Read the instructions.

About eighteen months ago, I got fed up with the way that the thin, light blinds on my east-facing bedroom windows did absolutely nothing to occlude light. The solution was very simple: I went to Argos and bought some blackout blinds. Sorted.

Then I did not read the instructions on the blinds I had bought.

Instead of fitting them on the roller-and-drawstring system they came with, I merrily took down the thin blinds, removed them carefully from their roller, bodged the new blinds onto the roller - a different kind of roller, the springy kind where you close them by tugging down sharply, whereupon the roller whirls itself around in a frenzy, not at all suited to the new blinds, and jammed the whole thing back into its original position. Yeah, dumb. Then I read the instructions for the second set of blinds (my room has two windows) and got that set in place quite easily and efficiently.

The second set of blinds have done no wrong. The first set weren't so lucky. After a few months, the strain of being whipped around was too much for the heavy blackout fabric, and the first set of blinds would open and close no more. But I was equal to it. If I fail to read instructions, at least I do not throw away the odds and ends that come with them. I took down the springy roller, cut the fabric off it (again) and reattached it to its original mounting. And all was well, for a while, until the very slight lopsidedness introduced by all the cutting and pasting caused the drawstring arrangement to get horribly and irretrievably tangled up.

But, okay, I don't quit that easily. This time, I took down the whole thing and from the blackout fabric, constructed a pair of pane-fitting pieces (one for each window pane) with velcro tabs for easy attaching and removing. The first thing that went wrong, though, was that I can't actually reach the tops of my windows without standing on a chair. Plus, the velcro attachments tended to come off entirely. But by this point it was winter, they were doing a fine job of improving insulation, and I wasn't spending much time indoors during daylight hours anyway - not forgetting that I still had one perfectly well-behaved window with no blind-related drama whatsoever.

The thing is, though, that windows in winter get condensation. The nigh-permanent barrier of insulating blackout fabric, therefore, made the windowframes a perfectly mild, damp environment for mildew. As I discovered, today, when I tugged aside the blind to see whether it was still snowing. Eurgh! Agh! Not in my bedroom! The obvious thing was to get in there with a squirt of anti-mildew spray and a good scrub. I swiftly removed the two rectangles of fabric, one of which (maybe weakened by all the condensation and general excitement) dramatically tore in the process.

Eighteen months ago I did not read the instructions. Now I am scrubbing windowframes with a toothbrush, while my curtains lie damp and torn and awaiting attention - although WHAT to do with them next is beyond me - in the middle of the floor.

So there's the moral: always read the bloody instructions.
  • Current Mood
    Oh good grief

Limericks on the subject of swimming, composed while engaged in same

For some peculiar reason, exercise brings out my rhymiest side and I just can't seem to stop. Which is just as well, because exercise is also quite often stultifyingly boring. Any diversion, guys, any diversion.

I swim in a pyramid fashion
With a great deal of splishing and splashing
Two lengths and then four
then another six more
For how long we can only imagine

Arithmetic's the way it increases
No wonder my mind is in pieces
Six lengths and then eight
It would seem that my fate
Is to swim until sanity ceases

I'm half swimming, half counting, half-hearted
The joy in this task has departed
Eight lengths and then ten
Then start counting again
And I half wish I had never started

With every length that I finish
The amount left to do should diminish

(The last one could use some work)

Actually there is some poetic license here. It really increases by fours, not twos.
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    silly silly

(no subject)

I've identified the single biggest problem I run into when cleaning my room: a certain amount of the things in it should not be in it. Cleaning therefore entails taking things out of my room and putting them in other places.

Now, it would clearly be inefficient to run back and forth every time I encounter an item that wants to be in the bathroom or the basement. So I place those items in a nice, neat pile by the door, ready to be distributed around the place when everything else is tidy and the pile of things-to-be-removed is complete.

Only, by then I am all fed up with cleaning and putting away and have no heart to go trekking down to the basement with a motley crew of spirit-levels and jigsaw-boxes and kites. So the pile sits by the door until its component parts merge gently back into the circulating chaos. What to do?

Also, I need good, long, rhythmic poems to jog with. Or if you can't suggest good jogging poems, good search terms to lead a person to same.
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(no subject)

A while ago I signed up to OkCupid. There is one picture of me (the top half of this one, which has a slightly odd perspective going on), my profile says I'm looking for friends, and I tend to remember it exists about twice a year so I'm virtually inactive on it. The first two points are the relevant ones.

Today I received this email from them. Email in italics, my comments in plain text.

We are very pleased to report that you are in the top half of OkCupid's most attractive users. The scales recently tipped in your favor, and we thought you'd like to know.

Uh, I've only ever had the one picture on there. How did it suddenly become more attractive?

How can we say this with confidence? We've tracked click-thrus on your photo and analyzed other people's reactions to you in QuickMatch and Quiver.

Oh, right. Clearly the only thing that could be influenced by is attractiveness. Not, say, fascination as to why the top of my head is apparently worth photographing, or curiosity as to what exactly I'm staring at so intently. (Answer: a cup of really fantastic hot chocolate. Mmmmmm). Anyway, by this metric it would seem that a car crash is objectively more attractive than a field of roadside poppies. Good to know.

Your new elite status comes with one important privilege:

This sentence makes me profoundly, enormously, uncomfortable. Seriously, who the hell says that? DO NOT WANT.

You will now see more attractive people in your match results.

They felt this was so important a privilege that they upped the font size and highlighted it. Oh yay, I will be spared looking at photographs of potentially ordinary-looking potential friends. I just typed three sentences along the lines of "what the everloving hell" and gave up in favour of: words fail me.

This new status won't affect your actual match percentages, which are still based purely on your answers and desired match's answers. But the people we recommend will be more attractive.

Words... are still failing me, here.

Also! You'll be shown to more attractive people in their match results.

So the whole site gets tiered into "pretty" and "not-pretty"? This makes me feel slightly ill.

Suddenly, the world is your oyster. Login now and reap the rewards.

Right, because the only barrier to the world being my oyster before was having to decide for myself who's sufficiently good-looking to be my friend?

Go ask an ugly friend and see.

Could some of my ugly friends step forward, please? Anyone? No? You'll have to identify yourselves, you see, because I tend to think of my friends as all rather lovely.

Basically, their position seems to be:

There is an elite class of objectively, scientifically-identified, beautiful people who have privileges like not having to associate with everyone else. This should make you happy because you're in it!

And you know, that doesn't make me happy. Not even a tiny little bit.
  • Current Mood
    angry furious

National holidays

From the Irish Times, today:
To celebrate National Fish and Chips Day, fish and chips from the 190 members of the Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association (itica.ie) and some other shops, including all branches of Leo Burdock, are half price tomorrow.

Poll #1569452 Fish and chips

What is the most brilliant thing about this?

There exists an organisation called the Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association
There exists a national fish and chips day
There will be half-price fish and chips
It's all brilliant

  • Current Mood
    giggly giggly

I need advice, guys

I went for a nice walk today. By which I mean that I set out for the end of Dun Laoghaire Pier (a modest 6km or so) and then kept on going. No, I didn't walk into the sea; I walked back along the pier and continued along the seafront. After an hour and a quarter, I stopped power-walking and reverted to normal Charlotte-speed (this is still possibly faster than many people walk; I am often aware of slowing my pace when walking with others). After a while I reached Dalkey, felt a little surprised, pottered around Dalkey for a bit, and then walked home again, via a supermarket in Deansgrange. According to Google maps, this was about 22km, but they will only calculate routes along actual roads so the time you spend picking your careful way across seaweedy rocks at low tide, for instance, doesn't get added in. And now I am a bit cold and slightly sorefooted, but not actually, properly tired. I'm able to sit still with minimal fidgeting and without getting up to pace around the room every five minutes. Which is good and all, but seriously? I should be tired after that!

Being tired is important, you see. I'm a jittery tense insomniac bundle of nervous energy, unless that same nervous energy gets burned off through physical exertion. I don't even like sports, as a rule, but it beats buzzing around with the attention span of a butterfly and then lying awake all night.

So, here's where I need advice: I very obviously need to get more exercise than I do. And the types of exercise I don't hate are rather logistically constrained. There's trampoline, of course, and to do that you need enough people for a session and also hall space in the sports centre, and that's not so easy to arrange. There's wall climbing, and for that you just need the wall to be open and a friend who is able to belay. Which is still quite often beyond my control. There is swimming, which is subject to the local pool's being open to the public at any given time, and circuit training, which in theory you can do at any time but I really like swimming after it - swimming is a brilliant way to cool down and stretch out, I find - so that's also kind of constrained by the pool.

Then there is walking. As can be seen, it takes an awful lot of that to have any effect. Plus, it is quite boring unless you have lovely scenery to look at or a lovely person to talk with, or both. Most of the walking you can do around suburban Dublin is less than thrilling. And if I'm not alone it more or less has to be a slower and shorter walk than if I am. Hillwalking is better, because you get nice views to look at and also it is uphill and so more tiring. But you generally need a driving friend to get to where you can do it (plus, it is often raining in these parts).

So. Please, please suggest other kinds of exercise. Ideally, things that can be done without masses of special equipment or making complicated arrangements with other people. I don't care about losing weight or increasing fitness or toning any particular muscles - just wear me out, any way at all.
  • Current Mood
    tired, but not tired enough

Humility in the face of staircases

Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons by Roberta Gellis is an unusually sympathatic take on that lady. It has what I like in historical fiction, which is lots of little details about life as it was lived. But there's one section where Lucrezia, her husband and several ladies are walking to dinner. Their route takes them down a staircase, and there she stumbles and almost falls, but all ends well. And what has she to say about it?

"In a way it was my own fault for being so proud of my balance and grace and always going down the centre of the stair. In the future I will be more careful and hold the banister"

You... what? Expecting to be able to walk downstairs all by yourself, that is not especially proud. Was it ever considered so? Is it supposed to take large amounts of grace to safely navigate some steps? I know a great many preturnaturally graceful people, if so.

Time to add"excellent stair-using skills" to the CV.
  • Current Mood
    Stairs? Really?

Unclear on the concept

Passing through the library today, I stopped to flip through the complaints & comments book. Most were nothing special, but one person's complaint was a thing of beauty. The library, they point out, is organised by subject. The books, though, are laid out by number. So when you look up a book all it tells you is the number, and how are you supposed to know where to look for it without asking someone? These two different systems make it very confusing and difficult to find the books you need!

My first thought was, Oh deary me, Melvil Dewey is turning in his grave.

But actually, this is a lot more worrying than someone not knowing the Dewey Decimal System. This is someone who does not know what subject a given book covers. Despite, presumably, being assigned the book to read by a lecturer in a given subject. Despite studying that subject. At third level. In a university. How is this possible?
  • Current Mood
    despairing of our children

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. The man you trusted lied to you, that's all.

I truly, deeply, hate this piece of writing.

Not because of the monstrous level of twee and kitch, vomit-inducing though it is. That's a known risk, whenever adults address children on the subject of Christmas.

Nor because of the sloppy logic it proposes. First he states that the consequences of believing in Santa Claus are positive, so it follows that the belief must be correct. Then he states, categorically, that failing to prove a theory false is the same thing as proving it to be true. I've seen that pair of arguments elsewhere, and though it's galling to see critical thinking rubbished, it's not exactly unusual.

No, what I hate is that Virginia says, straight-up, that she is asking her question of this newspaper editor in particular because she trusts that the answer will be the truth. And she isn't told the truth; his answer is a deliberately-constructed lie.

That isn't cool. It's one thing to let a person go on believing something false. Goodness knows, I never told my little brothers the truth behind the man in red. But when a person asks outright, it means they would rather know the truth than believe something pleasant. You have to respect that, no matter if the answer is "No, there's no Santa Claus" or "Yes, mum, I'm gay" or "Actually, your omelettes are terrible". No matter if the person is eight years old or eighty. There's no excuse for that.

Rainbow Hex Box and Rum & Raisin Units

Or, how not to name things.

There is no real need for the rainbow hex box to be haxagonal, and even less need for it to be rainbow-coloured, but the one I had lying around was both, so that's what it got called inside my head.

Anyway, have some diagrams!

Rainbow hex box diagram (pdf)

These have a name which makes even less sense. It is a story involving acronyms, indecision, and homemade fudge.

Rum & Raisin Units diagram (pdf)

Although I used A4 paper, they will work just as well with other comparable sizes - 2x3, 3x4, American letter-size paper, or whatever type of rectangle is easily available to you should be fine.
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