coffee and spaghetti

the inimitable Michael Marshall Smith’s latest blog post is jolly entertaining

How the Spaghetti Murders Started

On a slightly-related note, I opened a pack of Tesco ground coffee yesterday morning.

No, really, I did. Life is just that exciting round here.

I noticed on the side of the packet a photograph of a large, friendly pile of the aforementioned coffee nestled artfully in a hessian sack, with a spoon sticking out of it.

Under which was the text ‘serving suggestion’

Now, call me an old traditionalist if you will, but I would wager that 99.999% of coffee drinkers in the known universe would prefer their coffee served in a mug, having been steeped in hot (but not boiling) water first. And not, as Tesco would suggest, in a sack, hessian or otherwise.

flying

*taps microphone*
Is this thing on?

I was making my way to the car park a while ago, headphones on, enjoying the rush of people around me as the Scissor Sisters played tunes in my head.

I love the feeling of having a personal soundtrack to what I’m doing. It allows you to feel disconnected, yet still *there*, if you get my drift.

Everybody wants the same thing
No trading places on the chain gang
It doesn’t matter how you swing it
Everybody wants the same thing

So, there I am, heading over the bridge when I notice the guy in front of me. Youngish, smartly dressed. Staggering. He falls to the left, corrects, straightens, keeps going and staggers to the right. Rinse and repeat. He almost collides with half a dozen people while I gradually catch up with him. He seems quite jolly though – I can hear him talking away to himself and anyone who’ll listen.

When the hammer comes down it never makes no sense
Chaos is not a virtue, paranoia loads the bases

Not that anyone will. Who’d talk to a staggering, crazy drunk dude on a cold dark night such as this?

I bide my time, gauging the flow of people, waiting for the moment when I can step up my pace and slip past him on the narrow pavement. Cars whiz by, inches from the side of the road, cutting off the option of using that as a space. Ah well, there’s no great rush.

What is it that you want?
What is it that you give?
Where do you plan on finding it?
How do you want to live?

There. A gap. I increase my stride, timing my move to his stagger. He goes left, I pause, he goes right, I go past.

We’re now a hundred yards further on. I sense a presence behind me. A staggering presence, moving erratically. I tune out the words to the song and realise that he’s talking to me. A hand catches the arm of my coat and I remove the headphones, tinny voices spilling out into the cold night.

“Mate,” he says, eyes wide. “I have a question.”

“Yeah?” I reply. Sharp, huh?

“Mate,” he repeats, gesturing at the stream of traffic and people as his stagger comes to a halt.

“Why? Why is Leeds… mechanical?”

This last word is spat out, loaded with venom and bile. His eyes dance in the sodium glare of the streetlights.

“No idea mate, ” I offer. Weak, but true.

He drops to his knees, arms raised to the heavens, face turned to the sky. “WHY? Someone must know! Someone *must* know!”

I shrug. The only possible answer to such a question. Whatever this guy is on, he’s flying. Good luck with your quest, mate. I hope you find an answer.

Love is what I want
Love is what I give
Right here’s where I’m finding it
That’s how I’m gonna live…


lyrics courtesy (and copyright, no doubt) The Scissor Sisters, Everybody Wants The Same Thing, from their album, Ta Dah!

pale blue dot

meant to post this yesterday, as it was Earth Day, but never mind.

pale blue dot

Earth (the dot in the middle) as seen from 3.7 billion miles away by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, on 6th June 1990.

… Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

(From Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan, Random House, 1994)

books

I find it odd that if I were to go into Waterstone’s, I would have to pay £12.99 for a copy of The Corner, by David Simon & Ed Burns.

Whereas if I go online to their website I can pay £7.79, and get it delivered for free to the exact same store (or my home address).

But then I have to wait for them to deliver a copy to the store. The same store which I was in earlier, and and where they had half a dozen copies in stock.

PC World have a slightly different take on the process. You essentially pay the web price online, then collect the item from the store an hour later – just enough time for them to forget to pick it off the shelves, so you have to get it yourself, saving a fair whack of change in the process.

So why can’t Waterstone’s do the same thing? Surely it would save on costs getting extra copies of already-in-stock books delivered, and make the customer (me! hi!) happier.

Just a thought.