Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Post

Hello everybody.

This is the last post on Ataxophile.

The good news is I'm not moving far, and have a sparkling new blog with an almost sparkling new name.  As the result of a stupid, stupid New Year's resolution I will now be blogging at The Hungry Ataxophile.  I hope you can join me there.

It will be the greatest blog you have ever read.  It has charming anecdotes, beautiful artwork, and possibly the occasional dog photo.  And food.  Lots about food.  Go to the FAQ page to see what it's all about.

And happy New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ellen And The Day Spa

As an early Christmas treat for Ellen we made her an appointment to have her hair done.

She was a little uncertain at first,

and she wasn't at all sure about having her ears washed,

but it didn't take her long to realise it was very nice having all that attention.

Even if a strange lady was doing things with a hose to her bottom.

And when it was all over, and she was nice and shiny, it was lots of fun to find things to roll in.

But the best fun of all was going to the dog park yesterday to show off her shiny new coat to her friends.

Doggy hydrobath: $35

Romp in a mud puddle with a ball two days later: priceless.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Tasty Surprise

I am a poor gardener, and a lazy and impatient one.

My compost, for example, is spread around the garden long before it has reached that crumbly, sweet-smelling stage.  Before, in fact, it has really composted at all.  Rather than compost, some might call it rubbish.  Amongst my seedlings a keen eye can pick out whole apples, pumpkins, newspapers and even the odd not-terribly-compostible thing, like an onion bag or a wine bottle.

Anyway, a little while ago I had an urge to plant things.  I'm not sure what came over me - perhaps I'd been watching Backyard Blitz, or perhaps the way the post-apocalyptic moonscape of our front yard was attracting foxes and carrion birds was starting to get to me.  Whatever it was, I felt I wasn't going to feel fulfilled until I had spent hundreds of dollars and many hours planting a shrubbery.

Unsure where to begin on the Shrubbery Project, I thought I would build a mound.  Plants like mounds, they are a fail safe conversation starter and they add enormous value to house prices.

So I emptied the compost bin on to the lawn, threw on some potting mix, chicken poo and lucerne that I found in the garage, and inserted some plants.  

I was very proud of my Shrubbery and I loved it.

And my Shrubbery was nurtured by my love and by the mystery nutrients of the compost, and lo it did grow and grow and grow.

And grow.

And it became a big green monster that scared away all the foxes.

And it grew some things that I hadn't even asked it to grow, but I left them there out of a mixture of fear and curiosity.

But then the Fella beheld my Shrubbery, and he said that the mystery things were not Good Things, and that we should remove them because they were bullying our very expensive proper plants.

So we pulled up the biggest one, and guess what we found underneath.....

Thousands upon thousands of magnificent purple potatoes!  Well, sixteen of them.

And I wasn't the only one licking my lips.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The other night the Fella was saying to me that he'd never really spent any time on YouTube.

Had no interest.

Didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

Obviously, I couldn't let that pass.  When considered along with other grumblings of the week ("Lady Gaga? Who? WHAT? Where are my slippers?????", or "WTF is a LOLcat???"), it became clear that the Fella was in desperate need of An Education.

We started out with the basics, and although the Fella tried to look nonchalant, I could see that he was starting to get excited.  He was, in fact, chalant.

We spent a long time looking at the classics.   Longer than we wanted.

But the Fella was able to press on through these frustrations long after I had tired of the lesson.

Usually I am indefatigable when it comes to plundering the treasures of the interwebs, but even I have my limits.

I don't think he noticed when I went to bed, and I couldn't tell you if he joined me that night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Under The Knife

Today I've been thinking about how I could improve my life through plastic surgery.

My favorite magazine tells me that I'm of that age where I should be concerned about fine lines, sunspots (and not just because they disrupt satellite communications), free radicals wreaking havoc on my antioxidants and the inexorable retreat of perkiness in all my moving parts.  And in my parts that aren't supposed to move.

But they say plastic surgery is addictive, and that even after enduring great pain and expense the first time, there is a driving urge to get a second, a third, a fourth and many more procedures.  It's like getting your first cat.  And I'm starting to recognise my propensity to this kind of addiction.  When I told astrocave that I was thinking of getting a kitten to keep Stuart company and help control his violent outbursts, he told me that when you have a problem with a cat, and your solution is to get a second cat, then you're officially a Crazy Cat Woman.

But I digress.

There are many ridiculous and frightening cosmetic procedures out there: injection of botulism into the face, bleaching of things that should never be bleached, butt lifts, brushing teeth, removal of ribs, and, well, the list goes on and on.

These operations do not actually increase anyone's quality of life, but with a little creative thinking enormous improvements could be made through the realisation of the full potential of cosmetic surgery.  If I had enough money, these are the little nip tucks I would have done:

  1. Have my right arm replaced with another left arm.  I am left-handed and have very little use for a right arm.
  2. Have my eyes put in chameleon-like sockets.  This would make me a better parallel parker.
  3. Make the legendary "dessert stomach" a reality.
  4. Get some antlers.  For intimidation and holding yarn.
  5. Have my middle fingers extended by 10cm.  To help with road-rage and eating peanut butter.
  6. Have one of my knees reversed.  To help me run in circles.
  7. Get my underpants tattooed on.
  8. Extra teeth.

I'd keep the fine lines though.  It's important not to look as though you've had any work done.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stuart's Song. Inspired by The Events Of The Past Twenty-Four Hours. With Apologies To Hunters & Collectors

I will come for you at night time
I will bite you in your sleep
I will vomit in four places
So watch out where you put your feet
I will squeeze the rage out of you
I will make you scream and make you cry
And we will never forget it
I will make you call my name
And you'll shout it with clenched fists to the sky
And we are sure to do this again
So don your gloves and let's get started
And I will throw my breakfast around me
Yeah, I will throw my breakfast around me

I woke you up at night time
And I attacked you in your sleep
I licked my private places
And then I licked your head and scratched your feet
So if I disappear out of view
You'd better lift your feet up on your chair
And though you try to forget it
I will make you call my name
And you'll shout it with clenched fists to the sky...
And we are sure to do this again...
So grab your Savlon, grab your gauze
And I will throw my claws around you
Yeah, I will throw my claws around you
Ohhh yeah...
I will throw my claws around you...
Yeah, I will throw my claws around you....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Now What?

Yesterday my thesis was bound.

I will not look at it again before I submit it on Friday. I know that if I check over it now any spelling errors will be immediately obvious, even though during proof-reading they hid from view like the proverbial clown fish in the caesar salad.

So, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, I've got nothing to do today but smile.

Or, less appropriately, as the Beatles said, I am the walrus.  Goo goo goo joob.

Or perhaps The Bedroom Philosopher put it best: I just felt like ice-cream wrapped in biscuit crumbs.

However true those sentiments are, today is not a day of rest for me.  For a start, yesterday I found an Easter egg behind the washing machine.  Either we have an infestation of bunnies, or I have found Stuart's secret chocolate stash. 

I'm heading into the laundry very soon with my reaching stick to find out which it is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Sorry Lissy, I'm Afraid I Can't Do That

The most glorious thing about living in our age is technology.  Where our ancestors worked themselves into the grave by the age of thirty-five harvesting corn, we can go to the Coles website and order corn.  If we can't be bothered constructing a whole meal around it, we can order corn fritters instead. Hell, if we can't even be bothered chewing, we can order creamed corn.

The point is that computers can come to the rescue for just about any "Meh, let someone else do it" scenario.  And they're very good at it.  Even obsequious in their desire to please.

At least, they always have been.

Today, my computer gave up on me.  In a most unwelcome realisation that nobody can make it do stuff it doesn't want to do, it decided it was all too hard, and it would rather sit back and make grindy whirry noises rather than be my slave any longer.

So it presented me with this message:

For the record, there were NOT too many spelling or grammatical errors.  It was just sick of proof-reading for me.

And the obstinance didn't end there.  When I accepted I would have to work things out for myself, it thwarted my every attempt.

Failed?  You didn't even try.

I hate you, computer.

Happy As A Pig In The Proverbial

Today Ellen and I went to the dog park for a bit of a treat.

Ellen found the only mud-puddle, and led all the other dogs into it.  Even though they hadn't shown any interest before.

She had a very lovely time.

And took all that mud back into the car.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ten Things I Would Do If I Had A Monkey

  1. I would call him Gerald.  I would not get a female monkey.  Female monkeys are too ambitious.
  2. I would teach Gerald to drive and make him drive me to the supermarket on a Saturday morning, and if we couldn't find a park, he would wait in a no standing zone while I went in and got crisps and milk for me, and monkey food for him.
  3. I would let Gerald have a Facebook page.  Until he tired of it.
  4. I would go into a cafe with him and the waiter would say, "You can't bring a monkey in here," and I would say "What monkey?" and the waiter would get confused, and he would say, "OK, what do you want?" and I would say "I'd like a latte, one of those caramel slices and a banana."
  5. I would teach Gerald to speak when he wanted something, and he would teach me to screech when I wanted something.
  6. I would make Gerald brush his teeth, but he could only use his own toothbrush, or the Fella's.
  7. Sometimes I would dress Gerald up and put him in a pram and wheel him around, and when people came over to coo and stick their fingers in the pram, he would bite them before they could recoil in horror.
  8. I would play Scrabble with Gerald and take advantage of his poor spelling.  I would always keep score, so I would never let him win.
  9. I would make Gerald walk Ellen.
  10. I would teach Gerald to format a large bibliography and ensure references were consistent throughout the body of a large thesis.
Actually, it's mostly number 10 that I want a monkey for today.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Very Quick Post On Account Of There Being Very Important Things I Should Be Doing Instead

Today I am supposed to be writing a thesis.  It's less than four weeks till I'm submitting it, and there are still many things to do.

Nonetheless, this morning I tore myself away from it to go to Fyshwick.

No, not for that.

They're not allowed to sell us fireworks anymore.  (By that, I mean Canberrans - not just me and the Fella.)

I went to the pet shop.  Honestly.  And I bought one of those tennis ball throwing-stick thingies, and the Fella was most disdainful, and then I cried a bit and I reminded him that of all my school reports, the one that still stings me is the Grade One report where my teacher observed "Lissy cannot throw or catch balls." And then the Fella felt really bad and said he'd buy me a present, or bake me a lemon-based dessert.  I can't remember which.  Maybe it was both.  Yes, now I think about it, it was both.

The point of the story is that today I realised there are lots of things I like about Canberra.  As I was driving  along on my merry way to Fyshwick, a car passed me that had a lacy blue bra fastened to its front grille.  Of course it's possible that it was residual evidence of a hit and run, but I think it was intended to be a parody of that strange accessory, the car bra.

Canberrans appreciate the visual pun, and can chortle about it with their friends at the Farmers' Market.

Whereas, if you tried it in any other town people would think you were from Canberra.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Simply Not True

As any number of women will tell you, there's nothing more fun than experiencing your Ladytimes.
And as Livebird will tell you, nothing makes the whole thing funner than reading the trivia that a certain brand of Ladyproducts puts on their adhesive strip covering.  But like Livebird, I find that these gems are not always entirely accurate.

These fun facts range from the blatantly incorrect:"Mickey Mouse has four fingers on each hand".... the unprovable and poorly worded: "The largest pumpkin ever grown recorded a weight of 482kg."

..... to the fruits of a wasted research grant: "The average person spends 2 weeks of their life waiting for a traffic light to change." Which light? GAAAAH!

Many, however, just seem to be lies that are easier to accept than argue with.  Now, I'm no stranger to made up facts, but at least I try to make them sound plausible.

The statement that "The only animal that cannot jump is the elephant," for example, is a terrible falsehood.

Other animals that can't jump are:
  • slugs
  • corals
  • prawns (cooked)
  • earthworms
  • white men
  • hibernating bears
Do your research, people.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On The Naming Of Children

Let me preface this post by saying I am NOT pregnant.

Sometimes when I've got nothing better to do I think about what I might name a baby.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine named his daughter Rowan, which I think is a beautiful name for a girl. But if Seinfeld has taught us nothing else, it's that friends don't steal other friends' baby names. Anyway, this friend of mine is a botanical type guy, and named the girl after the rowan bush, not Rowan Atkinson as I had initially thought.

I quite like the idea of naming a child after a plant. Not any plant, obviously - Carrotweed, Ficus, Spider Lily and Patterson's Curse are not good baby names. And naming Bindi Irwin after a noxious weed is not something the poor girl will be grateful for when she's out spreading the conservation message as an adult.

In fact, after I had looked into it, I realised Rowan is the only good plant name out there. Flowers provide plenty of pretty girl's names (Violet, Rose, Poppy, Dogwood), but options are limited if you want to go for the whole shrub. Some have poetic scientific names, but aren't so lovely if you know their common names:

Iresene = Chicken Gizzard
Nemantanthus = Clog Plant
Schefflera = Octopus Tree
Monstera = Swiss Cheese Plant

OK, maybe Monstera isn't all that pretty. But it's a pretty plant, which highlights the fact that not all that is beautiful in nature has a lovely name. Take birds, for example. With my plant options exhausted, I wondered if there was a pretty bird name I could use.

I suppose it reveals the inclination and limitations of my imagination that I could only come up with Tit, Boobie, Thrush, Goose, Peacock and Chook. And googling only added Warbler, Screaming Piha, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Oilbird and Giant Cowbird.

What do you think of Ellen for a girl and Stuart for a boy?

Oh, right.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oh, Stuart

Yesterday I looked out the kitchen window to see a familiar black shape standing up on her hind legs and yanking at my last surviving broccoli plant.


I ran out with clappy hands and stompy ugg-boots and gruffness aplenty.  Ellen ignored me, but I managed to push her away before she had completely destroyed the plant.

There were two florets left.  Very small florets.  Really small.  The size of large grapes.  Or very tiny watermelons.  Or, like, if you had the skull of a monkey, but it was solid, and then you chiselled away most of it.  They were that size.

So I decided I would eat my two florets in a stir-fry.  I chopped up a selection of other vegetables, and then realised it was news time, so I put down my knife and went into the lounge to watch the headlines.



I went back into the kitchen and there was a half-chewed broccoli floret on the floor, and cat hair on my chopping board.  I picked up the last broccolus.  One pathetic broccolus.  I started to laugh hysterically, and then I was crying, and then I felt a little pop in my brain and I couldn't feel my left arm for a bit but I was strangely soothed.

$500 building a "dog-proof" garden.  Three megalitres of water to sustain it.  Nine hours lovingly picking grubs off the underside of leaves.  One happy dog.  One happy cat.  One floret of broccoli.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh, Ellen

Ellen has been a very good girl lately, which makes for poor blogging.  But on the upside, my blood pressure has dropped, I no longer sit in the car with big eyes of fear and clenchy tummy of dread before venturing out to open the gate, and I've stopped grinding my teeth.  I've even stopped looking at the RSPCA website to find a better dog.

Ellen has been so good, we've even started to go to the local oval for 'Yappy Hour' each day, where she runs around OFF LEAD, and has made lots of new friends.  Some of them are big and slobbery, and some are small and annoying.  Just like my friends!*

Such is my new found sense of inner peace that I'm able to start to delight again in the beauty around me.  And one of the things I noticed this week is that our vegie garden has started to yield some very pretty, and some very tasty things.

The rocket has gone to flower, but that's OK.  Nobody likes to actually eat it.

And a very cute little cauliflower was peeking out from behind its leaves.

It reminded me of that song:

Cauliflower, cauliflower,
Vegetable of Satan,
I hate yooooooouuuuu,
Vegetable of terror,
Vegetable of nastiness - 
or are you a fruit?
Either way, you are dreadful.
Except with cheese sauce.

And broccoli!  I noticed that we had grown a rather magnificent broccolus, and thought I might harvest some for my dinner.

Alas, when I went out with my knife, I found something had been nibbling at it. 

But who had taken such delicate nibbles?  Was it one of our possums?  A hungry cockatoo? Or the guy who reads the electricity meter?  It didn't really matter.  What mattered was that it made me really angry.   I was really angry and I also had a knife.  And then I thought about all the other things that made me angry and my inner calm disappeared.  But there was nothing to stab, so I used the knife to put my broccolus out of its misery.  

And so I had a half-eaten broccolus in one hand, a knife in the other, and that twitch I get in my left eyelid when I'm losing control.  And I was saying things like "nnnng," and "raahhrr."  And grinding my teeth.

My fury lingered, but it wasn't long before the question of what to do with the molested brassica resolved itself with a pleading look and a waggy tail.  What harm can it do? I thought, Ellen loves vegetables, and broccoli has to be better for her than the other things she eats.  Like fence palings and small stones.

So Ellen got to crunch it up and enjoy its deliciousness.

Silly me.

Silly, silly me.

Of course, Ellen now has a taste for broccoli.  So what did I find when I came home the following afternoon?

Ellen.  Very pleased with herself.  In a sea of green.

Ellen had pulled the plant up by its roots and chewed it into a million pieces.  She had also tried the cauliflower, but as it was not as tasty, she simply chewed the top off the plant and spat the florets back into the garden.  

This is where both plants used to stand proudly.

I have to go now.  I need to spend some time on the RSPCA website.

* my OTHER friends, obviously.  Not you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Only Blog Post Created Today That Doesn't Mention The Election.

Yesterday we had a garage sale.  As always, I was amazed by what people will buy, and how little they want to pay.

There was some rare treasure to be had.  Like the novel that had been "Made into a disturbing erotic film starring Kris Kristofferson."  Or the underpants emblazoned with the Guinness logo that a lady bought for her future daughter-in-law.

There were also what I like to call "non-premium" items.  One of the things I sold was a stuffed dog I made for the Fella many years ago when I still had enthusiasm and motor skills.  He wasn't a real dog, but he was really stuffed.  We agreed to get rid of him because the Fella said he had a scary face.  And he was right - the dog had maniac eyes, an overstuffed head and strange lips that were quite undoggy.  He looked a little like Jeff McMullen, but much, much uglier.

This is probably the mental image you have, but please try a little harder.  He looked nothing like this:

A lady bought him for her grandson.  She said the dog looked angry, like he wanted to bite her, and she hoped he didn't frighten the little boy.  I was going to ask why she would give a youngster a toy like that, but I held my tongue.  A sale's a sale, and I needed that two dollars.  But for the rest of the day I kept thinking how much she must dislike that child.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lessons From My Cat: #1

These are the top ten things to do if you are angry:
  1. Narrow your eyes to slits and try to make lasers come out of them.
  2. Belt your favorite toy around the kitchen, and when it goes under the dishwasher yowl and yowl until your person gets it out with a broom.  Repeat.
  3. Wait until your person is carrying something hot.  Grab her leg and sink your teeth in.  You can precede this with one of your banshee yowls if you like, but the element of surprise is then ruined.
  4. Pee on the dog's bed.
  5. Vomit.
  6. Cower and run away from your person when she has guests.  This will make them think she beats you.
  7. Wait until the dog's bed has been washed then pee on it again.
  8. Make sure your bottom is hanging outside your litter tray.
  9. Ignore the expensive cat grass your person has bought for you.  Then, when she goes out, pull it out of its pot and trample dirt through the house.  Then vomit.
  10. Wait until your person is carrying something hot.  Growl when she walks past.  Enjoy her reaction.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ranty Time

Nothing annoys me more than the predictable comments people make when they're interviewed on the news.  Well, a few things might technically annoy me more.  Like Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face,' which I can't get out of my head even though I don't know the words, so it's just a constant loop of  'naaa naaaa nuh nuh daaa da.'  And also it annoys me that I was thinking about the film 'Brewster's Millions' today, and I can't remember how it ended and whether he managed to spend a million dollars a day to satisfy the absurd terms of his inheritance, and now I'll have to watch it, and I don't have time.  I. DON'T. HAVE. TIME. GAAAH.  Also I'm feeling all fluey (as in 'coming down with an influenza-type illness,' not 'chimney-like'), and when I'm feeling fluey I tend to rant and eat too many biscuits.  It also annoys me that I've run out of biscuits.

So anyway, when there's a genuine shocking event anywhere, the networks wheel out the same concerned mum with a toddler on her hip to tell us earnestly that it's such a quiet neighbourhood, and she never expected anything like that to happen here.  Really?  Where did you expect it to happen???  Just once I'd like to hear someone say, 'He was a terrible neighbour - really aggressive and weird.  I'm not at all surprised by what happened.'

And why bother asking people how they feel about interest rate rises? Of course people don't like them.  But they never ask the person who says 'No - the interest rate rise doesn't really put any pressure on my family.  Although, if rates keep rising I may have to sell one of my investment properties.'

And it doesn't stop there: there isn't a famous man who died who wasn't a top bloke, there has never been a cute cat that was rescued from under a house that didn't use up one of its nine lives, and any sporting loss can be attributed to a persistent calf strain, rather than a lack of talent.

I have to go now.  I think I have some cookie dough in the freezer.

naaa naaaa nuh nuh daaa da.....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons From My Dog: #26

The best places to poo are:
  • on the front lawn of the house where the accusing old lady parts the curtains and glares at your person
  • on top of ivy, long grass, prostrate grevilleas or anything else that ends up with the poo getting mooshed through the vegetation when it's picked up
  • in front of a group of schoolchildren
  • anywhere - if it's your second poo and your person has run out of bags
and my new favorite, premiered today:
  • on top of another dog's poo

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I have a very fixed routine in the morning.  Anywhere between 4:00am and 7:15am Stuart starts sniffing my nose, licking my hair and banging the curtain cord thingy against the wall.  When he starts sniffing my nose a second time I get up.  I go into the kitchen, where Ellen sleeps, and she greets me like she hasn't seen me for months.  Then Ellen rolls over for a bit of a belly scratch, and as I loosen the detritus I tell myself I must remember to book her an appointment with the dog-wash guy.  I let her out and wash my hands.  Then everyone gets fed, I shower, scoff some breakfast and head for the door.  When I've reached the door, I realise I haven't checked Stu's kitty litter tray, so I huff a little and go back to see what surprises he's left.

So all was going according to schedule one day last week.  I poked my head in the laundry and saw the litter piled into a very neat little midden.  Sigh.  I put my handbag on the floor and picked up my trusty crap shovel.

But something wasn't right.  The litter flowed freely through the holes.  There was, quite bluntly, no poop to scoop.  I shrugged, and put down the shovel.  Then I turned, in time to see Stuart, tippy-toeing like a Warner Brothers villain, with a piece of banana cake in his mouth.

My banana cake.

Stolen from my handbag.

When he saw he'd been spotted he took off as quickly as a morbidly obese cat can when it's carrying half its own weight in cake.  I eventually caught up with him under the dining table and reclaimed my cake.

Evil genius.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Unnatural Histories, Part Two: The Blobfish

The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) is the only fish never to be featured on an Australian postage stamp. It was scheduled to grace the two cent stamp in 1979, but the post office thought people would be squeamish about licking it, coming as it did on the back of the deadly and messy outbreak of Latvian flu.

The blobfish was named by a grade four class at Dana Street Primary School in Ballarat.  Scientists were so impressed at the appositeness of the name that they called on the same children to name the black rat, the spectacled bear, the stinkbug and De Brazza's guenon.

Despite being bald, the blobfish blends in easily in most situations.  Early in 2009 a blobfish replaced a regular panellist on Insiders for six weeks, and nobody noticed.

Original images here and here
The blobfish has a beautiful singing voice, but many people find it annoying.  Fishermen will usually throw a blobfish back lest its song drive them crazy.  This is not just one of those weird superstitions that fishermen cling to - in one village scientists documented eighty-four cases of psychosis amongst the fishermen and three cases of Tourette's Syndrome.  These, however, may have just been fishermen screaming at the scientists to get off their boats.  

It is claimed that blobfish, like people, can suffer from lactose intolerance.  However, like most people, most blobfish are lying about it.

They should, however, be taken seriously if they claim to have Coeliac Disease.  The blobfish population around Kangaroo Island was decimated in 1987 when a terrible accident saw thousands of hot cross buns end up in the ocean.

The local moray eels are still traumatised by the incident.

Like most deep-sea creatures that are never seen by humans, blobfish are notoriously private.  When New Idea ambushed a blobfish with allegations he was Michael Jackson's love child, it made the blobfish very angry.

Blobfish have not been bothered by any women's magazines since.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unnatural Histories, Part One: The Aye-Aye

The aye-aye is my favorite animal this week, but I realised not many people know much about it.  So here are the most important facts.

Naturalists in the late eighteenth century were baffled by the aye-aye, and eventually classified it as a mollusc.  Modern scientists recognise that this is incorrect, but cannot agree on another classification.  It remains a mollusc on the basis of having two valves and a fishy odour.

Many people assume that the aye-aye was so-named because it has two lovely eyes, but they are stupid people.  It was, in fact, named after little-known Professor John Gilbertson.  Professor Gilbertson should rightly be famous as the man who invented yogurt, but he died of botulism before he patented his discovery.  His research assistant, Nicolas Fruche, stole all the credit. 

The aye-aye is native to France.  

There was a referendum in 1902 to decide if the aye-aye should be adopted as the national animal, but the strength of the chicken lobby meant it was defeated by the Gallic Rooster.

Aye-ayes are farmed extensively in France for their valuable milk.  This is a rare and tasty liquor which was forbidden to women in the Middle Ages, but was available clandestinely in 'speake-easies' of the Marais.  The value of the milk is proportionate to the difficulty of obtaining it: the aye-aye has no nipples, and the milk must be obtained by surprising the female with a sharp squeeze.

It is necessary to do this quickly, as the aye-aye can inflict a nasty bite.

Aye-ayes try to avoid reproduction as their babies are covered in thick hair, which repulses the adults.

The fact that aye-ayes can swim has made them a shipping hazard for hundred of years, and they are thought to have inspired the myth of the 'Monkey Whale' that supposedly haunts the English Channel.  They are most dangerous when they swim in pods of a hundred or more and attack the hulls of wooden vessels with their blunt, but persistent, teeth.  In the nineteenth century, a cry of "Aye-aye Captain" from the poop deck sent shudders through the crew and was often a portent of a watery and terrible death.

Images here and here
In the 1960s the newly-formed 'Helpful Animals Organisation' experimented with using aye-ayes as assistance animals, but they changed to the labrador after accidental deaths reached unacceptable numbers.  Most fatalities are said to have occurred when the aye-aye was startled by a pigeon, but many suspect the real reason is more nefarious.  An aye-aye was seen leading its handler into the path of a bus in Yass, even though witnesses swear there were no pigeons around.

Finally, if you decide to keep an aye-aye as a pet (and nobody ever has), do not put them in a container.  

Original Image
They cannot get out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Devil's Library

In preparation for a book sale tomorrow I have just finished sorting through our boxes of books that are superfluous to our needs.  There are five hundred and eighty-nine books.  Not counting old law texts, which are being recycled, and not counting the Gregory's 1983-84 Sydney street directory, which is going to my craft stash for future upcycling in a brilliant and creative way.

Many of the books we're selling were purchased second-hand, and have names written on the first page.  Some of these inscriptions include heart-wrenching little notes to the person to whom the book was originally given, and were not meant to be read by anyone else.  Others are just an inked name - people staking a claim to the book in the same way that a cat might rub its face glands on it.

Most of these names are unknown, but I was quite surprised to see the name written neatly inside a somewhat shabby copy of Lord of the Flies.


Why a fairly senior demon would have read, and then chosen to discard, this novel is a mystery.  But then I read that Beelzebub means 'Lord of the Flies,' so perhaps he was just checking it out to see what people were saying.  The way I google myself every now and then.

Doesn't really matter.  What's important is that I'm gonna get me $2 for the book.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crafty Bitch

Don't you hate it when you're really into something obscure, and at first it's really daggy, but you can enjoy the ironic appeal, and then someone mentions it in Frankie magazine and it gives you an air of mystique and genuine coolness, and then someone else mentions it in Better Homes and Gardens, and suddenly everyone is doing it, and doing it poorly, and then Lincraft brings out a kit to make it possible for even people with no arms to do it, and then even more people are doing it, and what's more, some of the more creative ones work out that they can improve on their product by sticking swarovski crystals on it or making a tiny version in polymer clay that they can use to jazz up their husband's dongle?

Well, I have never known that self-satisfied rage.  I have always latched onto trends as they make their descent into the remedial sandpit of popular crafts: I am only now turning my mind to learning how to knit, I got into steampunk long after everyone knew what it was, and only started buying my t-shirts from Threadless when I saw a friend's mother wearing one.

And I'm just as late to leave a dying craft.  When the scrapbookers are fleeing to the safety of screenprinting tea-towels, I'll be left behind with the Large-toothed Medicated Ladies Who Never Blink while we decoupage the deckchairs with cut-up Christmas cards.

Lucky, then, that someone in this house has got a finger on the crafty pulse.  Or a paw.

I can happily report that Ellen is the ONLY dog at school with a funky patchwork coat.

And she totally rocks it.

You just watch, people.  Everyone will be wearing them next month.

Or were they all wearing them last year?

EDIT: Having re-read this, I've realised it might give the impression that I made this magnificent coat.  I did not.  I paid $10 for it.  Which is far more sensible than spending a month cussing over fat quarters.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Alcohol

In solidarity with a friend who is doing Dry July, I thought I'd give the whole 'not drinking' thing a go.  Not for a whole month, mind you - just long enough to convince myself that I could give it up completely if I wanted to.  Which I don't.  But I could.

So it's only been five days, but some of the things I'm supposed to have noticed in my new alcohol-free life are:
  • better quality sleep
  • weight loss
  • more money
  • more energy
  • greater mental clarity
  • the shakes
The things I have actually noticed are:
  • my house could do with a good spring clean.  Especially the windows
  • there is no reason Hey Hey It's Saturday should make me teary
  • the new Doctor Who is not that cute after all
  • I don't do an uncanny impression of Alicia Keys
  • Nobbys nuts are tasty, but they are not a satisfying meal replacement
  • the shakes
I think five days is long enough to prove a point.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Guns, Bats And Bottoms

One of the most interesting and challenging things about travelling to another country is learning local customs and laws.  These can be easy to forget, but in New York there is no shortage of reminders, recommendations and warnings to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Some of these are a bit scary,

some of them warn you against doing something that had probably never occurred to you to do, until you saw the sign, then you started having mischievous thoughts but the Fella gave you That Look With The Pursed Lips and you had to get all indignant and say you were only joking,

and some of them are just plain daft.

This seat-back sign may not seem silly at first glance, but this is how far we were seated from any bat and ball action at Yankee Stadium:

Unless this is what they meant.

Being so far from the action at the game, we had to amuse ourselves with enormous pretzels and beer.

And before you ask, yes - the pretzel did make me nauseous.  It made me feel even more queasy when I saw how many calories were in it.

Calorie listings are everywhere, presumably as part of efforts to reduce obesity.  If you ask me, anyone who eats the souvenir cup deserves to be fat.

Of course, having the data doesn't mean you're going to not eat something.  It just means you're going to feel bad for a moment, give a resigned little shrug and then tuck into it.

So we enjoyed enormous pizza 

red velvet cupcakes

and donuts.

Although, in fairness, we earned those donuts.

In a moment of madness, the Fella decided that it would be super fun to do a couple of fun runs, and talked me into doing one of them with him.

Now, at home when you finish a run you're offered a paper cup of water with some dust and a bug in it, and, if you're lucky, an undersized banana and a showbag with a year-old copy of Runner's World magazine in it.

God bless America.  At the finish line: a dozen donut choices, a range of bagels and coffee aplenty.  Oh, and a pile of untouched bananas on the end of the table.

This particular fun run was to raise money for colon cancer research.  One of the main risk factors for colon cancer is a low-fibre diet that is high in fat.  

I chose the choc-iced donut with sprinkles, and I was going to go back for a jelly donut, but the Fella said we had to save room for breakfast.

The other fun run had a more interesting treat at the end:

And people were actually lining up for it.  What nicer way to relax after an eight mile run?

But we didn't just go back to New York for their range of bottom-themed running events.  There were also some things of great charm and beauty.

Like the little bookshop in Brooklyn that looked a lot like our own loungeroom,


and a hotel room with the most amazing view.

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