Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Coda to the Skoda saga

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A German motorist missed a bend in the road, broke through a barrier and hurtled up a bank, crash-landing on a church roof in eastern Germany, police said on Monday.

The bank acted like a springboard, propelling the black Skoda about 35 meters (115 ft) forward and straight into the church's roof frame, where it remained wedged 7 meters off the ground, police said in a statement.

Reuters Oddly Enough

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this story is that the car involved was a Skoda.

Famously, the humble Skoda has been the butt of such comedy classics as What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? A skip. et cetera, but I think even the most die-hard Renault drivers would have to marvel at the brand's renaissance.

During the 80s, getting a Skoda through a church roof would have involved to reversing it out of a B52 or similar.

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Now you mention it...

Do they have zebra crossings in Africa? If so, aren't they a death trap for zebras?

How did the zebra get his stripes?
Guardian environment blog



Comparative religion

We were enjoying ales on the back of the weekend and talk turned, randomly enough, to a south seas island whose inhabitants, as rumour would have it, have adopted Prince Philip as their god. Given the prince's much-publicised views on race, I found this a bit strange.

"Why," I queried, "would you worship a god who automatically hates you anyway?"

"Think Catholicism," said Lewis.

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Monday, January 26, 2009


Asa earns a gong

TOKYO: On the 25th, in the final day of the New Year grand sumo tournament which is being held at the Ryogokukokugikan, after dropping out of three consecutive tournaments, the Western Yokozuna Asashoryu (28, from Ulan Bator, Mongolia) of the Takasago sumo stable, in a play-off with Eastern Yokozuna Hakuho, for the first time in five tournaments and the 23rd time in his career, achieved tournament victory.

The above is translated (a bit over-literally) from the Mainichi newspaper. A little tip for anyone who wants to get on with reading Japanese newspapers: if you want to cut to the chase, having a gander at the end of the first paragraph usually does the job.

Anyway, Japanese being a pain in the brain is not news, but Asa's romp to victory in the New Year sumo tournament most certainly is. After a lot of talk about retirement in the media prior, Asa showed few signs of injury problems through the fifteen-day event, remaining unbeaten until the final day.

Hakuho, coming into the final day with one loss against his name, did enough to force a title play-off when he flung a lack-lustre Asa out of the ring in the day's final scheduled bout, leaving them tied on identical 14-1 records.

However, Asa managed to regain his composure and confidence sufficiently to march his opponent out of the ring in the play-off.

For those wanting some youtube action, I've updated the link on the right.


Other news of the tournament:

-After starting off the tournament like an absolute clown, Harumafuji put together an impressive second week to turn a 1-5 record into an 8-7 kachikoshi, meaning that he won't begin the next tournament under the threat of rank demotion. With a win against Hakuho also under his belt, hopefully he'll be able to start the next tournament (Spring, Osaka) with a bit more confidence and challenge for the top spot, (as per his own big talk about what an Ozeki should be up to) instead of spending most of the first week flat on his spotty face.

-One Ozeki who will be fighting to avoid rank demotion in Osaka is Kotomitsuki, who retired from the tournament after blundering to a record of two wins and ten losses.

-Kaio staved off retirement yet again, with a bare-minimum 8-7 kachikoshi to avoid rank demotion. Chiyotaikai also secured his winning majority on the final day, leaving Koto-oshu (10-5) the only Ozeki I don't consider an absolute disgrace to his rank.

-Neyagawa's very own Goeido returned strong figures of 10-5 and picked up the technique award too. I was a little nonplussed at this latter: Goeido's got hustle but I've never thought his technique was anything special. Unfamiliar as I am with the vagaries of how these awards get decided, I'm just as lost when it comes to deciding the rankings. However, due to the failure of those above him to return a winning record, I think Goeido will make it all the way up to Komusubi for the hometown tournament in Osaka.


Saturday, January 24, 2009


Stimpy makes her mark

In the wee small hours of the morning, I was at my computer. An ominous noise behind me made me turn. Stimpy, tongue stuck halfway out of her head, was retching. Before I could get her off the sofa onto the nice wipe-clean wooden floor, she threw up.

Damn, I thought, surveying the damage done to the sofa. I should have been quicker.

Stimpy started retching again. I grabbed hold of her and tried to sweep her off the sofa, but for some reason she dug her claws in and, at the last second, lunged forward and managed to send her second load of vomit into the mum's handbag. I didn't really know if this was better or worse.

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Monday, January 19, 2009


Contingency plans, part II

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you...


The above was filling a break in the pub quiz for the second time, when Leon announced that he had a funny story about it.

You see, he explained, one of my friends at university fell off the roof of a building and died...

I agreed that it was pretty funny.

That wasn't the funny part, he said. We had the funeral, and his girlfriend stood up and said "I'd like to play this song to remind us of him", and she played this...

...the Puff Daddy version.

I would imagine that, in Leon's shoes, I would have had the devil of a time keeping a straight face. Apparently, he didn't find it easy.


My current favourite is Songbird by Fleetwood Mac, just in case the unthinkable happens.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be

The new year sumo tourny is on and I'm aghast at the way things are going.

Just to recap: at the end of last year, Ama secured his promotion to Ozeki (sumo's second highest rank) and, to celebrate, his stable master gave him a new name, Harumafuji.

"An Ozeki should be challenging for tournament honours." said Harumafuji (née Ama.)

And he's blasted off to a less-than-flying start to the first tourny of 2009, losing his first four matches straight.

On day five, he changed from his new grey loincloth to the black one he used to wear in the good old Ama days and managed to eke out a win; he lost again today, though. At 1-5, he has no chance of winning the tournament and even the majority eight wins are looking a pretty tall order.

Guh-- if it ain't broke... never mind.


Fortunately, Asashoryu is back! Sidelined for much of the last six months, he's back and kicking butt with a spotless 6-0 record (this despite worries about his elbow, numerous calls for his retirement and death threats posted on internet message boards.) At least there's one Mongolian I can cheer for.


Friday, January 09, 2009


The darnedest thing

I was checking out my sadly-depleted head of hair in the mirror yesterday, when something caught my eye: a lone frizzy strand jutting out above my right ear. I gave it a twiddle; the feel was unmistakeable.

"Joe, I've got a pube growing out of my head."

Joe gave me an old-fashioned look.

"I'm serious, check it out."

Joe stood up and inspected the offending hair.

"I think it's just a very curly hair, Dan."

"It's not- it's a pube. It even feels like one."

Joe, looking suitably dubious, put this to the test, whereupon there was a sharp "pop!" noise and he sprang back.

"Ow, it gave me an electric shock."

"Oh, great: so there's a magical electrical lightning pube sprouting out of my head. It could be time to lay off that caffeine shampoo."

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Catching up on five years worth

One of my reasons for coming back to England was to spend a bit more time with the grandad. He must be thanking his lucky stars.

1. I drove him to hospital for a routine hearing aid check. Told him all the way there that the nurse was going to inject hot resin into his ear canal, which was by no means likely to be the case.

2. On the way home, he asked if I would be "missing anyone particularly this Christmas," whereupon I told him I was gay, drawing a brief bark of laughter from the mum in the back seat.

3. I keep asking him if the shirt he's wearing is the one I got him for Christmas. I got him socks.

4. I connived my way into possession of his car.


This last is not really true: the mum phoned up the cheapo insurance company to renew his policy and got a bit of a shock.

"I love this company," she said to me, waiting for someone to pick up the phone at the other end. "They're ever so cheap. Hello? Yes, I'd like to renew the policy for Maurice Court, please. How much?! Well, yes, I realise he's ninety now, but it didn't cost that much last year, and he was legally blind..."

So I became legal guardian of the red Rover.


I got a bit of a shock when I went to see him today: I thought he'd been beaten up or had a fall.

Thankfully, what I had initially thought to be caked blood turned out to be chocolate.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009



I've seen Derby twice this season... and they always struck me as a puppet missing a couple of strings.

On the subject of Derby County scraping past non-league Forest Green 4-3 in the FA Cup 3rd round
Guardian football weekly podcast

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Monday, January 05, 2009


Uri Futatsu

In the manner of the sadly discontinued "Separated at birth" section of the Grauniad sport supplement, I hereby challenge readers to spot which is which from a couple of lookalike celebrities.

Challenge #1: Elvis Costello vs Rafa Benitez.

Elvis Costello Rafa Benitez

For those happy few of you who aren't in the know, it might help if I mention that Elvis Costello wrote one of my favourite albums.

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