Archive for June 2012

Fat fingers and four clicks

June 22, 2012

A computer glitch has affected customers of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest. Wages haven’t been paid in, direct debits haven’t been honoured and cash is unavailable at the cash line turnstiles. This is the digital age and like Daddy Bear’s soup- we’ll just have to lump it.

Fat finger syndrome has afflicted financial markets before. The business blunder of an operative inputting incorrect information causing chaos in the market has been here since dotcoms existed. In 2002 a trader at Bear Stearns entered a $4 billion sell order instead of one for $4 million. The Dow Jones took a 100 point drop. As a disclaimer, there is no evidence that chubby pointers have contributed to RBS and NatWests problem.

Talking of fingers, I’ve always had trouble with texting. Now, the keyboard – and its predecessor, the typewriter- has a lovely system in place: the QWERTY system. You know where you are with a QWERTY. Words flow like the rivers of Babykon. My words don’t flow when I use my phone; it is a non-QWERTY.
Now non-QWERTY phones in our cluttered times save space and I can see where the manufacturers are coming from (Asia, predominately) by having the system alphabetically unlike the alphabetical soup of QWERTY. The only flaw in the design is the position of the s. The s sits at the back of the p,q and r. You have to pump four beats in the bar to get a s. s is a popular letter, for heaven’s sake. The s should have been placed in the next button: giving a fluent s, t, u, v- stuv. stuv with the not very important v at the end. The four-pronged w, x, y, z is OK because apart from ZZ Top fans, Rip Van Winkle and those darned scrabble experts, nobody uses a z.
If you count the letters in this blog, you’ll find there are more esses than any other letter. S is for super and supreme. We also wouldn’t have any plurals without it.

2. The Female Doctor

June 17, 2012

Ralph let out a weak sigh as he missed another easy putt on the green. “I don’t know what’s the matter with my game today.” he said.

Ralph’s friend, Jeff, was his rival at today‘s friendly match play contest. Jeff had an answer.
“You’ve got the yips.”

“The what?” Ralph, although a keen golfer was unfamiliar with this saying.

“The yips, you‘ve got them. I know yips when I see them. You’re yipping all over the place.” yapped Jeff and he proceeded to give a demonstration of yipping using his putter.

“Does the yips hurt?” asked Ralph.

“No, it’s just a spasm you get before you putt. It’s psychological not physical.” muttered Jeff.

“Then why am I getting a twinge in my shoulder.” Ralph pulled up the sleeve of his T-shirt. “Oh no, what’s this?” A spot the size of a marble was attached to Ralph’s shoulder. The globular pustule glistened on the green.

“That’s a pretty big boil you’ve got there, Ralph. Here, let me give it a squeeze.”

“No way.” Ralph let go of the sleeve and stepped back.

“Don’t be a baby. After its burst you’ll be playing better again.” Jeff stepped toward Ralph.

“It needs a professional’s touch, Jeff. I think I’ll go to the doctor.”

“You can’t go to the doctor because you’ve got a big spot.”

* * * *

Ralph was lying on his back on the doctor’s couch, his sleeve rolled up, flashing his impressive spot for all it was worth. He was proud of it. It was a pretty, pretty, pretty good spot. The nice female doctor had assessed the shoulder and was away to get a needle to break the boil. There might be a little pain but he’d soon have his putting rhythm back again. His feelings of self-satisfaction disappeared when he looked down at his trousers.

“Dammit.” He cursed.

This was the last time he was going to wear these denims. The denims didn’t have a fly zip, instead there were four steel buttons in the groin area. For quickness and laziness Ralph always only tied two of these buttons. The top one at the waist and the middle one of the bottom three. When he was standing erect the trousers were decently closed but in this reclining position they were two gaping holes at the unbuttoned joists. From his vantage point he was staring at an indecent figure eight.

“Come on, come on.” Ralph struggled to button up a loose end. His clumsy fingers couldn’t open up the eyelet for the button to go through. Under use of the garment had made the threading process difficult. There were footsteps outside. Ralph pulled his T-shirt down as far as it could go.

“Oh sorry, wrong room.” a cheerful auxiliary worker gave Ralph a little wave. Ralph with both hands on the bottom of his T-shirt could only give a little nod back. The woman left and Ralph went back to the job in hand.

He was getting desperate and grabbed the top of his trousers. He shook them hoping to somehow make a gap. Ralph’s boil throbbed and bubbled with the after shock.
“It’s coming, it’s coming.” Significant progress seemed to have been made as there was a bit of give in one of the buttonholes. “Nearly there.”

Disaster struck as instead of filling in one of the gaps, Ralph had inadvertently opened the button in the middle. There were now three untied buttons. The figure eight had vanished to be replaced with a mighty oblong zero. And then the doctor entered with the giant needle. Ever the professional, the doctor never batted an eyelid. Though, she said to herself she won’t be gentle with the needle and she’ll give the patient a sore prick.

Had to get this one off my chest

June 8, 2012

Looking to pick up some bargains I ventured to the Boxing day sales last year with my oldest son. I noticed a large queue outside a shop I didn’t know. Further investigation revealed to me it was a tattoo parlour. The queue snaked along the street and was made up, mostly, of young people. I asked my son “What’s the story here? Is there a sale or something?”. And he answered a popular Christmas gift for those of a certain age is vouchers for tattoos.

Call me old fashioned or even a coward (I don’t like jags) but I’m in the anti-tattoo camp. For me skin is precious and there is nothing lovelier on a woman than pure unblemished skin. Furthermore, tattoos on well-muscled men like myself (liar, liar *sub-editor comment) take away the Atlas look. The bicep is ignored in favour of the dragon motif or whatever.

I’ve asked both my sons not to mark them selves up and so far they have resisted the temptation to be needled. No mean feat, by the way, as they are both heavily into rock music like me. The rock world, after sailors, was one of the first environments to embrace the culture of using indelible ink. A cursory glance through any issue of the Metal Hammer magazine (a stimulating, recommended read, says me) will bombard you with images of eternally-etched musicians. The above photograph, for the uninitiated, is James Hetfield of Metallica.

  An alternative always put forward is a T-shirt. You can’t go wrong with a T-shirt. I can well remember getting my first “ironed-on” Queen T-shirt as if it were yesterday. In those days you could only get “ironed” with what was available in the shop. Nowadays modern printing techniques can customise any design or slogan you want. And it is not permanent. After the novelty has worn off you can throw the T-shirt away. You can’t really do that with your arm, can you? Tattoo removal is an option, though there is still some scar tissue.

When I first met my wife she gave me her phone number that I wrote on my arm with a pen. The arm was the only thing I had to hand, so to speak; we were outside the disco at closing time and didn’t have any paper handy. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that night and as I was walking home I was terrified it would rain. Thankfully, it didn’t. Now here’s my type of Jags with a great little pop song that takes me back to the heady heights of the 80’s when I found the light of my life.

Tales from the court

June 7, 2012

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, in the summer it turns to tennis.

The man whose head screwed off

The year is 2016, not far off at all and the venue, for the sake of having a venue, is San Jose, California: the SAP Open. San Jose was given the nod because San Jose is pleasing to say. San Jose, San Jose, San Jose. What was to happen (will happen) was predicted from the early days of tennis when maces hit skulls.

The men’s game has grown to gladiatorial status and big, booming serves have been countered by stadium developers making the ground behind the baseline longer giving receivers the chance to return the ball. The fans are fed up with aces and want longer rallies. Rallies they get and all of a power nature. Rapid fire shots are hurled back and forth with intensity. The upshot of which is that new balls are needed after every point.

For the onlooker to follow every stroke the head has to pivot on its axis systematically like greased lightning. With so much twisting going on and nothing to cool the process torsion occurs. The human neck can wear out its thread in a kind of metallurgical fashion. At San Jose a spectator watching the blur of a ball whip lashed his head from side to side with the inevitable result.

Don’t worry, they’ve all got their heads on

Only with my doppelganger

The trouble with doubles is you rely on your partner. And no matter how good you are at the singles format, doubles games are completely different. Notwithstanding the obvious- the court is bigger, there’s four individuals on show- other factors can outwit the singles champion.

Geometry. All the angles that can win the point in a one v one are redundant here. That perfected Euclidian winner in a lone match can be intercepted by a perceptive player loitering at the net. There are too many variables that luck plays its part which is wrong. You could now encounter two adversaries that mis-hit their strokes.

Chemistry. If the other team have a good relationship you could be beat before you start. It pays not to have two straight men; a foil is required. Camaraderie wins games and both players have to be on the right wavelength. I’m firmly set on FM stereo and have no time for a whistling shipping forecast LW.

Physics. The handshake equation. With four people confusion and clumsiness is common. The first handshake is easy to execute. It is when criss-crossing opponents try to greet the other player that causes the comedy of errors. Entangled limbs are enmeshed spaghetti-style, made even worse with racquets flapping all over the place. Four unwilling participants of a céilidh dance. The disentangling with effusive gestures doesn’t look cool.

Smash (first edition)
Slaz Enger reporting

You can almost hear the violins in the distance as the Frorg-Monroe contest reaches a climax in a pulsating crescendo of broken strings and fortissimo machismo. The Swede Frorg, normally as ice-cold as his country’s ice-cream that is sold in discount stores in this country has been flashing his bat like Thor of old and has delivered Viking vengeance on his rival, the New York slugger, J.P. Monroe.

Monroe is back-pedalling to reach a vicious top spin groundstroke. With a mighty lunge the American hoists the ball to the gods. Frorg stands at the net and unleashes a devastating smash that is unreturnable. Monroe returns it to sender.

Frorg smashes again another thunderbolt smash. Monroe steps back and reads the bouncer. Somehow from over his head he gets to the ball and sends it back even higher until it is a mere speck in the sky. Frorg waits…and waits. He rearranges the strings on his racquet and waits some more.

Monroe ambles to his seat and reads the latest edition of Tractor’s weekly. And as Newcombe said “what goes up must come down” and the ball looms into sight. The ball is coated in ice and hurtles like an asteroid to earth. Frorg eyes the incoming-

Written in the Cards

June 1, 2012

Another notable name could be wiped off the high street as Clinton Cards went into administration recently. Yet again the supermarkets are to blame as they eat into the card-buying market with their clever cheaper price strategy that entices the customer that shops-in-one-go.

Personally speaking, the niche card-selling shops do seem a bit expensive and not just for their cards. The purchasing of their soft toy accessories can drain a wallet faster than Bill Werbeniuk could hurricane a lager. These other commodities aside there is a beauty on the racks and racks of cards displayed. The shop is almost the Louvre miniaturised. There might not be Manet, Monet or Midge on exhibit but where else could you find slogans with the legends-

· It’s a boy

· Congratulations on passing your driving test

· Happy Divorce

· Promotion. Don’t be ridiculous

In all honesty I could stay a full day casting my critical eye over the various designs and captions in this card-heaven kaleidoscope of greetings. And as the song goes, I’m not the only one, as I see plenty of browsers pouring through the merchandise with great gusto.

A ploy used by card sellers is instead of price gunning the cost they give each card a letter code -AA for example- with a graph showing the differing rates corresponding to the code. This is, I suppose, to stifle the shock at the huge expense of the card if it was listed, nakedly, on the back cover. However, this is momentary as a quick look at the graph soon takes your breath away. Nonetheless I find it exciting trying to guess the code on the back of the card; shape and size is irrelevant and it’s a Deal or no Deal situation. This pot luck theorising is entertaining especially when it doesn’t cost anything.

Talking of nothing, I am all for the personal touch. Therefore, for birthdays, anniversaries and such like I make my own cards. More thought goes into the gesture this way. Regular readers will be aware of my skill at drawing via the famous Barry the Brontosaurus strips in the past so the card will be presentable and professional. Additionally, the envelope is adorned with a home-made stamp of Her Majesty replete with the obligatory words- first class. For delivery I walk out the front door and post through the letter box. Sorry Clintons, I should have bought one from you.