Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Finally submitted a looming job application at the 11th hour. The likelihood of getting this post is vanishingly slim because I interviewed for them 2 months ago, but I want it because it involves dignified evidence-based work in a field of social benefit. I am listening to The Fall as I submit. Don't know if this helps.

Other news:
  • Wee wan can remember the nationalities, places and dates of both Goya and Turner
  • DVLA lovingly invited me to re-apply for my driving license
  • Scottish Power increases my calculated monthly payment for gas+elec to £115 per month. Since this is half my Income Support, this needs looking at.
  • National Artist-in-Residence Catriona Grant gets in touch to seek my interpretive feedback on a recent project
  • DWP increases my mortgage benefit in line with Bank of England rates
  • A local University advertises a job as a technician @ 2 hrs per week, £12.50 per week and thus £645 per annum, before tax. Any takers?


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The untidyness fairy pays a visit

Every room in the house is in disorder, with dirty plates in kitchen and sitting-room, dirty clothes strewn on the bedroom floor, vegetable peelings, grease and gram-flour batter crusted on the stove and kitchen counters and (as crowning glories) generous helpings of catsick and hairball on the kitchen carpet. Part of this is due to the home economics lessons the kiddos underwent last night, including training in the arcane of making cous-cous salad and pakora from scratch. Both are still interested in the home chemistry of cooking and enjoy processing real food like fresh veg, but like their mother have a selective deficit for clearing up. It should be different. I worked for a year as a school cleaner and a house cleaner (for my mum) in my teens, which might have given me skills and pride in my work, but was threatened with the sack for poor performance in both posts. A word to the wise- carpet is the worst possible floor surface for a kitchen, especially if you have a long-haired cat who targets carpet for her puke-fests.

Still, it was a happy weekend. I got some time alone with each of them, which is always a treat. On Saturday I persuaded the big wan to accompany me shopping in Southside, and I feel only pride when walking up the street arm in arm with my fine laddie. We bought gram flour and chillis from Bismillah Asian foodstore, causing me to sing 'Bohemian Rhapsody' embarrassingly in public. Big wan had intended to leave me on South Bridge to hang out with the disreputable youth on Cockburn St, but instead developed one of his Casualty-style spontaneous nosebleeds when he appears to exsanguinate through the nostril. It's a great party trick and a possible entrepreneurial niche for a black-pudding brand, but sadly not under his conscious control. Tissues were called for and a sit-down, a bacon roll and a mug of tea in the Babylon greasy-spoon. Any of our regular trips to Babylon have to be accompanied by singing 'Burning in Babylon' in public; he puts up with a lot. I left him heading again for goth-central while I hit Lidl, but he felt bad about leaving me with heavy shopping and turned back to help me home with the bags.

On Sunday it was wee wan's turn to accompany me and R. to see the Goya etchings and the Turner watercolours at the galleries on the Mound on a girls' afternoon out. You have to admire the technical skills of both artists, though wee wan says she prefers modern art. By chance, we come across the video installation 'my son, my father' by our mutual friend Catriona Grant, a current artist in residence. R. spoils wee wan terribly with hot chocolate and some pop-art plasters shaped like kissing lips. Over coffee, R. and I are talking tattoos and piercing, impressing on wee wan the transitory nature of fashion. R. doesn't even have her ears pierced, and she's not even Jewish (though we sometimes wonder).

It's been a good week for remembered dreams. The first was about the Smiley Bros, the staff of my Asian corner shop. In real life, there is Older Smiley who is meticulously courteous and well-mannered, and Younger Smiley who has to his credit a magnificent moustache and a charming 5 yr old daughter. I dreamt that they were throwing a 20 year anniversary party for the shop and all the regulars were invited. Younger Smiley's wife showed me a calligraphic, illuminated Q'uran, reading aloud and translating the Arabic, with me silently admiring that neither the Q'uranic script nor her English translations were in her first language.

In another recent dream I was challenged to a friendly vegetable identification quiz in the Chinese veg shop. I mistook a persimmon for a Sharon fruit but was correct on identifying celery leaf. In real life, I was most amused when the new Saturday staff, a young Chinese man (maybe the younger brother of the proprietrix) was playing cards for 20p bets with a similar friend while I picked out my veg. The cards were being slapped on the counter, and each win and loss punctuated with Chinese comment.



One of the best pleasures lately has been reading Tudge's 'The Secret Life of Trees' in combination with his 'Variety of Life'. The latter is largely a reference work, but the former is an in-depth romp through one plant-form- a tree. Trees are not a clade (or phylogenetically cohesive grouping), but tree-ish plant-forms have arisen independently in many plant orders. Tree (a descriptive term) connotes a lignified and large plant.

When you've been beastie-focussed, learning more about plant reproduction starts to blow your mind. Those plants have all sorts of ways of making it happen, and one of the oddest ways is to do it as we humans do- with single sexes in single organisms. In 95% of angiosperms (flowering plants) there is some hermaphroditic overlay, with the most common pattern being male and female organs in the same flower or on the same plant (a monoecious reproductive style). The dioecious species like we and most animals are the outliers.

Those weird dioecious species are found among; Holly, Gingko, Juniper, Cannabis, Date Palm, Persimmon, Sago, Kiwi Fruit, Yew, Poplar, Willow, Spinach and Asparagus.

In part, dioeciousness seems a functional extension of self-incompatibility, a trick played by many plants to prevent self-fertilisation. Sexual self-fertilisation is not the same as vegetative cloning. The gametes have undergone meiosis and gene transfer between chromatids during their formation, and thus are not genetically identical to their mother. However, sexual inbreeding (self-fertilisation) is nowhere near as successful in promoting genetic diversity and adaptive potential as sexual outbreeding. Dioeciousness promotes this de facto.

Why did dioecious habits evolve in some species? To protect sexual fertilisation one suspects, and promote the mixing up of genes. In addition, dioecious habits could be promoted by symbiotic co-evolution between the plants and their broadcasters/ germinators. Many dioecious plants are dependent upon birds eating their fruits and enclosed seeds, preparing seeds through their digestive system and depositing these for germination at a distance, away from direct competition with their parents but a potentially successful descendant.

Upcoming Exclusives:

* The triploid nuclei in pollen of angiosperms- menage a trois!
* Plant embryogenesis- all about sex!
* The pollen tube, the endosperm and the importance of mechanics- Viagra for plants!
* Seed plant reproductive organs- angiosperms and gymnosperms embryologically unrelated and probably legal!


Thursday, January 25, 2007


After a thrilling race not a fortnight ago, it was the East Pacific maneki neko team which pipped the West Pacific runner, but only by a scant few days. The East Pacific team supplied two MK specimens plus a build-your-own Stonehenge model kit, but the West Pacific courier just may have trumped them on quality (if not speed) by hand-delivering three MKs, two with keyring functionality. That wee wan is a fortunate creature indeed.

There's been a friend staying the last week, which has been pleasant and reparative (literally). Friend sealed up the neglected window with masking tape, identified the problem in the DVD remote controller (fritzed by battery acid), hooked up the surround-sound speakers so they worked and functioned as cooking, washing up and tidying fairy. A veritable rival to H.-who-is-very-good-to-me, and all for nothing but a tour of favourite local sites including the Botanics, Museum, Braidburn and Calton Hill and exposure to some high winds and a little sleet. It makes the turistas feel like Scotland is the far north.

Peter Ballocks was allegedly on best behaviour but quite bad at the luscious veggie feast cooked for H. and R. There were home-fried pakora, salsa, a tofu tart, stuffing balls, tabbouleh salad and an apple cake. He dampened his dreaded come-on phrase ('ballocks') since outnumbered by the feminista, but despite explicit prospective warning deliberately baited the vegetarian and failed to share the small lump of hash donated to him for sedative purposes. It's all about him and his ballocks, making his dog so much better-mannered and better company than he.


Friday, January 12, 2007


It was no surprise to be woken at 11 am yesterday by one of my interviewers to tell me I hadn't been successful. This was neither a surprise nor a blow. The post had required managerial responsibilities that (from experience) are known to make me miserable and crazy, and the 45 mins of Q&A after my presentation was excruciating for all concerned. The interviewer was kind enough to say that my presentation had been good and that I should apply for other related posts, but the interview resembled more than anything a mediaeval trial by ordeal and a test of standing up to stress, which is not a personal forte. My kiddos' Dad, who works in the same NHS organisation, had given me some good tips ahead of the 'competency-based' interview and had the decency to follow up and sympathise with me today. He is the owner of a good heart and is an excellent father, with our kiddos' success as a shared testament and legacy.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I have been up with the slugs all night (though they refuse to come out to play in winter), and am as usual strangely uplifted by pharmaceutically-unassisted sleep deprivation. No comedown, no hangover; just a rather enjoyable freedom from cognitive activity.

This morning I was booked for a haircut after my nightshift. The last haircut had cost me almost as much as the Ugly Betty specs but had left me with hair much longer than I wanted. For today's appointment, I'd thought I'd booked for the student-budget-but-trendy hairdresser in Marchmont recommended by R., but realised when I disembarked the bus that the salon name was all wrong. Instead of booking for 'The Edge', I'd booked with 'Odyssey', a blue-rinse, shampoo-and-set place for octogenarians down the road. Game for a laugh and past caring, I kept the appointment and entered the salon where I was younger than any clients or staff. Here there were those 1950's helmet hairdryers and staff dressed in mu-mus.

Being a cheapskate, all that was wanted was a wet cut- no wash, no blow dry, no grooming products, no groovy staff. And this salon for the elderly gave me exactly that! I was in and out in 10 mins, the unpretentious hairdresser did exactly what I wanted, it cost me £10 instead of £50, and was as good a cut as I've ever had. My hairdresser was not dressed for a nightclub at 10 am, did not ask me any stupid questions about my holidays, and instead we talked about her wish for a Royal Copenhagen Xmas plate from the sales. It was an entirely refreshing experience that left me converted, and I now intend to act 80 years old forever more. 'Odyssey'- get there and get square!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lucky Kitty

The international Pacific Rim contest to get new Lucky Kitty to the wee wan is underway. On the Californian coast two charms have allegedly been sent by post, but from the Australasian border the personally couriered amulet might still win the race! Wee wan is a distinctly lucky girl. We also received an Xmas parcel from California yesterday, with something for everyone. Big Wan has a T-shirt for a 'straight-edge'* band called Minor Threat, I some very attractive nichromatic blue glass jewellery, wee wan a quickly-adopted stuffed toy beaver (dubbed, originally, 'Beavie'), a book for us all and Her Catness the box in which all this was delivered. Why are cats so fatally smitten by packaging?

Yesterday we tried for the 5-a-day fruit and veg all in one meal, since I'd bribed big wan to accompany me on messages (errands) with the prospect of a bacon roll and mug of tea in a greasy spoon caff. He's so cheaply bought. Dinner was baked tatties and cheese with a tabbouleh salad on the side, followed by pomegranates and coconut. I have made it a habit to ask the Chinese grocers over the road for flat-leaf parsley on most visits over the past year, so when fresh bunches are spotted outside I am duty bound to buy one. Totally superior to curly-leaf, IMHO, which has almost the same texture fresh or dried.

The bio-book order came in a few days ago, and I read 'Marley and Me' first. It's not really a bio-book at all, but a humourous and sentimental account of life with a bad dog. It's a light and amusing read, but a five hanky job. I suspect anyone who has loved and lost a dog will be crying buckets by the end. I have to admit my eyes are still slightly swollen this morning, but it was worth it.

* Straight-edge- a hip movement eschewing alcohol, drugs and casual sex

Ugly Betty (TV program) started last night, and it has been noted that my new specs are remarkable similar to the eponymous protagonist's. I suspect that I will be the object of some teasing over the next wee while.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


You learn something new everyday. Here was I asking R. for a 'phone charm' when the proper term is apparently 'phone dangly' (discovered in my local Tesco Metro). That's the kind of descriptive language we like. Please ask for a 'dangry' in Taipei, R.

This year I am hoping for a new job and a rich boyfriend. The job should be lucrative, jolly and part-time, while the boyfriend should be a time-served tradesman who expresses his adoration by slaving on my flat while stripped to the waist. No- scratch that. I already had one such who scarred floors, walls and fireplace by insisting on sanding and sealing while off his face on methadone and cheap cider. The next handyman boyfriend was abstemious but authoritarian, clinically paranoid and sadistic- an even worse combination of traits. Those both are now ancient history, but suffice it to say that my judgement of character has not improved since then, and Peter Ballocks (though probably willing) is not anyone's idea of a catch. Just the new job then, please.

In a moment of weakness I related to the big wan the derivation of my childhood nickname, and now he's mercilessly tormenting me with this information. In retaliation, I've been jokingly inviting him to tell me his big secret- that he's gay. I only tease about this because it's (so far) not true, but he's quick as a whip. "Who's the gay one, mum, when my score is Girlfriends-1 and yours Boyfriends-nil?" Touche, big wan. Girlfriends are easy to find and easy to lose at his age, with median 'relationship' duration of perhaps one week and two snogging sessions. Yes, I remember it well. Let this teach us that big wan shall never, never discover the reasons his dad and I were almost expelled from his high school at 16, lest it give him license to behave as we did. Luckily we were both required for exam result and university entrance statistics and thus reprieved. So far his dad is thankfully maintaining the 'loose lips sink ships' stonewall. Phew!