Saturday, 30 June 2007

'Nodda problem', 'Marself' and other annoying Seffricanisms

Recently, in James Clarke's Stoep Talk column in The Star, he mentioned a recent poll that asked people to vote for the most annoying things people say (sorry, no link available). Clarke's personal least-favourite South African word was 'Izzzzzit?' (meaning, 'Is that really so?'). Though I find this mildly irksome, I'm actually rather fond of it, because it's just such a fuzzy, all-purpose South African word.

Here is my list of offensive Seffricanisms (South African English slang words).

1. 'Nodda problem'.
Literal translation: 'Not a problem'.
Generally means
: 'With pleasure: of course I can!'
Used by: receptionists, call-centre staff, salespeople

Usage examples:

'Hello, may I please speak the the manager?'
'Nodda problem!'

'I'd like to complain about this broken toaster.'
'Nodda problem!'

'Hello, I have a problem.'
'Nodda problem!'

2. 'Marself'
Literal translation
: 'Myself'.
Generally means
: 'Me too!'; 'I too'; 'I can relate!' or 'I agree!''
Used by: a depressingly large number of people, generally under the age of 23.

Usage examples:

'I'm having a really bad day.'
'Izzit? Marself!'

'Are you fond of sport?'
'Marself!'

'Marself, I love watching rugby'

'Kaitlynn and marself, we went to movies this weekend'

3. 'AZwill'
Literal translation:
'As well' (but with the accent on the 'as')
Generally means
: 'me too' or 'also'. Used by: a depressingly large number of people, generally under the age of 23.

Usage examples:

'God, I think the people who write blogs can be really boring and pedantic.'
'AZwill! Marself!'

'Buy this computer, and we'll throw in some free software AZwill' '

'AZwill, marself: I love rugby. '

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Friday, 29 June 2007

Lekker blogging limericks

The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form already boasts 41 000 of these comic verses, on every subject under the sun. Here are three.

About bloggers (by Chris J Strolin)
While a rose is a rose is a rose,
The word bloggers? They’ll daily compose
Something vital to say
In their web logs each day.
(It just looks like that stuff from your nose.)

(by ‘Dottie’)
The world is unfair, and you care.
How to share this hot air, if you dare?
If a dead horse needs flogging,
It's time to get blogging!
Just click, and the blogosphere’s there.

And about Afrikaans (by ‘speedysnail’)
Afrikaners are people who speak
Afrikaans, full of words like fabriek.
They're also called Boers;
Britain fought them in wars
(Though in Africa, that’s not unique).

For more, go to www.oedilf.com

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Thursday, 28 June 2007

Snow: weatherman 'didn't want to get people's hopes up' . HUH?

An extraordinary comment in The Times this morning, from one Mark Todd, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.

'Yes, it was snowing in Gauteng. In some parts it was sleeting, which is snow mixed with frozen raindrops.' Fair enough. But the report goes on to quote Todd saying:

'...the snow had been forecast earlier in the week, but had not been revealed in order not to get people’s hopes up.'

Not to get people's hopes up?? Consider this remark for a minute. Can this truly be the official position of our weather forecasting service, whose job it is to let us know in advance that the weather is about to change?

It's all very well to keep a bunch of eight-year-olds in the dark, in case they get so over-excited that they refuse to go to bed, but what about people whose livelihoods depend on knowing what the weather's about to do? (pilots, farmers, function planners spring to mind). And what about charitable organisations, who might have appreciated knowing in advance that snow would be falling on the shivering shoulders of the homeless on the streets of Johannesburg?

Granted, Todd may have been misquoted (and I sincerely hope he was). If this is really the position that the weather service takes, what are they going to do in the unlikely event of a killer hurricane heading our way? Keep quiet in case we all panic?

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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Why must I be subjected to filthy spam?

I'm freshly enraged by the nasty pictures that arrive in my in-box every morning. Here's the latest example (I've blurred out the offending bits). I've had five copies of this email in the last two days. No amount of filtering or blocking seems to help. Hell, I can deal with it; I'm a grown-up, but my kids use my PC too.


I was looking forward to an extended rant here, but actually I feel too depressed about spam to say anything. To use a threadbare cliché, we humans can put a man on the moon, but we can't stop sewer rats from trailing their stinking paws across our in-boxes? We can invent the wheel, decode human DNA and develop life-saving vaccines, but we can't put some seedy little dirtbag who annoys and offends hundreds of thousands of email users, every day, behind bars?

Don't even start me on Net paedophile rings: I'm so sickened by this that I can't find words to express my revulsion.

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Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, carpeted in snow: magic!

Here are some pictures of the snow-frosted lawns around Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, at about 8 am this morning. It's difficult to express what a magical experience this was for me, and for my seven-year-old daughter. She's never seen snow before, and this is only the second time in my life that I've seen snow falling on my home city (the first time was in 1966, and I remember the experience only because I've seen photos of myself as a rosy-cheeked toddler frolicking in deep snow, on the Krugersdorp Golf Course, where the snow was knee-deep).


The last time it snowed heavily enough to carpet the grass in Johannesburg was in 1981, a full 26 years ago. I was away at the time, at university, and missed all the excitement.

Well, the carnival atmosphere at Zoo Lake (a public park in Johannesburg) amply made up for my missing the last snowfall. Dozens of kids were rolling around in the snow, chucking snowballs, making mini snowmen, and even snowboarding down the grassy banks. Best of all was my daughter's face. She was astounded by the fluffy texture of the snow ("It's all squeaky when you walk on it, mum!") and very annoyed about how cold it was. ("Mum, I'd like to play for longer, but my hands and toes are freezing, you know.")


Best of all for me was hearing the words "Snow falls in Johannesburg!" on the radio, leaping out from under my warm duvet, wrenching open the curtains and seeing the garden dimly shining under a layer of shining white powder.


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Monday, 25 June 2007

Strange things about a small town

When I first moved to Paradysville seven years ago, everything about it was so new and bizarre that I felt too overwhelmed to write about it – it was a fulltime job just experiencing it. Recently, though, various big-city visitors have opened my eyes to the oddities about small-town life that I’ve now become so used to that I don’t notice them any more. Here are a few.

The gentleman farmer. This rotund retired attorney has never turned a sod in his life but always wanted to be a man of the soil. So he bought himself a shiny red tractor on which he pootles around town. Completing the picture is the unlit pipe permanently clamped between his teeth.

A good walk spoiled. A local 60-year-old suffered a stroke that paralysed his left side. Unwilling to be immobile, he got himself a golf cart, which he steers one-handed, and at alarming speeds, through the streets, causing dogs and children to leap for safety into roadside gulleys.

A bit on the side. A huge biker-dude has an equally huge Great Dane and the two are inseparable. They travel from place to place by bike, the dog in the sidecar.

The Smoking Woman. Remember the X-Files? We have the female version, a 55-year-old who is never, ever without a cigarette. She is an interesting shade of yellow.

Whistlin’ Dixie. There’s a gorgeous African Grey parrot that lives at the garage. It speaks fluent Afrikaans with a charming platteland accent. It can tell males from females, and lets out ear-splitting wolf whistles when a woman walks by.

The fattest dog in the world. This obese black Labrador couldn’t shift its arse quick enough to avoid being run over. With help, the driver managed to get it into his car and raced it off to the vet. There, the vet’s assistant came out to help him remove the dog from the back seat. But the driver, feeling his grip giving and worried about dropping the already injured dog, yelled to the assistant, ‘Put him down! Put him down!’ Just then the vet emerged, looking concerned. ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Does he have rabies?’ (This is a true story.)

Bunny-chow. Practically everyone in town has dogs, cats and/or chickens, but one bright spark got himself a pair rabbits and let them free in his garden. The result: bunnies, bunnies everywhere. (Clearly, he’s never heard what happened in Australia.)

Cry-baby preeners. No, that isn’t the sound of a child wailing, it’s a peacock. Three of them strut about the streets. A visiting UK friend, clocking one wander by with its fabulous tail spread, said, ‘This would make front-page news in London.’

Avoiding pussy pile-ups. A woman who owns 17 (yes, seventeen) cats became concerned about their safety in the street. So she got municipality permission to put up a unique road sign outside her house: ‘Slow down! Cats crossing!’

Passing pantechnicons. With no traffic lights and only one stop-street to call our own, traffic in the village is generally light. But because we’re sited between two main cross-country thoroughfares, drivers of heavy-duty trucks sometimes take a short-cut through the town. It’s quite an experience to be sitting on your front verandah, enjoying a quiet GnT, and suddenly see a truck the size of a house trundle past.

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Thursday, 21 June 2007

Deeply yetchy things on TV cookery programmes

There are three things I can't bear to be associated with food, and those are: pink fabric Elastoplast, human hair and drops of sweat. Eee-yooo. Are you wondering why three such unsettling images should occur to me, or make me post this nauseated little rant? Because in recent times I've seen all three on TV, specifically on BBC Food (Channel 70 on DSTV).

Let's deal with the sweat first. Nothing wrong with a bit of perspiration, if it's coursing saltily off the vest of a Comrades runner or glowing like dew on the temples of a ballerina. But, please, BBC Food, could you powder the foreheads of our South African chefs - or maybe swab them down with some kitchen paper - before you film them? Why do I have to watch a chef making a dish seasoned with sweat dripping off the tip of his nose, into the food?

Now for the hairs. Celebrity cook Tamasin Day-Lewis has a lovely mane of tangled dark hair, but could Her Witchiness please stop swinging it hither and thither across her shoulders as she whips up another baked custard? I think her recipes are great, but I'm so repelled by the idea of a long black hair embedded in the custard (or tangled in the linguine) that I just can't bear to watch another one of her cookery shows. How about tying it back in a good old pony tail? A bandanna? A shower cap?

Which brings me to the plasters. Please, Tamasin, if you cut your finger during the filming of a show, go to bed with a gin and dismiss the filming crew. Please, please, don't put a furry pink plaster on your finger and carry on as if nothing has happened. The combination of plaster and and food is almost as bad as taking a swim in a Planet Fitness gym pool and seeing Elastoplasts spinning lazily in the warm water.

Shh...udd..errr..

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Soviet Jeans told to withdraw violent billboard

One Ms le Roux, of Pretoria, has succeeded in getting a billboard for Soviet Jeans removed because of its violent imagery. The advertisement features a crash-test dummy holding a baseball bat, standing over another dummy that is lying on the floor. The words "Soviet. HARD LIKE MOTHER RUSSIA” appear at the top of the billboard.

According to the Advertising Complaints Authority's website, '...the complainant submitted that the advertisement is unacceptable as it glorifies violence and makes it seem acceptable and attractive for the youth who wear Soviet clothing.'

They agreed. They've instructed Soviet to withdraw the ad, saying 'The Directorate is of the opinion that the advertisement contains images that might reasonably be thought to encourage or condone violence and therefore also irresponsible behaviour.'

Way to go, Ms Le Roux. I hope the vicious little squirt of a copywriter who thought that one up gets the message that there's nothing clever about glorifying violence. My friend's three-year-old son witnessed his father being shot in the chest in an armed robbery last Sunday afternoon, in a suburban garden. This kid, and all the other kids who witness shocking acts of savagery every day, don't need to see images of violence on their way to school too.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Only in South Africa....

The word 'poephol' is bandied around in Parliament. A horse is arrested. A thief''s arms are amputated after the explosives he'd placed in an automatic teller machine detonated unexpectedly.

A woman goes blind after staring at the sun hoping to see the Virgin Mary. Another woman commits suicide because she waited for more than two years for the Department of Home Affairs to give her an ID book.

All this in the space of two days.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Plea to our Lady of Benoni

Dear Our Lady of Benoni: I know you're very busy channelling yourself through Ms Zackey, 17, of Benoni, and encouraging her to tell her followers to stare into the sun and burn their retinas to a crisp, but could I bother you for a small intervention?

If it's not too much trouble?

We have, in South Africa, a number of poverty-stricken people living in dire circumstances. A good proportion of them are small children who go to bed with empty tummies every night and who live in very bitter circumstances. I don't want to distress Your Blessedness in any way, but it might not have come to your attention that many of these children are orphans, due to a terrible plague that your Father has inflicted on them and their parents.

No doubt they (like their depraved homosexual brothers) fully invited this on themselves and that they richly deserve this punishment (after all, their ancestress, one 'Eve', evilly took an illicit bite out of a piece of fruit), but any chance you could cut them a bit of slack?

The occasional loaf of bread and bit of roast chicken would be much appreciated. Oh, and a blanket, if you can spare one.

Yours,

Juno.

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+-17-year-olds: seeing the Virgin Mary or varying the meta soil?

Okay, that’s a clumsy heading, but as the mother of a fiercely questing 16-year-old, I have to ask: WHERE ARE FRANCESCA’S PARENTS?

Juno has said that she will not say a single word, but I will.

I am having a field day with my darling teenage daughter (16), who envisages a life not entirely connected with reality. She may not be seeing visions (I do not, for instance, have images of the Virgin Mary plastered all over my home for her to draw inspiration from) but her take on what is actual is very clearly in no way shaking hands with the world as we know it.

My teenage daughter’s understanding of reality is that somewhere, out there, there are hordes of teenage children – exactly her age – living a life of illicit hedonism, being awfully skinny, going to parties, flying Executive Class, wearing heavy eyeliner and belts for skirts, snorting coke off toilet seats, having Brad Pitts fall in love with them and having mad wild sex to violin music and fireworks… and I am stopping her joining them. (And thanks be to bloody ‘women’s magazines’ for that. When will THEY start taking responsibility for the satan’s spawn they’ve nurtured?)

I have not, however, allowed my daughter to indulge her whims. She is awash with hormones, confused by her powerlessness (how irksome, after all, to be practically a grownup and yet still under someone else’s rule), bored by school, best by confidence issues, annoyed by … just the ordinariness of it all.

My job, AS HER PARENT, is to tell her that life is largely, well, ordinary. And making it less ordinary doesn’t mean being faking phantasm. Rather, it involves finding real answers to real questions: and none of these come easy. Real life isn’t necessarily joyless, but it’s pretty bloody hard.

Francesca’s parents need to find her a good dermatologist (my 17-year-old son suffers from acne, too, and it does nothing for his self-esteem; yet he hasn’t found god in a biscuit, and the skin medication is helping), find out what’s happening with her at school, enquire about her recent involvement with perhaps questionable and maybe apparently trusted adults (um… the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for), and get her flying right. Because, clearly, something is deeply wrong.

Here we have a 17-year-old, overcome by her interior delusions (which, believe me, all teenagers have, to a greater or lesser extent, and fed by their psyches and circumstances), and instead of being helped back to some sort of reality, actually ENCOURAGED by those around her who should know better.

I wonder what Jesus (or, for that matter, the Virgin Mary) would say about Francesca exhorting people to stare into the sun? I know if my daughter proposed this, I would confiscate her cellphone and ground her for a week; and probably employ the services of a super-sharp teenage-savvy psychologist. (And any adults who actually did her bidding – well, I would have to slap them soundly around the chops.)

What, after all, is Francesca going to do once all the fuss has died down and (if we were in America) her family have settled the lawsuits for lost vision?

She is only 17. She is still in her parents’ charge. Whey aren’t they looking after her better?

As Angel comments, re poor old Christianity taking another blow: ‘We’re not all fanatics, eh!’ I don’t think Francesca is, because she hasn’t yet had the experience to become a fanatic. But her parents…?

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Blinded by the light: Now Benoni's Virgin spins the sun

A devout Catholic who stared at the sun may be blinded for life, says The Star. And who told 37-year-old Amal Nassif to stare into the sun's rays? No less than Our Lady of Benoni, or at least, that's according to 17-year-old Francesca Zackey, whose Virgin Mary sightings have bought the faithful flocking in thousands to her door.

The paper also reports that at least four other people may have damaged their retinas by following the teenager's instructions to stare into the sun.

Reports The Star: '
The day before, Zackey had announced that Mary had told her that the sun would spin at sunset. She claimed the phenomenon was witnessed by hundreds of people and was "absolutely amazing", with a rainbow of colour pouring out of the sun. Mary apparently also showed herself inside the giant fireball and placed a protective shield over it. After that, word spread and people began looking into the setting sun. '

I'm not saying a word.

But I would like to offer a quote from the
late , great Dr Carl Sagan:

'Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves. I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purposes, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us -- then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.'

From The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

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Sunday, 17 June 2007

Kitchen slaves: Salmagundi recipes get their own blog

I've been told that I should lose the recipes on Salmagundi because they're 'beyond boring'. My urge was to kick the soggy arse of the unappreciative trollop who send me this email, but maybe she has a point. Maybe it's just rude to inject recipes into the blogosphere, when there are so many other interesting things to blog about.

I'm not going to lose the recipes (I've had at least two bits of fan mail about Muriel's Israeli chocolate pudding!) so I'm shunting them over to a new blog, What's for Supper?

If you're trying to get your toddlers to eat good food, take a look. If you're remotely interested in food, cooking, eating, feasting or recipes, take a look. If you spend an hour or two of your day as a willing kitchen slave, take a look. If you have a houseful of hungry teenage mouths to feed, and you slope, resentfully, into the kitchen every evening, after a long day at the corporate coal face, take a look.

And if you're revered and worshipped as Our Lady of the Kitchen, add your recipes when you post a comment.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Ear wax on the floor?

There’s an ad running on TV at the moment for some sort of whiz-bang mop that cleans up spills in a super-efficient way that involves not getting your hands dirty. It’s being sold by one of those modern-day snake-oil companies that excitedly promise miracles and inevitably deliver disappointment.

I’ve bought a few things from them (you know who they are). One was an electronic thesaurus that didn’t work, which I exchanged, and the new one didn’t work either, so I cut my losses and threw it away. Another was a leaf-trap for the pool which, once installed, gurgled pitifully then drowned – without, obviously, trapping so much as a stray twig. A third was a magnetised exterior window cleaner for upper-storey windows that wasted no time in dropping heavily off its magnet and smashing into bits on the paving below, and I still have no view from my top floor. Yet another was a flame-resistant polish for my car which, for obvious reasons, I have never tested for flame resistance, so the jury’s still out on that one.

Anyway, this ad describes the nasties you can get on your hands if you have an old spaghetti mop rather than this newfangled one. They use the neat trick of a hand-sign translator to demonstrate how ghastly this is – he eventually becomes so sickened by how dirty his hands get using a spaghetti mop that he disappears off-screen, gagging.

The thing that I puzzle over, however, is the list of things that the manufacturer tells us we can get on our hands if we don’t use their hands-off mop.

The list includes ‘ear wax’ and ‘mucus’.

Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Imagine that you lived in a household that, for reasons not yet known to medical science, produced measurable amounts of ear wax. My compound question is: would this ear wax end up on the floor; and if so, how?

And mucus? Let’s assume you had a really bad cold, and were full of the stuff. Would you, cowboy style, spit it out upon the ground? (Speaking for myself, I know that if I did, my mother would wind me enthusiastically about the ear.) And, taking this absolutely ridiculous worst-case scenario as an actual possibility, would you then actually leave it – that glob of mucus – lying there until it came time for someone to do a general mop-up? And, lacking a miracle hands-off mop, perhaps get in on their hands?

(‘Pet urine’ is another on the list. All I can say is that while I am sometimes not bright enough to come in from the rain, I have never mopped up pet urine with a spaghetti mop, because I know, in rinsing out the mop, I will get it on my hands. That’s what they made ultra-absorbent kitchen towel for.)

I’ve watched this ad a few times and I’ve had to come to the conclusion that the copywriter was either having a bit of a laugh at the expense of his/her clients or raving on tik. Either way, I find it mildly astonishing that, prior to flighting, nobody noticed how utterly ridiculous the sales pitch actually was. It’s surely fair to think, after all, that it was viewed by powers-that-be, passed and paid for? (With money that, by the way, ultimately comes from us, the consumers.)

And, in the light of this, if you go ahead and buy this wiz-bang magical mop, and in this way liberate your hands of any nasties that might be lurking about on your home’s substrate, it will serve you utterly right when the stupid thing fragments on your first attempt to tackle that big gobbit of spittle you hoiked onto the dining-room tiling after dinner last night, or that hefty blob of earwax you lobbed over your shoulder this morning.

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Monday, 11 June 2007

Virgin Mary appears in Benoni

Talk Radio 702's John Robbie reported this morning that Catholics are flocking to the Benoni, Johannesburg, home of a 17-year-old girl to whom the Virgin Mary has appeared - not once, but a couple of times. Link

According to some of the awestruck callers, a 'sweet smell of roses' wafts through the house every time the Virgin makes an appearance. Like our girl Charlize Theron, who also hails from Benoni, the lady is apparently 'absolutely beautiful' .

News reports also mentioned that the Pope is thinking of sending a Cardinal to Benoni to check out the claims.

No photos of the Virgin are available, but I can leave you with some astonishing pictures of other appearances made by Our Lady: on a piece of toast, and on the underside of a turtle.

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Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dilbert lives!

I’ve always laughed at the Dilbert cartoons because they’re just so, oh you know, ridiculous. It’s simply unthinkable to me that people would really behave that way, and I always assumed them to be loosely based on truth but hugely exaggerated by cartoonist Scott Adams.

Until I began working for a big corporation.

My first shock was discovering that cubicle farms actually exist – the office I was assigned to was as big as two rugby fields, but divided up into literally hundreds of tiny little workstations, just big enough for a desk and a chair, and each supplied with a computer, a phone and a nifty filing cabinet.

I was so disoriented on my first day that twice, having left the office, I couldn’t find my way back to my cubicle, and had to be led there by the increasingly irritated receptionist.

A few weeks in, asked to set up an interview with a colleague, I phoned her. After some chitchat we arranged a time to meet.

‘What sector are you in?’ I asked. The monstrous 12-storey office block (which I call The Death Star) is divided into ‘sectors’ labelled by colours and numbers – without which it is possible that people would get lost and float through corridors, down escalators and up lifts for the rest of their days.

‘Red-7,’ she said. ‘You?’

I looked at the sign above my cubicle. ‘Um, Red-7?’ I said.

‘Stand up and look around,’ she instructed. I did, and there she was, four cubicles away. Until my phonecall to her I hadn’t known of her existence, nor she of mine.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I’ve worked here for four years and I still don’t know most of the people in this sector.’

And that wasn’t the worst. One of my tasks was to publish a weekly e-zine – a pleasant enough project, I thought, until the Dilbert-style reality hit home. Each article had to be read and approved by several chieflets – at least three under-managers, two managers and one uber-manager – all of whom felt it incumbent upon them to make at least one change. Not only were the changes often simply wrong (‘Grammar!’ remarked one chieflet, crossly, in one of my stories – although the article was entirely devoid of grammar errors), but they frequently contradicted other changes made by other chieflets.

This time-wasting and patience-testing hurdle cleared, there was still the fallout to be dealt with after the publication of the e-zine. Emails would begin pouring in from the +-10 000 subscribing employees, pointing out, for instance, ‘an extraneous letter-space in line three of story four’, ‘a headline slightly off centre’ or ‘a bad word break at the end of the last piece’.

Worst were the emails from annoyed chieflets who’d somehow been left out of the loop pre publication: ‘WHO APPROVED THIS STORY?’ they would demand shrilly. ‘Why didn’t I see it?!’ Inevitably, the story would be factually correct; they simply felt slighted because their two-cents’ worth hadn’t been given due consideration.

Initially, this drove me to despair. Didn’t these people have lives? Who the hell had the time or energy to lodge such stupid and petty complaints – most of which were spurious anyway. (‘You don’t spell ‘‘correspondent’’ like this,’ wrote one correspondent. ‘Don’t you have a dictionary?’ I itched to write back, ‘I do, indeed, and if you stop by my cubicle in Red-7, I’d be only too pleased to show it to you, up close and personal.’)

Eventually I realised that I had two choices: resign before dementia set in and I ran riot through the building, hitting people with my dictionary; or employ polite philosophy. So I scribbled up a template email which read, ‘Dear xxxx. Thank you for your email. Your complaint/observation has been noted. Regards, The Editor.’

And, you know, it really is amazing how well it’s worked. Not necessarly for the writers of the post-publication emails, but for me. Each time I press ‘send’, and my completely meaningless email goes winging out to yet another annoying complainant, I think of Scott Adams and thank him for providing me with the tools to deal with fools.

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Sunday, 3 June 2007

Crispy squashed potatoes with garlic, lemon and herbs

I was standing at the stove scratching my head about what to make for supper, when I remembered this clever recipe, invented by my darling aunt Gilly, who'd over-boiled some large potatoes intended for a salad. Like everything she cooks, this dish is just wonderful for a crowd. Here is my version:

Crispy squashed potatoes with garlic, lemon and herbs

6 large floury potatoes, in their skins
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
a large knob of butter, melted (the more, the better; depending on your waistline)
juice of 2 lemons
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oreganum and a few rosemary needles) or 2 T dried herbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Put the whole potatoes, skins and all, in a pot of water, bring to the boil and cook until their skins begin to split and they are cooked right through. This will take up to 30 minutes. Drain them in a colander and leave to dry out for a few minutes.

Now put the potatoes in an oiled baking dish, slash a cross in each one, and squeeze the bottom of the potato hard so that the cooked flesh squishes up and the skins flatten against the dish. With a fork, fluff up the insides of the potatoes so that it's all raggedy, like a crumble topping. Crush the garlic (or chop it very finely) and mix it with the olive oil, the melted butter, the lemon juice and the herbs.

Spoon this mixture all over the potatoes (or, better, use a pastry brush to paint it on so that every little crag of potato is well coated). Sprinkle with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Now place the dish in a blazing hot oven and cook until the potato is golden and crisp. If you're using Parmesan, sprinkle it over the potatoes 10 minutes before serving.

For extra zing, you could add any of the following: pesto, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, powdered cumin, or finely grated lemon zest.

Serves 6.

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'Retard who cough': The utter pointlessness of spam

'For retard who cough' is the title of a gobbet of spam that flew into my inbox today. Ok..ay, I think, an advert for a generic drug.

But this is followed by a mangled paragraph from Jane Austen's Emma:

And the bell was rung, and the carriages spoken for. A few minutes mor "Why, pretty well; but not quite well. Poor Perry is bilious, and he h "Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they ma She had not time to know how Mr. Elton took the reproof, so rapidly di "Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others," rejoined The charming Augusta Hawkins, in addition to all the usual advantages "That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if "Well, and that is as early as most men can afford to marry, who are n

And then a few more lines of gobbledygook:

Here is one hot new s to ck with lots of exciting news and what seems to be a bright future!

Strategy X Inc. (SGXI)
A global risk mitigation specialist corporation.

Price Today: 0.009
Recommendation: Buy aggresively (500+% pump expected)

SGXI news:
Strategy X Outlines Vertical Market Pursuit of the
2007 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grants...

For the complete release, please see your brokers website.


No link to my broker's website; no URL I can click on to buy cough mixture for retard. Not even the remotest hint of how I can take advantage of the 500+% pump.

Not. A. Sausage.

Now I know I'm probably wasting bandwidth by complaining about this scourge, and I rarely read the 10-odd emails a day that slither past my spam filters, but this one caught my eye. What's the point of an email like this? Why bother at all? If you're going to use a bit of literature to catch the eye of your victim, why choose something from Emma? Wouldn't a snippet from The Da Vinci Code, say, or even the Bible, be a better bet?

Please enlighten me.

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