Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sounding off

This story about the world's worst sound is all over the Internet, but nobody seems to be commenting on the first thing I noticed when I read the story. Look at the list of the world's ten worst sounds:

1. Vomiting
2. Microphone feedback
3. Wailing babies
4. Train scraping on tracks
5. Squeaky seesaw
6. Poorly played violin
7. Whoopee cushion
8. Argument in a soap opera
9. Mains hum
10. Tasmanian devil

Did you notice it?

Look at number seven. Whoopee cushion, it says.

Whoopee cushion? WHOOPEE CUSHION? Scientists are not supposed to sacrifice accuracy for modesty! Scientists are not supposed to be coy! Number seven should read:


Or, if they wanted to sound more academic and use a bigger word,


But then I found another problem. When I listened specifically to the whoopie cushion (yes, it's spelt differently on this page) on the mixer page for the experiment, I discovered that it doesn't even SOUND like a whoopee cushion, at least none I've ever heard. (And yes, I have heard a few.) Whoopee cushions are supposed to sound like FARTS. That is the whole POINT of whoopee cushions. That is the most pathetic, unfartlike whoopee cushion I have ever heard, and if I bought one that sounded like that I would want my money back.

A more accurate sound might have caused different results (as well as making the test more entertaining). Were the experimenters so disgusted by the sound of the real thing they could not bear to record it?

I am going to be rather disgusting myself here for a moment, so avert your eyes from the next paragraph if you are of a delicate constitution.

When I listened to the sounds on the test, I noticed that the sounds I found the most horrible were the ones that involved some sort of liquid, bubbling, human (or at least biological) noise. The vomiting one was the worst, followed by the eating-with-mouth-open one, for me. It occurs to me that if they'd recorded the sound of a really bad bout of diarrhea (you know the kind I mean, the spitting, explosive sort caused by a dreadful seafood mistake, or a bad curry) with a bit of moaning and grunting thrown in, then the results might have been very different.

(Disgusting bit finished.)

I think the test designers were suffering from an excess of gentility, or perhaps a lifetime of fortunate food experiences.

I also think the experiment (which you can try for yourself here) is flawed, because how I react to most of these sounds depends almost entirely on context. I can imagine being terrified witless at hearing a guttural grunting noise IF I happened to be alone in a flimsy tent in the wilderness somewhere at night. However, if I heard it from my home in suburban Japan, I would be more likely to assume that some drunken sarariman was reliving his karaoke triumphs on his way home and started off in too low a key. Similarly, hearing the squeak of unoiled hinges would be terrifically annoying if I had to listen to it all day, and might be frightening if I were in a horror movie-type house at night with the lights out, but most of the time it doesn't bother me. The sound of a baby crying is generally not a problem, but can become incredibly irritating or upsetting if it goes on for too long, or in other circumstances which I'm sure everybody is capable of imagining. (And sometimes the sound of a baby not crying is worse.)

This makes ranking the sounds extremely difficult. I think the sound of someone vomiting won the battle for most horrible sound not because it is, exactly, but because it is distressing in every context. It is horrible when it is coming from you, it is horrible when it is coming from someone you love, and it is horrible when it is coming from a complete stranger. It is a sound that signals distress and emergency one hundred percent of the time.

But actually (and I sort of hope nobody is still reading at this point) I suspect the thing that bothered me the most about this study was the disturbing suspicion that I am personally capable of producing sounds that are considerably more horrible than any the experimenters came up with.

I do hope it's not just me.

Crossed wires

I visited a friend today, and now I have a question.

I usually get along well with cats, but one of my friend's cats (she has two) has always been a bit cranky around strangers. The only time he even started to almost tolerate me was when I cat-sat for three days a long time ago, and even then it was only for about five minutes just before I left at the end of the three days. He'd recovered from his momentary lapse by the next time we met, and usually when I go to her house he hides under the furniture, and snarls and spits if I get too close. I've always understood that to this particular cat I am a highly suspicious character, possibly a door-to-door religious salesperson who should not be encouraged. He has never trusted me, and I have known him for at least half of his life. He is fourteen years old.

Today, however, when I turned up he treated me like a long-lost friend. He wrapped himself around my ankles and begged to be picked up, and when I did, he purred and cuddled into my shoulder. This made me feel all warm and fuzzy but was also somewhat disturbing. It was especially disturbing a bit later when I was stroking him, enjoying my new privileges, and when I stopped my friend took over, and he got all irritated and scratched her. He seems to have mixed us up.

So my question is this: How did the wires in his fuzzy little feline brain get crossed like that?

Do cats get Alzheimer's?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Words and pictures


In my opinion, astronomy and phonology have all the best words. If aliens made contact you could combine the two, and have conversations like this:

- I'm sure that little guy said he was from a barred spiral galaxy.

- Yeah, and he used a voiceless postalveolar fricative to say so. That was weird. Do you think he's been drinking?

- I'm sure he has. He laughed at my oscillating universe theory and told me I was approaching critical density. Then he came out with a whole bunch of voiceless glottal fricatives.

But quite aside from all the great words you get to use, there is another very good reason to become an astronomer. Who would have guessed?

(The other maps are interesting, too. If I could figure out a way to print them legibly in black and white, I'd use them in class.)


If you would like another way of following the news, try playing with this. If you click a picture a popup window shows you the headlines, and then if you click on a headline a new window opens. It's fun to play with, and decorative.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

For your viewing pleasure

Here are a couple of things I have enjoyed watching in the last couple of days, and so have all the people I have sent them to.

This first one came from Radioactive Jam. It is a deceptive little video. Nine minutes is on the long side for a YouTube video, but as RaJ astutely noted, Things will seem fairly tame for the first minute and a half or so; don’t give up! He is right. You should not give up. You have nothing to lose, because if by any chance you do NOT enjoy the video, you can take your complaint to RaJ and he will give double your monkeys back. He promised.

Make sure you have the sound on.

Dad at Comedy Barn

I can't remember exactly where I came across this next one. I know I started out at Tracy's, but I don't THINK she posted this video. I think I got it from somewhere I went from there. Tracy often sends me in interesting directions.

This is, in fact, from a Japanese TV program. I have never watched it, but I am told it is sometimes interesting and frequently not. This particular time they hit a winner, and then spoiled it with a silly voice. If the voice drives you up the wall, watch it with the sound off. It's in Japanese anyway, and you do not need to hear to understand what is happening. Again, this one starts out a little slow, but keep watching. It is less than three minutes. There is a little moment of horror in there (WHAT ARE THEY DOING? ARE THEY MAD? IT'LL BE A SLAUGHTERHOUSE!), but it soon passes and all turns out well in the end.

Extremely Popular Cat

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I want

I may have to order this t-shirt.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I've been going through my Palm deleting stuff. I have ended up with files and files and FILES of stuff that is mostly rubbish. I write on it all the time, and most of it is not worth saving. But there are a few bits worth salvaging. Here are three of them.

Bit Number One

I wrote this after a class during which I gave a general knowledge quiz. I don't know why the students like doing these so much. They are very, very bad at them. I put them in groups and the groups compete to get points. They get more points for hard questions, or at least for the questions I have found they find hard.

The students always go for the high point questions first, knowing they probably won't know the answers but prepared to guess like mad. I love it that they do this. It is completely different from their usual approach to English, which is that they won't open their mouths in case a mistake comes out. Besides, it keeps me entertained.

"What nationality was Picasso?" is a high point question.

In previous years this has been a high point question because nobody has the faintest idea of the answer. This is no longer the main problem. This year's students don't even know who he was. One class decided he must be a musician, possibly one of the Rolling Stones. In the end I told them he was an artist, which didn't help, and they went through about fifty countries (and a few cities - they don't seem to know the difference) before they got the right answer.

Another high point question was,

"What is the capital of New Zealand?"

"SINGAPORE!" shouted one student, and everybody laughed at him. This turned out to be not quite fair, as they then demonstrated.

One of the boys who had laughed was sure it was Wales. The others in his group scoffed and beat him up. They laughed and laughed and laughed. What an idiot! He thought the capital of New Zealand was Wales! How funny! That was almost as funny as Singapore! (I heard one of them say, wonderingly, "What are you talking about? Capital means shuto, not fish.")

Then they told him the capital of New Zealand was Ireland.

Round about then I asked them if they knew the difference between country and city, and they assured me they did.

Bit Number Two

In my last class with the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! lads, we played word Mastermind. This is the same as number Mastermind (or Bulls and Cows), only using four letter words. (No, not THAT sort of four letter words.) They loved it, and wanted to play it as a class rather than in groups.

I got tired of being in front of the class, so selected different students to choose a word and go up and keep the chart on the board. I sat with the students, and as it happened the only seat free was in front of the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! students, who were sitting, as befits naughty boys, at the back of the room. At one rather tense point in the game, when everybody was staring at the board and concentrating, one of them sneezed.

I turned around.

"Bless you!" I hissed, and turned back.

"Sorry," he hissed back.

The other one hit him. (I heard it.)

"Not 'sorry,' you idiot! You're supposed to say 'thank you'!"

"Really?" said the student.

I glanced over my shoulder. "Yes," I hissed.

"Thank you," he hissed back.

The game continued. In another tense moment, I heard a VERY FAKE sneeze behind me.

I glanced around.

"Bless you!" I hissed.

"Thank you!" he hissed back.

By the end of the class I had blessed him about 25 times, and felt like the Pope.

Bit Number Three

This bit is about a class where I had only three, very high level students. One was a fourth-year law student, and he was telling us about his research project, which was about inheritance law and what happens to the 'compensation money' if someone is killed by another person. It was very complicated, and I can't say I understood it very well, but at one point I asked whether long-term gay couples had any rights under Japanese law. He turned from the board, where he had been drawing complicated diagrams, and stared at me for a moment.

"There are no Japanese gay couples," he said. Then he chuckled and went back to his diagram.

After a while I asked,

"Are you serious?"

He turned and stared at me again, assessing my question. Then he chuckled again, as if I had been very, very funny - or else HE had been very, very funny - and went back to his explanation.

I am still working on interpreting that chuckle.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I am a dictator pawn

Why have I still got a cold? It isn't fair. I did not have to work today (I finished at Tuesday's university last week) but didn't feel well enough to even go to meet my friends as I usually do on Tuesday evenings. I decided to stay home and finish up the grading for the classes I'll be teaching on Thursday and Friday, but haven't even managed that. Instead, I have been sitting here, occasionally falling asleep, and occasionally clicking on another web link.

Clicking on web links can take you to some strange places.

Echidne of the Snakes directed me to what she described as an extremely odd and almost hallucinatory piece written by the 'renowned writer' Nancy Levant, and naturally I went to check it out.

Within a couple of paragraphs I found myself wondering, renowned for what? For mangling the English language? How does someone who writes so horribly get to be a 'renowned writer'? I want to know. If she can be renowned, that raises the possibility that I could become WORLD FAMOUS, because even I know you do not need an apostrophe in making end's meet. Also, you do not need to read my sentences three or four times, mentally editing them differently each time, in the hope that eventually you'll get them right and be able to figure out what I am trying to say. Do you? (Not even that sentence? Really?) I even wondered if perhaps English was not Nancy's native language, but came to the conclusion that only a native speaker could regurgitate such a dog's breakfast. It takes familiarity with a language to treat it with such extreme disrespect.

All my mental editing skills could not help me to figure out, in the end, what point this Nancy person is trying to get across, except that FEMINISM IS BAD AND WILL MAKE YOU STERILE, OVERWORKED, AND DRUG ADDICTED. Also, I got the idea that she believes the world is ruled by a handful of very, very sneaky, evil men, who dreamed up "feminism," "environmentalism," "healthcare," "education" and "global economy," as ways of controlling us all and strangling us in double quote marks. However, I am not sure whether it's because "they" want us to have more babies or fewer. Both, if I read her correctly, but is there a correct way to read writing like that?

I could understand this bit at the end, though. I can tell when an insult has been aimed at me, even when it misses:

And to the world’s feminists – I say this: You are the dumbest women who have ever walked the face of the Earth. Week by week, day by day, you are losing every right you thought you invented. You fell hook, line, and sinker into the dialectic, and you are nothing but dictator pawns to the larger mission of total control over people and freedom.

Well, I exaggerate a little. I do not understand it all. I understand the first sentence. I understand that she is calling me one of the dumbest women to have ever walked the face of the Earth. To that I find myself able to retort, with great confidence: I AM NOT. There are lots of women who are dumber than me. Men, too. So put that in your anti-feminist hat and smoke it, along with your other mixed metaphors!

But the rest of that quote has me quite lost. I am fairly sure that I have not fallen into a dialectic, although it is hard to say because I am not quite certain what it entails. The more I think about it the less sense it makes. Have I been getting the meaning of dialectic wrong all these years? I looked it up, just in case, and here is what I found:


/dilektik/ Philosophy
• noun (also dialectics) usu. treated as sing. 1 the investigation of the truth of opinions, especially by logical discussion. 2 enquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions. 3 the existence or action of opposing social forces, concepts, etc.
That was pretty much what I thought, but I am still not sure how one falls into an investigation of the truth of opinions, especially by logical discussion. Or rather, I am not quite sure how it could be a BAD thing. I suspect what she means is that she does not want anybody investigating the truth of her opinions, and especially not if they are using logic. There are obvious reasons why that would be a bad thing for her. But for the rest of us, falling into dialectics could be quite a good thing, I think. It wouldn't even mess up our hair (unless we insisted on falling with a hook, line and sinker, in which case it might).

But here's the bit I really like. According to this renowned writer, I am a dictator pawn. I am not entirely sure what a dictator pawn is, but I like the idea of being one. Is it a pawn who dictates? Or the pawn of a dictator? I have decided to interpret it as the former. I like the idea of being a pawn (a person used by others for their own purposes) who is also a dictator ( a ruler with total power over a country.) It's so wonderfully oxymoronic, like being a killer bunny. (Or, come to think of it, like being a 'renowned writer' who cannot write.) Monty Python, anybody?

Nancy Levant wants us to read her book, "The Cultural Devastation of American Women." If you do, she says, you will:

Find out why you are, in fact, depressed and unhappy as contemporary women.

Who is depressed and unhappy? Not me! Dictator pawns are never depressed and unhappy. Confused, maybe. A little bloodthirsty, perhaps. But depressed?


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bad teacher

Some of the guys in my last class today wanted to know what the word tadpole meant. I drew one on the board. My drawing looked like a comma, only bigger, and wasn't very helpful, so I also explained that it wiggled around in ponds and later grew legs. I could not tell them that it grew up to be a frog, because that was the answer to the quiz question they were doing, and I knew that.

They understood what I meant, and were able to answer the quiz question correctly. (It was one where the question was harder than the answer.) Then they chatted about tadpoles and frogs a bit.

After a while one of them stuck his hand up again, and wanted to know what the word was for the tadpole that had started growing legs but wasn't quite a frog yet.

"Tadfrog", I said, before I could stop myself.

"Tadfrog ... tad - frog ... Oh, I SEE!" he said, and turned to tell his friends.

"Nonono! STOP!" I said. "It's not a real word!"

He stared at me in amazement.

"Sorry," I added, and he started laughing disbelievingly.

"Tadfrog is not a real word?" he asked. "Why not?"

"I don't know," I said helplessly. "I just made it up. Check your dictionary."

He did, and confirmed that it was not a real word. Then he taught it to his friends anyway, and tricked them into believing it, then told them the truth. "Ha ha ha, tadfrog!" they laughed, and I told them to PLEASE forget it, it's NOT A REAL WORD, and there IS no real word for a tadfrog, at least not one that I know. But I caught them later teaching it to other students and then laughing at them for believing it. They seemed to find the word funny because it made perfect sense and yet was not real.

Now I am afraid it is going to be the only new word from their year of classes with me that they will never forget.

(I just did a Google search on tadfrog and notice that it gets 97 hits. I retrospectively blame Google.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Over at My Life as a Gaijin Melanie has written about recycling in Japan. As she notes, it is a pain in the nether regions, but on the other hand it also forces you to think about the extra trouble it will cause you if you buy something that will later need special attention to get rid of. (You can fix that sentence if you like. I'm off work for the day.)

But what really got my attention was the video she has posted, about furoshiki. As I noted in comments, the only people I ever see using furoshiki in Japan are gaijin. Furoshiki are a brilliant idea that the locals spurn in favour of plastic bags. This is not what I want to talk about, though. I want to talk about the video itself. It is fascinating.

(If you follow the link above the video, you will be taken to a page where you are shown how to fold a furoshiki. You can also download a pdf file to print out, showing the same thing. This is all good.)

After watching the video I wanted to see where it came from, so I followed the links back to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. There I learned (because I do not keep up and did not know already) that the Minister of the Environment in April last year was a woman, Ms Yuriko Koike. There is a picture of her holding a furoshiki. The English language version of the video is also available from there.

When you watched the video, what did you notice? I mean, AFTER you noticed that that guy has the worst acting skills you have ever seen in your entire life. Did you notice the totally silent woman sitting beside him, looking terrifically professional but never saying a word except when the sound was turned off?

Who is she, do you think, and why is she there? The man is easy - he is a sort of amalgam of all the gaijin English speaker stereotypes. He is the kind of gaijin all Japanese people are familiar with, because it is how gaijin behave when they have been teaching English for too long to unresponsive students. (If I use lots of body language they'll understand me. And maybe they will stop staring blankly if I wiggle my eyebrows.)

But it's the woman who really gets to me. What is she thinking, as she sits there smiling vacuously into the wrong camera (towards the end)? If I had the video editing skills, I would take that video and put thought bubbles over her head. Right at the beginning, after she and the guy pretend to confer with each other, her thought bubble would say,

I was just pretending. This babbling idiot has nothing to do with me.

Later, when they come back to the fake 'newsdesk', her thought bubble would say,

I am being paid enough to smile A LITTLE BIT but not enough to show my teeth. Teeth are extra.

And towards the end when she is staring at the wrong camera,

I think my eyes are stuck open. Did I forget to blink?

And so on. Just watch the video, and you'll see what I mean. Watch it once because it's a good idea to use furoshiki, but then watch it again, and this time, watch the woman.

What do YOU think she is thinking?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cleverer than me

The descriptions activity that I used with my Tuesday classes was so successful that I used it at another university as well. In fact I didn't even use the original worksheet, which wasn't all that good. I used the homework the students from the first university had given me, which I'd typed up and made into a sort of game. It worked just as well at the second university as it did at the first, and with one particularly good class (of law students, who are wonderfully keen), I assigned homework as well. I asked them to write seven new descriptions like the ones they'd used in the game. If they did a good job, I said, I'd type them up and they could use them to play the game again in the last class of semester in January.

They responded with their usual enthusiasm, and in the last class of December I collected the homework. The majority of the students had done a great job, so yesterday I typed them up, ready to use in the last class. I can fit about 14 - 15 on a page, and since I want each page to have the same number I decided on 14, which left me three descriptions short of nine pages.

I decided to add three of my own devising.

I don't know whether having a cold has made me stupid, but I had to think REALLY HARD to come up with just one that my students hadn't already thought of, and it wasn't a very good one. I decided to ask The Man for help. I read him some examples, so he would know what I was after. They have to be simple descriptions of nouns or verbs, but not too simple. We knew what sort of level we were aiming for. I had 123 examples.

We sat for a while in silence, thinking and frowning deeply.

Eventually I started laughing.

"I can't believe I asked my students to do seven of these!" I said. "Did I think it was easy?"

The next time I start moaning and grousing about my students, remind me of this. It is entirely possible that they are, in fact, cleverer than me, particularly the girl who wrote her seven then scribbled a note in parentheses that said, Sorry, I can't stop! - and then wrote five more. (Why did she think she needed to apologize?)

She is definitely cleverer than me.

Here are the three we eventually came up with:

1. This is what you do when you think of something that happened in the past.
2. This is a day when you do not have to go to work or school.
3. This is the word for air that is moving fast.

The answers are all one word.

I know they seem simple, but try doing them in another language, as a listening rather than a reading exercise, in a game where the first person to get the right answer gets the point. It is a really fun way to practice listening for meaning, and to discourage translating, plus it teaches the students how to describe something they do not have the word for. I recommend it for anybody teaching lower level students.

But I also recommend that you get the students to write the descriptions themselves. Doing it yourself is far too difficult.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

About time

In case you are wondering why I am not posting very often, it is because I still have this cold. It got worse, and only now is beginning to get better again, but not much. It is taking a long time because my doctor still isn't back, and I'm too lazy sick to go and find another one, so don't have a lot of lovely medicine to make me sleep or give me interesting dreams. So I have been resting a lot but not sleeping so much, and my life has been excessively boring, at least in terms of bloggable material (unless you are entertained by vast quantities of snot). Isn't it about time I got better?

Speaking of time, to make things more interesting for myself I have been reading. One book I have been reading on and off in these miserable, sniffly days, is, coincidentally, About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, by Paul Davies. I haven't finished it yet because I am reading parts of it backwards. That is because the book is about time, and time doesn't NECESSARILY have to go forwards, so neither do I. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. Ask any quantum physicist.

The idea of time going backwards appeals to me, but it occurs to me that things could be even more interesting if it went sideways. This has not come up in the book so far, but I haven't finished it yet, and live in hope. I hope Davies is not such a binary thinker he can only conceive of the two options of forward and back. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that time should move sideways occasionally, just for a lark. Also, it would avoid the problem of people bumping into themselves and creating a paradox.


No reading today, though. I have to catch up on work. I was supposed to be finished with the stacks of paperwork by now and out having a good time, but everything ground to a halt when I got sick. No good times for me! Classes start again on Tuesday. I cannot spend any more time lying around sneezing and coughing and complaining. From now on I will be WORKING and sneezing and coughing and complaining.

This post was supposed to get me kick-started, but now I'm feeling a bit zonked from the effort of writing it. For the last five minutes I've been staring at the word paradox. It's starting to look funny.

What colour is YOUR paradox?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


One thing I have learned from teaching Chinese students is that when you give them a test, many of them will try to cheat. I think it is cultural. I have also learned not to worry about this too much. My Chinese students, in contrast to many (if not most) of my Japanese students, actually want to learn English, and so they work at it. I have come to the conclusion that for my Chinese students, tests and learning English are two different things, and of course they are right. They want to learn English. They also want good grades. So they study hard, and they cheat. It is an entirely logical approach to language learning and testing.

In their second-to-last class in December, I gave my class of mostly Chinese students a test. When I arrived in the classroom, they were all already there. This was the first test I'd given them (or at least the first 'important' one - I'd told them they had to pass it to pass the course, and had made it easy because I didn't want to fail anybody), so they were not yet acquainted with my trickiness. They thought they were ready for me.

The first thing I did when I entered the classroom was to tell them to put everything into their bags except their pens and pencils and erasers. They did this. Then I told them to move their bags to the back of the class. They did this, too, looking suspiciously cheerful.

Then I went around the classroom and counted them off. There were twenty-six of them, so I counted to thirteen twice.

Then I told them where they were to sit - number ones in the front left row, number twos in the middle front, and so on. The classroom has three rows of benches rather than individual seats, and each bench seats three students. I told them to sit with an empty seat between them.

It was hilarious. As they stood up to move to their new seats, about a third of the class grabbed for the cheat sheets they'd hidden under their benches.

"GOTCHA!" I shouted, and went around collecting the cheat sheets. Then I went around again, checking the ledges under the seats until I was sure I had them all. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then the test started, and I stood at the back. Before anybody had even started writing I saw someone looking furtively around to see if I was looking. I stared the other way, counted to five, then snuck over and confiscated another cheat sheet. I'd already confiscated one from that particular student when she moved at the beginning, so that was a bit surprising. Also, she was one of the students who needed to cheat the least. In class she was always very keen and did all the work, plus extra. I didn't think she would find the test difficult.

About three minutes later I confiscated yet another cheat sheet from the same student. She had still only written one answer on the test. By this time we were both snorting and giggling so badly we were disturbing the other test-takers. I waved the cheat sheets in her face and hissed,

"THREE? How many more of these things do you HAVE?"

Still giggling, she patted herself down.

"That's all," she informed me, wiping her eyes. "No more. Sorry!"

I wasn't sure whether she was sorry for trying to cheat, sorry she got caught, or sorry she didn't have any more.

I kept an eagle eye on her after that, and I am prepared to swear that she did not cheat. I watched her writing her answers. Even when I was confiscating another cheat sheet from somebody else, I was still watching her. She did not look anywhere except at her paper, and whizzed through it so fast she was the first to finish.

She scored very close to 100%.

The moral of this story is: Preparing multiple cheat sheets is a GOOD idea. By the time you have written everything out in tiny letters three times, you will know it all perfectly.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year

I have celebrated the New Year by catching a cold, so I'm not feeling particularly festive. Usually this is a time to relax for a couple of days before settling down to catch up a bit with paperwork that has been neglected and brace myself for the last couple of weeks of classes. This year, instead, I am blowing my nose a lot and cursing feebly, and not feeling particularly relaxed. There is so much gunk in my head my brain has been squished into a corner, where it is feeling sorry for itself and refusing to function properly. To make matters worse, my always helpful drug dealer doctor is away on holiday, in Malaysia, where he has gone to hunt for squid in the mangrove forests.

Bless him. I hope he's having a good time. I did, although it didn't occur to me to look for squid. I didn't even know they were there. I am looking forward to hearing all about it when he comes back.

Thinking about that trip makes me feel better. I looked through some of the photos I took, many of which are still unsorted, and found this one. I think I'll just look at it until I feel better. Six months ago this is where I was, having a lovely, relaxing time.

Life isn't so bad, is it?

Happy New Year!