Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stargazing Addicts Destined to Quarrel,

Events seem rather tumultuous. I wonder if I get too involved and then make comments that I shouldn’t. I think I’ve nearly reversed by opinion on the need to call Interpol. In the last episode of The Bellyaches, I did not report the fact that I had to tether an upended tree to an upright support. This detail may prove important for climatic studies of the future, folklore is just as important as statistics.

The wedding anniversary celebrations were quite something, perhaps they can be deemed a success. Dinner was at the most well-to-do golf club in the area. This caused a hilarious argument over the right to wear jeans. It was a pointless ruling, our family were the only guests. Service was shocking, we were there for 90 minutes before being served the starter, all of the family had finished their starters before the final person had received their dish (etiquette was abandoned because of hunger). My garlic mushrooms had no garlic dressing. The main course arrived 30 minutes later, my “Scottish-style Chicken Supreme” was not worth waiting for. The chicken was meant to be stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with a Drambuie sauce. The haggis was not haggis, the bacon was undercooked and the sauce tasted of nothing. I don’t eat dessert but I ordered one so that someone else could have two.

The second part of the celebrations involved the usual bowling club social night (with bingo) sharing a bill with the party. We arrived during the bingo – it was like walking onto the set of Pheonix Nights. No one is allowed to speak during the bingo, but they all make a drone in a House of Parliaments-stylee between games. The highlight of the bingo was an old man passing wind as he walked across the floor amidst the silence of concentrating bingo players.

Being the eldest grandchild, I was given the honour of bringing in the cake; fending off a last ditch attempt to be usurped, I carried out this duty to the best of my ability.

The astrologer in the Sunday Post, Jane Ridder-Patrick, writes of my week ahead, “There’s nothing you like more than a good drama, and you could be tempted to treat events in your daily life like a soap opera this week. Enjoy the sensation, but don’t get carried away or you could upset some people. If you’re inspired to right a story now, don’t hold back.” That’s how I feel now; I don’t want another week like that.

I now feel like I live in a street of human slurry more than ever. They have no local pride or self-respect.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Nicitating Scenesters from Seamounts,

The crisis that Haptic Hare Hoarders from Holms were made aware of has been downgraded after stern words were spoken. They were spoken by a person just after they were on the phone to me so perhaps I can take credit for the outcome, that’s what scientists do.

The Canadian then went on to finally ruin my trainers; they were still doing me good service even though I had bought new ones as Collaters of Laments For Favourite Sneakers were informed. He was loaned them so he didn’t ruin his own good ones playing football with us.

I have done well to have him warm to me, “Why don’t you just get it off your chest? Everything’s cloak-and-dagger with you.”. He keeps talking politics. He keeps slating communism, I keep telling him that he has communism mixed up with dictatorship. There’s just no value to these conversations. And they are hard conversations.

Lab demonstrating wasn’t as good as usual, I didn’t need to do any demonstrating. I’ve always liked turning up for a shift and having to work hard.

Today, in the morning, I went to Embra to pick up tickets for a Jeffrey Lewis gig. I had a rake around the shops on Princes Street. This involves running a gauntlet of market researchers and charity workers.

“Would you be interested in helping out with some market research, sir?”
“I’m 23, from Fife, it’s raining and I want to buy an umbrella.”

I want to know where to buy umbrellas, umbrellas like old people have, big sticks with wooden handles. All they have around is “stowaway umbrellas”; what use are those for clubbing people? I finally managed to buy a golf umbrella for £2.39, Father will mock because it’s in East Fife colours. It has a spike and carries a bit of weight.

We are going for dinner tonight in honour of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The Earth has gone round the Sun 50 times since their wedding. They have no control over the Sun or the Earth.

What’s the point of the starter? It’s over too quickly. The menu tonight is not so great, the starters look nice; in fact, I’d be content with one of every starter.

It’ll be fine. What might be conceived as cynicism is only scientific pragmatism.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Haptic Hare Hoarders from Holms,

I’m close enough to a crisis such that it has occupied much of my thought for the last two days but I’m apparently too far away for it to be any of my business. I can’t have a defamation case brought against The Bellyaches so I won’t explain further, but I don’t have any evidence to phone Interpol either.

The other Interpol are my second favourite musical artists. I’m sure they’re delighted with that announcement.

In an effort to clear my mind, escape brother bombarding me his homework and loosen my decrepit joints before football, I went for a walk to Leven (pronounced lee-ven). The weather was great, very warm, the tide was in and the waves were making great noises dragging the pebbles in and out and also crashing against the promenade defences. After walking along the beach, I headed back through Silverburn Park to the town centre, some kids tried to hit me with unshelled chestnuts or something else that had fallen from the trees. I visited Sainsbury’s for chocolate and printer paper; one of the options for getting home from Sainsbury’s is squeezing through a hole in their fence and walking through the wooded area along the river which is known as “The Dam” – it has some notoriety but I’ve never encountered much bother.

As I walked along the disused railway line through The Dam, I heard music playing loudly, then I worked out it was a radio station, I thought trouble must be afoot, because loud music isn’t the usual sound of woodland – I didn’t know what kind of trouble, perhaps some yobs had stolen a car and had brought it down there to destroy it. I started to creep, making sure not to make much noise. Being 23 doesn’t ensure my safety, wearing a green jumper to aid my camouflage doesn’t either, I began planning escape strategies in my head should I encounter them (jumping the fence into the former creosote works was a viable option) as battering them over the head with a pack of printer paper wouldn’t work. Anyway, I escaped with my life. I admit I didn’t see the makers of this noise and I wasn’t really scared but the moral of the story is that it’s always important to be aware of the potential downfalls of living in Levenmouth. I am and others aren’t, maybe they don't need to be because they are the perils.

That's what scientists do.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Calamity Kids,

I dipped into the city of Embra for the first time in a while. I visited the chemistry department at the yooni for a favour from my old supervisor. I miss that place, it felt weird being back. I was also slapped in the face again as I was reminded of the bureaucratic wranglings that prevented me from continuing postgraduate studies there.

I later went down to Fopp, despite my backache, and then on to PC World where I bought a “Notebook PC”. The new computer has stolen a day from me as I had to install this and registered that. I’ve never used a laptop before so I’m very scared, not least because PC World tried to frighten me with everything that could go wrong, in an attempt to get me to subscribe to their after sales support service. I also bought a cordless mouse for the laptop. There was no need to buy a carry case for it, I was given one of those as a Christmas gift two years ago – it was always going to be useful.

I was pretty certain that I wanted to buy the model that I had liked beforehand, but in the shop before asking to buy, I wanted to be convinced. I asked for a complete list of specifications for that model. The assistant couldn’t navigate his way around the PC World website or their internal network to print me out the list. I began to panic; I couldn’t buy a computer from a man who didn’t know how to work one. I didn’t get the list but he did talk me through all the models instore in my price range comprehensively so I did forgive him. I was became really confused because he had bigged-up models other than the one I had planned to purchase. I went away to think. I went back and then went away again to think. I went back a third time and bought it.

The football was very, very good. It was a very good team performance. I’ll never see a more comfortable Champions League victory against a team with such an illustrious name as Benfica. Tea and toast has become a feature of the aftermath of midweek fixtures.

Today has been very boring, setting up a computer, installing a wireless router and the like. These things come with limited paper instructions and impossible packaging. It’s almost as if these products are designed to be broken on unpacking and installation – replacements are one way for the producers to increase their sales.

Whilst online, dealing with all the horrible stuff, I followed the BBC’s text commentary of Andy Murray’s match with Ivan Ljubicic. I thought quite amusing, but that’s probably a symptom of my dreadful sense of humour. They’re often like that. Here’s one of the silly entries in the commentary from a match during Wimbledon:

“1428 BST: Everyone who's anyone in tennis is here today. Jimmy Connors, working for the BBC as an expert summariser, is wearing a bright blue sports jacket and yellow tie featuring an elephant motif - a fantastic effort considering the temperatures courtside.

If only I could write like that, the question in today’s episode of the Weakest Link would have been “Which B is a term used to describe stomach pains, is a slang term referring to complaints and moans and is a highly influential website penned by a hugely talented journalist?”

I’d also be able to review the CD I purchased from Fopp (boo, hiss) with aplomb. I bought Colours are Brigher: Songs for Children. This album is full of songs by a range of well-known artists compiled by Belle & Sebastian’s Mick Cooke and it’s for charity (boo, hiss). The album’s meant to be songs written and recorded for children but in my opinion that’s too an exclusive label to apply to this compilation.

I love the knob-twiddling on Go Go Ninja Dinosaur by Four Tet ft. Princess Watermelon - it’s got a beat and some great noises.

A Skeleton Bang by Rasputina is fantastic; the cello work is super-jaunty. I'm going to follow up the back-catalogue of this band.

Jackie Jackson is a song about a boy who liked to stuff his face with tasty cakes by Franz Ferdinand. It’s the best thing they’ve ever recorded although it’s probably just a jam they knocked up at the end of band practice or summat.

I believe the effort by Yellow Snow Patrol is a cover version, it’s I Am An Astronaut, again, it’s the best thing they’ve ever recorded.

Neil Hannon has applied his voice and composing skills to the words of AA Milne in Pooh Trilogy, it’s the first song on the album that I found too childish for myself but it’s full of Divine Comedy quality.

The Kooks wrote The King & I for this album. They wrote this for themselves and not children but it’s alright, there might be a subliminal republican rallying call in it somewhere.

Half Man Half Biscuit donated a song called David Wainwright’s Feet, it’s just typical HMHB.

I’ve never heard of The Barcelona Pavilion, evidently they like scaring children, but once the toddlers have stopped crying and settled down, they can be drilled in how to Tidy Up Tidy Up by a kind of electronica/hip-hop-stylee tutor.

Jonathan Richman is probably trying to teach the children about something too in Our Dog is Getting Older Now, it’s dreary, sad and too soon for me.

The Monkeys Are Breaking Out The Zoo is Mick’s first song in charge lead vocals on a Belle & Sebastian. It’s a percussion miracle and primary school music classes up and down the country will be perfecting their versions this week.

Mud by The Ivor Cutler Trio is just another typical example of Ivor’s genius.

The Flaming Lips have a song called The Big Ol’ Bug is The New Baby Now on here, it’s a storybook tale for children, apt to be used to close the end of a school play about a big ol’ bug.

I like the closing song by Kathryn Williams, it’s called Night Baking. It was inspired by her nephew who likes cakes and doesn’t like going to bed. I like an album that winds down towards the end and this lullaby does the job perfectly.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Venatic Divagaters Jolted by Trifles,

When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions wont grow

Sometimes, the world seems full of possibilities. At other times, situations batter me about and without upsetting people, I’m helpless against their consequences. Some people take advantage of my qualities, sometimes I give up my time voluntarily, but right now, I feel as though it’s taken for granted.

I need to regain some control; it’s the trivial things that block real progress. I need a few strokes of fortune to ward off indifference.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Squatters in the Particle Separation Room,

My first go at lab demonstrating to the First Year undergraduates and American exchange students was okay; I only told someone the wrong thing once. At times, it’s difficult to watch some of the practices that are adopted. I like laboratories to be as safe and as clean as possible, implementing my own standards - gained from industry - would severely inhibit students trying to attain results in restricted time with limited equipment. I suppose we were all learning together, hopefully I can be of more use next week.

More importantly, I saw a kingfisher on Sunday. I can’t remember having seen one before. I only remembered to look up what the sparkly blue bird I saw zipping down the river was this evening. It’s Autumn Watch month after all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Apatosaurs and Aoudads Apparently Spending Appanages Online,

Did the Sun rise today? Methil might as well have been in the Arctic Circle. I only ventured out on a short trip to Leven, where I bought some rolls, a Pritt Stick (with free trial Power Pritt Stick), a packet of Wrigley’s Extra Ice Mints (urinal cakes) and had another passport-type photo taken.

Everyone wants a photograph of me. I did not go running when asked to have my photo taken for the ‘New Faces’ feature on the department news letter, I’m off campus anyway. They also have to write a short biography about the new face in question. My biog will probably read:

Local yokel, Leif – you’ll know him, the tall spotty kid, zero per cent body fat, red beard, thick glasses? – joins us from Embra Yooni where he grudguated with a degree in the fake subject of Environmental Chemistry. He is a commie get who hates the smell of Irn-Bru.

I’m also applying for a passport so I can spread the culture of Methil around the globe; there are strict rules to abide by for passport photos – my hair’s usually in my eyes. I seem to have taken so many rubbish passport-size photos for one thing or another recently, but most were adequate for what their purpose but would probably be rejected for an official passport.

The culture of Methil is apparently that of nastiness. A librarian shouted at me yesterday for entering the library at 8.59am – they don’t officially open until 9am. I didn’t break a window to get in; I walked through the open door. The town stinks. There’s no local pride or self-respect. People don’t go out of their way to help others but they manage to go that extra mile to antagonise others.

I hope to be of some use to my American prodigies tomorrow.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nominees Charged with Churlish Chores,

Give a man in a car some country roads and he’ll think he’s Colin McRae.

I’ve been listening to most of my new CDs in the car, rather unusually; they’ve mostly been issued by American artists.

Ben Kweller’s self-titled album is full of songs that have Ben Kweller written all over them. I’ve always liked Ben Kweller’s work, he has a real talent for writing Ben Kweller songs, which he leads us through on his Ben Kweller piano or Ben Kweller guitar. I especially like Penny on the Train Track because it’s has “train” in the title, “train” in the lyrics and the piano keys chosen and the order in which they are played by Ben Kweller make me think of a train – I liked Train by Goldfrapp for the same reason, however her later stuff was not about trains, she should have stuck to writing about trains, calling her records "Train" and making records that sound like trains.

Micah P Hinson has a gravelly voice and this makes the tragedies on Micah P Hinson and the Opera Circuit sound tragic and the triumphs sound triumphant. Some of the songs are very quiet and subtle, but still they have a majesty that’s too rare. The strings on this “cosmic country noir” (for those who want a pigeonhole) album are superb in the sadder numbers and the brass gives the upbeat songs like Jackeyed a real bounce. There are too many instruments and their players to praise, but watch out for that banjo.

I’m never quite sure where I stand on The Walkmen, they had a few good songs on their previous album, Bows and Arrows but the rest was a lot of turgid clattering. I bought their newest one solely on the basis of the trumpet on Louisiana, the opening track of Hundred Miles Off. This album is just the same as the last for me at the minute, I hope I can grow to like it but I can’t help think that the basslines are similar to Interpol’s and that I’d rather be listening to them instead.

Whilst listening to KEXP Seattle at times when BBC 6music choose to broadcast shows presented by wassocks, I heard Band of Horses and The Album Leaf. Everything all the Time is the debut album from Band of Horses, they could easily be described as a big mish-mash of Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Secret Machines, Neil Young and Mercury Rev with the vocals of Perry Farrell and Wayne Coyne. Those seem like decent enough ingredients and the result is magnificent. There’s some great stuff on this album but The Funeral is the “hit”, it goes “At every occasion, I’m ready for a funeral” which is often relevant enough. Hat’s off to Band of Horses. The album comes with three postcards which I’ll stick up somewhere.

Into the Blue Again by The Album Leaf is mostly a collection of chilled but progressing instrumentals. It’s rather low-key and beautiful. Where vocals do feature, they’re as good as and better than many of the others out there, I picked up on The Album Leaf after hearing Always for You. Into the Blue Again is about nice modern rhythms. It’s as good as Eingya by Helios.

The timely release of Year of the Leopard by Fencemeister James Yorkston allows this amateur musicologist to praise at least one Scottish artist before the end of this haphazard review. Thirty seconds into opener Summer Song on my first listen of any James Yorkston album, I knew that this was a corker. "A gem" is more appropriate description, "a corker" would be too loud. Some people call James a folkie, some people call me a folkie, none of this is strictly true but there’s nothing else to call this breed of music. The lyrics are top notch and the layerings of instruments, especially the entrances of the accordion and the organ, are sublime. I bought this CD directly from Domino Records, just to make sure I received extra Domino goodies – there were no badges but there was a wonderful bonus CD of some acoustic versions of the songs on this album.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Recovering Pugilists and Stray Tunisians,

Any article that follows the last might appear flippant or disrespectful, that’s how it feels. Some soon-to-be expelled members of The Bellyaches massive might think that he was only a dog, but Simon was a member of the family.

I’ve been finding it a bit difficult to learn how to work the UHV chamber that I will be using and at the same time, learn all the articles about the new chemistry I will be performing inside it. I’m not fully settled yet but it would be easier to bed in if I had my own chair, desk and computer. I thought these things would come as standard. I also was amazed to see that St. Andrews stewdents queue for the use of a computer in their computing microlabs; that never happened at Embra. I want a laptop urgently to avoid any of that, I have never used one before but if I had one, my office could be anywhere once I purchased an inflatable chair. I’ve been pestering people with questions about laptops.

In the meantime, I’ve bought another a medium upon which I can compute my ideas. I could possibly try some “mind-mapping”. I have no idea where I can keep this new piece of kit, perhaps I can set up an office in the shed.

I was informed that Methil was on the news tonight; the OB, from outside the shop I used to work in, was about underage drinking. I never saw BBC Reporting Scotland tonight because I was playing football. There was no point in my participation in the game but I plodded around, I have a had sore back for a week and then I picked up a bad hip knock on Tuesday from an innocuous collision with Brother.

Yesterday, Barnetts Peugeot garage annoyed me. They never called me to inform me that my car was ready after its service and repair; I suppose they were happy leaving me to walk home and to keep my revitalised car just sitting in their backyard.

Partridges are slow to clear from roads because they are not good flyers.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mourners of the Top Dog,

Sadly, Simon died last night. It was a bit unexpected and it's hard to bear. He was around 11years old, we got him when he was 3. We were his third set of owners; his first owners were two nurses who eventually did not have time to look after him, his next home was with an elderly man who decided he was too old to look after a big dog.

I am not an animal lover, I locked myself in my room when Mother and Father came home with him, I really did not want a dog, let alone one that was the same size as me, but it was difficult not to end up loving or being loved by him. He was a beautiful dog, a Golden Retriever/German Shepherd cross; he always attracted the attention of strangers on walks.

I loved walking him, I probably walked him longer than he wanted to go but I took the stance that if I wasn’t tired by the end, it probably wasn’t a good enough walk for him. He was a great excuse just to get out and clear my head at times, but it was fun to see him in his element.

He had a brilliant character, friendly to everything he wasn’t scared of. He had to be trained to chase cats. I remember him running from a frog and hiding behind me because there was a heron in our path. He was terrified of the wind.

Of course, he was a nuisance at times: my lecture notes would feature compulsory mucky paw prints, I’d end up going out with embarrassing clumps of white hair on my clothes, and he took a liking to my room which would become fur-lined if I didn’t vacuum it on the hour, every hour. No one could be angry at him for long if he had been misbehaving.

I miss him already; he’s not looking out the window as I come up the garden path, he’s not at the door to greet me, he’s not in my room, he’s not hopping about excitedly when I’m ready to spend an hour bogtrotting and when I wake tomorrow, I won’t be squashed into a tenth of my bed because a big dog has decided to share.

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