trying to rent an automatic transmission car here is like trying to buy a winter coat in Bermuda - nearly impossible to find and prohibitively expensive when you do. I did finally get my hands on one for tomorrow that will not cost me more money than I would earn over the time I'll have it, but that was not at all helpful to me as far as getting to work today. I don't even know how I did this for months. I mean, sure, I had school work to do and everything (not to mention a car so I could actually leave the island if I wanted to) but Jesus Ka-rihst is it boring to be in your house alone all day long with nothing going on except folding laundry and internet research on visas. The most exciting thing of the day was watching my neighbor power wash the walkway around the marina (this seemed to me the most exciting thing in everyone's day here on Rich-old-people-with-nothing-to-do Island: two other neighbors came over to his place to watch him. Seriously.) I can't wait to go back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Guess where I was tonight! Actually, no, you'll never guess. I went to see Simon Singh, skeptic extraordinaire and author of many excellent books giving a talk about his latest book, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, which is about all of the advanced math(s) hidden in Simpsons episodes due to the fact that their writing team is made out of former mathematicians and computer scientists. AND THEN GUESS WHAT HAPPENED. HE SIGNED MY BOOK. I had to send StereoNinja up to get it signed because I was fangirling out, and spent the entire Q&A session grinning like an idiot, running my hands over it, and whispering to StereoNinja "Oh my god he touched it" like a fucking lunatic. Anyway, check it out if you like math(s) and comedy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Does This Sound Look Like?

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I have synesthesia. Specifically, in some sounds I can hear shapes and/or light forms, and I also have a spacial sequence form of synesthesia in which I have always experienced months and dates as being fixed points in space. I know right, what the hell am I talking about?

For most of my life, I didn't know this wasn't how everyone experiences the world. Then one day I made on offhand comment when I was watching a baseball game with my family that Tony Gwynn "has the roundest voice I have ever heard" (BECAUSE HE DOES) and a room full of people turned around and looked at me as if I had spontaneously sprouted a second head and said head was that of a giraffe. Of course, I now know that I have an amazing superpower as well as an explanation for my eerily good recall of dates. However, my ability to explain what it's like is basically limited to reciting my theory that the reason people use drugs like acid is so they can feel the same way I feel all of the time. It's not explainable. I don't see the space calendar, I don't see any shapes floating around when Tony Gwynn starts talking, it just is fixed in space, it is round. See, totally clear now isn't it?

Anyway the whole point of telling you this is that this video is amazing, and the sand thing provides a better example of what I'm talking about than my shitty explanations could ever approach and that's not even the best part of the video. The water, you guys. The water and the coil. Dude.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Out Of Office Message

I'm on my way to Brighton today for the first Brighton Burlesque festival. In my absence, please enjoy this clip of Bendy Dick Cumberbatch doing impressions of other Hollywood actors in this interview for his movie The Imitation Game, which I will be reviewing when I get back from my trip.

Friday, November 14, 2014

So Close Yet So Far

Good news, you guys! My dissertation has been marked. Bad news: No one can tell me what my mark is. The professors at my university are participating in a marking boycott. They were actually marked before the boycott began but not finalized by the committee, which did not meet when they were supposed to because, again, marking boycott. When someone in my class asked if we could at least have a look at the preliminary marks, we were told that because dissertations are classed as exams he couldn't tell us.

It's not as big of a problem for me because I have never had any intention of doing something with my degree in terms of a career or more advanced study - mostly I was just planning to shout "GENDER STUDIES!" every time I make a horrible misogynist joke and obnoxiously correct people who confuse biology with gender. But a number of my classmates were meant to go on and study more things, and a lack of any grades to show the coordinators of the programs they want to study means they can't get accepted to said programs. It's a real pickle.

Anycrap, I'm still waiting to find out whether I can write on an academic level or if years of blogging have lead to my being unable to write a coherent sentence without swearing or sarcasm in it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Maybe you've realized this from my science fiction fanaticism, or possibly because I took my burlesque name from one of the moons of Saturn, but in case you don't know this, I have a MASSIVE space obsession. Like, huge. I habitually watch anything on the television that has to do with space, despite the fact that I complain every time because the shows are aimed at people with far less space knowledge than I have and are therefore usually boring for me. One time I talked StereoNinja into taking an online course with me about Astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life through the University of Edinburgh. And I have made him very aware, in numerous discussions, that if given the opportunity to go to Mars or any other space mission in which I knew ahead of time I was never coming back the Earth, I would not hesitate*.

Yesterday, we landed a probe on a comet.

I couldn't concentrate yesterday. I had been hanging on every GO/NOGO checkpoint starting the night before, and was running the live feed from ESA mission control in the background on my machine all day. I spent the day updating my coworkers on every progress report whether they gave a shit or not. I gave real thought to what I would say when we had confirmation that the lander had touched down. In the end, I didn't say anything, because when the control room erupted in cheers I was too choked up to speak. Someone figured it out by reading my screen over my shoulder. "They landed it?" he asked me, and all I could do was weakly nod my head and they he asked me "Wait, are you crying?" and I said "SHUT UP I'M NOT CRYING, YOU'RE CRYING." I can't believe this was just one news item of many yesterday. I'm not sure if people even realize this, but this mission is the biggest thing to happen in space exploration since we put PEOPLE ON THE MOON, and is arguably far more important: comets are the leading theory about how we got water on the Earth in the first place, meaning that without them, there wouldn't have been anyone TO land on the moon.

Today, there seems to be a lot of complaining in the news about the mission. It didn't go precisely perfectly. The lander bounced, twice, because its screws and harpoons failed to deploy and the cold gas thruster that was meant to push it against the surface wasn't responding to commands. They're not entirely sure where exactly it is, since one of those bounces went up about a kilometer in the air and was off the ground for two hours and they're not sure where exactly it ended up, but it seems to be on the edge of a canyon or maybe not entirely upright, and it's settled in a place that doesn't get much sunlight, so the batteries may not be able to recharge. So everything didn't work out exactly as they'd hoped, and the media appears to be questioning the overall success of the mission. I think they are missing the point entirely:


Space exploration doesn't always go as planned because studying space from actual space is hard. Two tragedies a week ago with a resupply and a test flight should be enough of a reminder of this, and if it's not, let's not forget that we blew up two space shuttles, killed some Apollo astronauts in a fire, and, obviously, Apollo 13. Space is hard. But we did it: Philae is on the comet, sending data and photos and doing science, and if it runs out of batteries on Sunday as is currently expected, so what? We already know more than we ever have before. The only appropriate reaction to be have having right now is sheer and total AMAZEMENT - with our brilliant scientific minds and our incredible universe.

*Yes, I know there is a planned no-return Mars mission in the works, but there are some serious issues with those plans that need to be worked out and I don't think they're going to even come close to making their target date.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What It's Like To Live With Me

StereoNinja: What movie is the one with the Ewoks? Is that Empire?

Me: No, it's Return of the Jedi.

StereoNinja: Oh that's right. (pause, writes something on his phone) And what do you call those other little guys, at the very beginning, with the hoods?

Me: Jawas.

StereoNinja: That's it! (goes back to writing)

long pause...


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Obligatory NaBloPoMo Post

Today my former roommate passive-aggressively blamed me for my cat's illness for which she will need surgery and went on to complain the the vet is deliberately running up costs (they're not) and he "can't afford this shit" (it's being paid for by my cat's health insurance). At work, I got out of a meeting over an hour early, which sounds good, but the reason was that the presenter fainted and slammed his head into the podium so hard it will be a miracle if he walks away without a concussion, which was scary as all fuck. And then it took me two hours to get home because I spent the entire first hour stuck in a traffic jam in the car park, whilst watching my fuel consumption in a panic because I was so close to being out of petrol I wasn't sure how long I could actually afford to sit there idling.

My point is, I've had a rough day, I'm in a crappy mood, and I don't feel like being funny at the moment.

Please enjoy this picture of a duck being an asshole to another duck in lieu of me entertaining you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Star Browns: A New Hope

I'm very nervous right now. The Cleveland Browns, perennial losers who fail so often it is just this side of statistically impossible, are currently in sole possession of first place in the AFC North. They're 6-3 so far, have won three in a row, have beaten two division rivals and only barely lost to the Ravens, and the quarterback, Cleveland native Brian Hoyer, is playing like...well, like an NFL quarterback. Which is not to say that is surprising for him, but it is surprising for any quarterback playing for the Browns.

This is a dangerous time for me. This not being my first rodeo, I have seen the Browns unexpectedly start strong many times before, only to have my hopes dashed halfway through the season when the entire offensive line gets injured, or the coach gets fired, or the team just generally shits the bed. And up until this point I have steadfastly refused to hope, even in the face of of win after win and the congratulatory words of my work colleagues (an extraordinary number of whom are NFL fans for reasons none of them have been able to sufficiently explain - no less than four people from my department were at the Jaguars/Cowboys game at Wembley yesterday (I was one of them)).

But yesterday, when the Steelers lost and the Browns found themselves in first place ALL BUY THEMSELVES, it happened. I started to hope. Not for glory, mind you - I'm not a fucking idiot. But for the playoffs. We could conceivably make the playoffs. I have conceived this. I hope.

Updates to follow in the coming weeks when my heart is inevitably crushed. Again.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Buying Apples in Essex Is Entirely Rational, So Shut Up.

You know your partner digs you when you announce that you need to go on a two hour drive for the purpose of buying apples, and his response is to book you into a bed and breakfast nearby.

For a country that is essentially one massive farm dotted here and there with cities, there seems to be dearth of decent farm shops, at least within a reasonable, non-crazy person distance of where I live. I recognize, of course, that growing up just south of Cleveland as I did, my access to Mapleside Apple Farm, where my family went at least once a year to buy Halloween pumpkins and a massive amount of baking apples for pies, and where I had at one time planned to get married, gives me a very biased opinion of what constitutes a "good" farm shop. Nevertheless, I feel like a farm shop where I ask "What apples do you have that would be good for baking?" and the woman sitting in the doorway of the dingy, decrepit barn that serves at the "shop" scowls at me and says "That one" while pointing at the only box of apples visible in the entire place could probably be topped. So I googled my face off, and the only thing I managed to find where they seemed to both know shit about apples and also grow more than one variety was a fruit farm whose address is listed on their website as being "near Frinton-on-Sea". I insisted on going.

"Near" Frinton-on-Sea is just over two hours away from here and halfway around the M25 (Hi, Americans. The M25 is an orbital highway that goes all the way around London, has only two rest stops, and is constantly rammed with traffic. Sometimes people don't know where to get off and go around and around it in circles until their family reports them missing to the police.), and as we left shortly after getting home from work without having eaten anything, we decided to stop for dinner in Colchester on the basis that it was a place we had both heard of. Turns out, Colchester is the oldest Roman city in Britain and was once the capital of Roman Britain. We had Italian.

The bed and breakfast StereoNinja booked us into for the night was not in Frinton-on-Sea, mainly because there is nothing IN Frinton-on-Sea. We stayed instead at the Chudleigh in Clacton-on-Sea, the most English bed and breakfast in all the world. When we called them to say we'd be in rather late, the woman's response was "Oh, yes, we just beginning to worry about you!" as though we were people they actually knew. The whole place smells like your grandparent's house in the best way possible and despite its recent renovation, the decor appears to have time traveled there from the 50's. It is amazing and has the world's fluffiest pillows. At breakfast the next day, when I ordered shredded wheat and toast, the woman serving breakfast spent a good ten minutes trying to convince me to order "something hot" because what I had ordered is apparently "not breakfast". StereoNinja had a plate of meat which seems to have been an acceptable choice. I'm going to be staying there every time I go to Clacton-on-Sea now, which will be a lot because it is the most perfectly stereotypical seaside town in all of the world, or as I described it to StereoNinja, "It's like Venice Beach without all the assholes and stupid crap."

The Park Fruit Farm is exactly what it claims to be: a fruit farm. And the farm shop I had such high hopes for is in a relatively small and nondescript barn, BUT that barn has a wide variety of apples, all of which have actual information about when they grow, when they're ready for use, how long they keep, what their apple heritage is, what uses they're good for and their flavor profiles WHICH IS EXACTLY HOW YOU SHOULD SELL APPLES. And! It smells exactly like Mapleside's farm shop, which is exactly what I wanted in a farm shop without realizing it. AND! They even had apples I KNEW, because they grow several varieties of apples that originate in America INCLUDING Johnagolds, which is one of the apples I used for pies back home. AND! fresh pressed applejuice, which StereoNinja managed to drink a quarter of the jug we bought before we even made it back to the car.

The whole trip was a resounding success really, and I'm already trying to figure out how to trick StereoNinja into going back there all the time. In the meantime, I'll just be over here making ALL of the pies.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

So Dreamy

"I don't want to buy a house with another couple," StereoNinja announced immediately upon waking up this morning.

"Well I don't want to have sex with Jeff Goldblum," I responded. Because in my disturbing dream I'd just woken up from, StereoNinja turned into Jeff Goldblum and I was going to have to have sex with him.

Some advice for you: Don't tell StereoNinja if you have a sex dream about someone you have no actual interest in having sex with, or he'll send you something like this.

Friday, November 07, 2014

You're Killing Me, John Lewis

The John Lewis Christmas commercial came out and now I can't stop crying. Stupid penguins.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


I hate reality television, I really do. Doesn't really matter what it is - D-list celebrities dancing like they just discovered they have legs, ridiculous cooking shows that try to find out who the best chef is by putting them in situations no chef in real life would actually come across, storage locker auctions where people argue about whether a Huffy bicycle from 1985 is a priceless heirloom or a piece of shit, anything with a Kardashian in it - I just absolutely do not care and can't grasp anyone's emotional investment in their preferred X-factor contestant or poorly educated duck hunter (is that what they do? Hunt ducks? I don't even know. Also it doesn't seem that hard to me considering if I leave my back door open too long ducks will walk right into my kitchen like they own the place. Then again, I didn't quit school in the 3rd grade).

Be that as it may, my absolute favorite show right now is a reality show. I have no idea if a version of Gogglebox has made it's way to America yet, or if in fact it started there first (like I said, I don't watch reality shows). In case you're unaware, Gogglebox is a show where they put cameras in people's living rooms and then film those people while they watch tv. Which sounds stupid in principle, but is actually brilliant. They watch everything from the news to Downton Abbey to police reality shows, and it is hilarious, particularly Steph and Dom, known as "the posh couple" who appear to have no filter whatsoever and have pretty much become the stars of the show. I love it and I watch it every week, even more religiously than I watch Doctor Who (by the way, DID YOU SEE THAT LAST EPISODE? I did not see that coming AT ALL), which is saying something considering the number of daleks I have in my house.

That is until this week. I mean, I was watching it, but I ended up missing the last almost ten minutes of the show, despite the fact that I was still right there in the room. Why, you'd like to know? Well, this week, the producers thought it would be just a *peachy keen* idea to have everyone watch a nature documentary...ABOUT FUCKING SPIDERS.


When I say "documentary about fucking spiders" I am not being derogatory either, like, "oh those fucking spiders again, always trying to eat my face". I mean fucking spiders literally: the show was about those creepy monsters getting their freak nasty on. People study this you see. For a job. They film spiders doing it and then they deliberately watch the most terrifying porn in all of history including the shit those Romans were into. I am personally and deeply offended by the idea of spiders having sex. That is MY thing, you guys. Walking horror shows should NOT be allowed to enjoy my hobbies. EVER. And of course now, not only am I on high spider alert for any of the living nightmares that may be inside my house at the moment, but I am also now faced with the knowledge that they may not only be lurking inside my house but porking in it too.

THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE, SPIDERS. ONLY I AM ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX IN MY HOUSE (and StereoNinja. Because that's sort of an important aspect to the me doing it in my house scenario). You shouldn't even be here in the first place. You can live wherever you want; you carry the materials needed for home building inside your own butt. But you DEFINITELY need to not be boning in here. Is it boning if you have an exoskeleton? It doesn't matter, just STOP DOING IT.

Thanks, Gogglebox, my life is ruined now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Remember Remember Etc.

It's Guy Fawkes Night here in England, so fireworks are happening over the river and I am watching them from inside my warm house like the spoiled islander I have become. Last year the island had a massive bonfire with mulled wine and sausages, but this year there is nothing. I can only imagine this is because too many old people heard us having fun in the community area last year and complained. With our neighbor the Commodore moving off the island and onto his three story boat/floating penthouse, it's occurred to me that StereoNinja and I might have to become the new island instigators to keep the committee on its toes and the steady stream of stern letters coming (they are hilarious). I'm thinking of starting with a massive Christmas display in the garden: a huge tree, the tackiest light up reindeer I can find, colored lights that flash in sequence, set to the most manic speed available, maybe Santa's sleigh on the roof if I can figure out how to get it up there.  I can maybe even get the neighbors next door to join up with me - they're crazy enough to not only build a house for the stray cat that comes around, but also throw said cat a housewarming party.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Sorry, But You Knew This Post Was Coming

After that last post, you probably think I'm pretty miserable right now. But if you think that you'd be wrong: I am homesick; I am not, however, miserable. How could I be?


The one benefit to there being only a token nod to Halloween and no Thanksgiving at all is that Christmas stuff is EVERYWHERE. I've been in every kind of store from Nottcutts to Tesco to B&Q (rough American equivalents: Home Depot (the outside part), Meijer, Home Depot again (the inside part) and all of them have Christmas shit leaking out of every storifice (shut up, "storifice" is HILARIOUS). And the best part is, there is NO ONE AROUND to tell me I have to shut up about Christmas because "It's not Thanksgiving yet" or "For Christ's sake, Amber, can't we just enjoy Halloween right now" or "JESUS FUCK WILL YOU STOP SINGING FUCKING CHRISTMAS CAROLS IN MOTHERFUCKING JULY YOU ANNOYING ASSHOLE" (that last one may or may not still happen, but at least no one ever justifies it by invoking the fact that it's the 4th of July, so, you know, progress). And on the internet I found this and this and these and they are so amazing I CAN'T EVEN STAND IT. Oh yeah, AND, did you know that Seth MacFarlane put out a Christmas album this year? WELL HE DID, and his voice is like the softest, sexiest cashmere blanket and I want to have sex with it and then cuddle it forever.

Where was I? Oh yeah. CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Where All The Parties At?

Apologies for backdating this post and the next one. I'm dealing with a sick cat who is 4,000 miles away from me and a small financial snafu caused by living in a different country from where my credit history does. I'm not abandoning NaBloPoMo, I'm just finessing the numbers a little bit. Also, don't worry, everything's fine.

I was doing pretty well for a while, homesickness-wise. I was even almost maybe a little bit starting to think of the place where I am actually living as my home. I'm part of things now: I commute to work like a person who lives here, I have relationships with my neighbours where we do things together, and I occasionally tell StereoNinja about places nearby he's not aware of, such as the Italian store in the next town over where I buy the Italian sausage I spent months trying to get my hands on and where you can also buy a jar of olives the size of your head for £2.50 ($4.00 USD).

But there's something about this time of year, the time between the lead up to Halloween and Thanksgiving, that really drives home the point that I am not, in fact, anywhere near my home. This is largely because England doesn't do these things. I mean Halloween exists, kind of, in that you can buy a pumpkin and carve it, if you're into that, but you'll buy that pumpkin at Sainbury's and they'll all be nearly the same size and roughly the same shape. There are no pumpkin sellers set up in abandoned parking lots (there are no abandoned parking lots at all actually) or pumpkin patches out the back of the local farm shop, and there are no pumpkins of unusual size, shape, nubbiness or color. I showed StereoNinja some photos on the internet of giant pumpkins from pumpkin growing contests and he was amazed: he had no idea a pumpkin could get that big or that growing them competitively was a thing you could do. Similarly, while kids do dress up and go trick or treating, it's not all of them, it's not traditional, and it's not in any way organized. StereoNinja had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him what time trick or treating was because the city does not specify what time trick or treating is allowed. And the decorating is almost non existent. If I dressed my house up the way people in American would for Halloween, with lights and spider webs and skeletons hanging from the tree and gravestones in the front yard and a scarecrow and the butt of a witch, I would at the very least get a stern letter from the island committee that my decorating has "spilled out" and advising me to clear the detritus from my garden post haste. And while Halloween is half-assed, Thanksgiving is entirely non-existent, though in all fairness, the other Americans I know living here and I all force pumpkin pie and a roast dinner on people in late November, so while it's not actually a thing, we do all seem to stubbornly refuse to give in and admit defeat.

Anyway, the point is, I wasn't homesick and now I am again, and I'm going to go eat the entire box of American food I ordered online that arrived today and drink all 24 cans of root beer it came with RIGHT NOW.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

So This Is Going Well Already

I've been sitting here for the last fifteen minutes trying to think of something decent to write about for today while StereoNinja looks at beat up old Jaguar MK IIs on the internet and laughs at me. I've got nothing. And it's not because nothing has happened: since my post back in August I've been on a battleship, submarine and an aircraft carrier (all in one day), gone to Nashville (where I ate nothing but deep fried mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers while I had the chance), been to see Withnail and I in the theater (twice), and found out I am terrible at boating (in that I panic every single time we go through a lock or try to moor or am asked to steer for any reason and I spend the rest of the time endlessly scanning the boat for spiders). But the words just will not come today. So NaBloPoMo is off to a pretty shittastic start, but while I'm thinking about it, please enjoy this spectacular headline StereoNinja just came across on his quest for a car he almost certainly wouldn't actually drive to Penrith in.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Triumphant Return

Oh hello there internets. I apologize for abandoning you and assure you it was, in fact, temporary. As I mentioned in August, I didn't have much time to blog whilst writing my dissertation. I finished that, ten days before it was actually due no less, in order that I would not have to work on it/worry about it while I was back in America for my brother's wedding - having to wear a dress and and sandals gave me more than enough to worry about on that front. We got back a month ago, so by all rights, I should have resumed blogging, but there is no way for me to describe to you the amount of not wanting to be anywhere NEAR my laptop post-dissertation and so I stuck it in a corner, disappeared from Facebook and Twitter and failed to blog for the entirety of October despite not actually being too busy for any of those things all month long.

But now it's November! And November is NaBloPoMo, and I love the challenge of NaBloPoMo, so today and then for 29 more days in a row there will be something here to read. I don't promise there will be anything GOOD to read, but I will endeavor to do my best.

For those who are interested, the final title of my dissertation was The Mainstreaming of BDSM?: Examining mainstream acceptance of BDSM culture through Fifty Shades of Grey and Secretary and it will be a surprise to precisely NO ONE that what I concluded is E.L. James is a first class asshole who understands BDSM about as well as an eel understands tap dancing. Of course I explained it it much greater detail and in the "clear, precise academic language" I was specifically instructed to use, meaning I tried not to be be funny and liberally sprinkled it with words like "engendered"and "heteronormative", which StereoNinja thought was hilarious. As far as I know it hasn't been marked yet.

Ok, then. Let the NaBloPoMoing begin!