Monthly Archives: December 2006

What’s the difference between satsumas, tangerines, clementines and mandarins?

At this time of the year it’s hard to avoid the exciting world of satsumas, tangerines, clementines* and mandarins. As I believe Eddie Izzard once pointed out there is a big fight going on in the world of fruit at the moment and it’s being fought right here between the oranges and these smaller things.

But what are these smaller things and how do you tell the difference between them? Well I’m sure you’ve wondered (but I suppose if you haven’t and aren’t interested yet then maybe you’d like to stop reading now?) what the differences are.

Well the first important thing is to realise that there isn’t such a thing as a mandarin. Well there is, but there isn’t. Mandarin is the name for the whole group. So a satsuma is a mandarin, a tangerine is a mandarin etc. But if somebody says, “oh would you like this mandarin” then they are being less specific. But it’s is the important safety word. Because this means that you’re basically able to get away with calling any of them mandarins and you’re okay, this would not be true if you were to pick any of the other names in the list.

So down to the nitty gritty. Tangerines are basically one of the pure varieties of Mandarin’s. They’re basically your bog standard. They usually have seeds in them too. The name comes from Tangier in Morocco where most of the fruit was at one point imported into Europe.

Then you’ve got your Clementines. These are similar to Tangerines, but they have been cross bred with another fruit called a Pomerans. This results in a seedless fruit. The big nightmare for people making Clementines is that it’s very easy for them to get their seeds back. And all it takes is a few bees poking around to cross them with another fruit and ruin your entire crop.

And a Satsuma is basically another type of seedless mandarin, which is actually a cross between a tangerine and a mandarin orange. This was done by a guy called Philip Satsuma** using cuttings from a kumquat plant.

In fact there are millions of varieties, because they are relatively easy to cross with other things. The rangpur is a cross between a tangerine and a lemon for example. And to further complicate things different countries “market” these fruits under different names. So in America for example you might find satsumas and clementines both being called clementines. And in Japan the satsuma is most often called the Mikan.

But in Britian you’re most likely to be eating a satsuma if somebody offers you something with no pips, and in the states you’d be most likely eating a clementine. But if you have pips in there in any country then it’s probably a tangerine. But if you’d rather play it safe then just call them all mandarins and be done with it.

*In fact you might know a Clementine as it’s a persons name as well, which might make them hard to avoid all year round.

**No really!

Break one’s word (9)

[Here’s part three of the four part Christmas story. If you haven’t read the story so far then you may want to check out, Part one: You may have seen a cakewalk, but have you seen plenty of this (9) and Part two: Love Handle (3, 4)]

Tom was eating his cereal while Jenny dithered in the kitchen. It was Christmas eve and the goose was… Well it wasn’t getting fat, Jenny thought, because by now it would probably be dead. And anyway they were having turkey again this year. This had caused a bit of an argument in the flat over the last few days. Jenny had wanted to try goose for a change but Tom had put his foot down. He didn’t usually mind about things like this so she knew it was important to him. But she also knew that she’d pushed him to defend himself a lot further than she’d really needed to be convinced. It was just so refreshing to see him passionate about something like that. Tom wasn’t brain dead or anything far from it. He was just very good at having come to the correct conclusion first. So he would normally be able to diffuse any argument with the answer. Or the smart compromise. What Jenny’s boss, whom she hated, would call, “the win win”.

But she had pushed him further than she probably should have because it was great to see the passion. To see him really care about something. And she knew that it was probably destructive to play the bad guy just to see that reaction. But she wasn’t able to help herself.

She hadn’t been able to help herself at the work Christmas party last night. She had known it was wrong but she had done it anyway. It was, a moment of weakness, and she was already trying to tell herself that it didn’t mean anything. She had slept with a guy. It had never happened before. And she knew it would never happen again. But while she would easily be able to get away with what she’d done she also knew that she didn’t want to. It wasn’t that she wanted to go out with this guy. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to not go out with Tom anymore… No actually that was it exactly it. She didn’t want to go out with Tom anymore.

She looked back at him sitting at the table. He was just pushing his cereal bowl away form him, and pulling the paper closer to him.

And then he said quite quietly to Jenny, “here’s the one I can’t do, ‘Break one’s word, nine letters'”.

A guy goes to a fancy dress party wearing only his boxer shorts

And somebody says to him what are you here as?
So he says, “I’m here as a premature ejaculation.”
What? Says the person. I don’t get it.
So the guy says, “Sorry, I’ve just come in my pants”.

The miracle of Spidermas

In an article the other day (You may have seen a cakewalk, but have you seen plenty of this (9)) I mentioned in passing Spidermas. And in response, literally one question has come flooding in. So what is Spidermas?

Well, back in the dim and distant past
and I were flatmates and over that time certain rituals developed that have lived on despite several attempts to kill them. Spidermas is one of these traditions.

Basically Christmas is a bit of a problem for flatmates because the likelihood is that you won’t spend your actual Christmas day together so when do you get to exchange presents. Now I guess most people would simply wait for the last day that everyone is together but that simply wasn’t our style. No we decided to create an event to have instead of Christmas. At first it didn’t have a name, at first it was simply a dream.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic either. What happened was that Nick and I decided to go and buy a tree on the first of December. It seemed a reasonable thing to do. And then once we had a tree we decided to wrap our presents to each other and place them under that self same tree.

Once we were done with the lights and presents it really did look pretty nice. Even if the tree was, I seem to remember, perched on top of the mini fridge. (Note to people digging the visual. I learnt a valuable lesson that year that the heat out of the back of a mini fridge is enough to kill a Christmas tree in about a week. Of course we left the tree there until easter but that is another story.)

But being impatient and curious people we had to open the presents immediately. And it was at this point when we returned to the tree that we noticed the two small spiders at least one of whom was called Jerry.*

So after we discovered the spiders we opened and enjoyed the presents, and then we carried on with our lives.

The next year we did the same thing, without actually still ever having referred to it as Spidermas. And after we’d dragged the tree in, with me wearing protective gloves as I’d discovered I’m mildly allergic to pine needles.*** We placed the tree in the corner of the room and then set about wrapping presents. The thing is, and this is the miracle, by the time we came back the two spiders were in position again. This never reoccurred, but to our minds it forever altered the occasion. And it turned the poorly named “day when flat mates exchange presents” into “Spidermas”.

And I sincerely hope that this post, if nothing else, encourages people who are sharing flats to experience the simple joys of Spidermas next year on 1st December.

*The spiders** usually lived in our bathroom. Which is when we had named them. There wasn’t a naming ceremony on Spidermas – just to be clear.

** I have absolutely no idea what the other spider was called. Perhaps Nick knows.

*** Interestingly this seems to be only true on my skin. Reasonably recently in Germany I was drinking a variety of different schnapps without knowing what the variety was before I drank (I was having a taste test) and so I was somewhat worried when I tasted pine in my drink. The drink was distilled pine needles I soon discovered. But despite worrying Katherine enough that she bothered to work out what “my boyfriend is allergic to pine and has just swallowed a quantity of pine schnapps and his throat has started to close up” was in German. But in the end I was okay. So clearly it’s only a problem on the outside.

A picture in need of a blog post

Once upon a time, due to drugs* Nancy Regan sat upon Mr T.’s knee and spoke about how much they loved one another…

*Due to Nancy Regan preaching against drugs I pity the fool that suggests otherwise!

Why is a snooze nine minutes instead of ten?

On many, many clocks the snooze function is nine minutes instead of ten or five. Why oh why oh why is this the case. This is especially difficult since it has been suggested by many people that getting up on an odd number of minutes is bad luck.*

The thing is that I personally don’t use the snooze function. The problem is that if I had snooze then I would probably snooze forever. What I do is I turn my alarm clock off when ever it goes. This leaves me only one choice: get out of bed. When I used to be much more tired back in the bad old days I used to avoid snooze with it’s easy choices, and turn the alarm off but set a new alarm time of ten minutes from now. This gave me the extra ten minutes in bed that I needed and meant that I had made a conscious thought and so was at least partially out of my deep sleep.

So I was talking to my friend Alison who was wondering about why the snooze is nine minutes the other day, and I couldn’t remember the answer right away. I think this may be because there are about a million stupid reasons for it. The most common wrong reason is that digital watch makers wanted to only have to watch one digit of the clock and so made it be 9 minutes. This sounds pretty good. You would have to only remember one piece of data and watch for the number to be that again. But why not wait for it to be that plus one?

The real reason seems to be that it comes from analogue clocks. And that analogue clocks are slightly imprecise. And that the snooze was supposed to be 10 minutes or less. At first this meant that the snooze wheel ran for somewhere between 9 and ten minutes. But as the clocks became more and more intricate they became more and more accurate even with the snooze. At some point somebody decided to make it determined by the minute hand to add to the precision and at that point nine minutes was chosen as the largest number of minutes that is less than ten.

Then in the digital age when somebody was copying the clock they based it on this system. And then it got built into the National Semiconductor’s MM5370 digital alarm-clock chip which is used in most modern digital alarm clocks.

*Hey I don’t make these things up! People who think this, but want to use the snooze function, use this as an excuse to press snooze twice. Whereas this could be easily avoided by having the alarm clock go off one minute early (not that they’d ever do that).

A few bits of admin for Gamboling

There have been a few small changes around here, just to tidy things up a little bit. So I thought I’d just run through them so that we are all on the same page (so to speak).

There are now tags* for each post (you can see them at the bottom) if you can click on them then you can see all of the posts that have been tagged with the same thing.**

Also I’ve added a recent links section up there on the right. This shows some recent pages that I’ve been looking at on the modern internet. If any of the titles take your fancy then please give them a check out. (You will be taken off to the rest of the internet, so do please remember to come back at some point).

*Or as us blogger bloggers are supposed to call them: labels!

**Although it isn’t all of the posts really because there are still of the old gamboling posts which you can get to still by clicking on Older Archive on the left there. Because they are pre-blogger they can’t be tagged unfortunately but are still there.

Love Handle (3, 4)

[This is part two of the four part Gamboling Christmas story. If you haven’t already you may want to see part one (You may have seen a cakewalk, but have you seen plenty of this (9)).]

In all towns there is one bar which is the coolest bar to hang out. This is true everywhere even in the big cities – especially in the big cities. You might think there are several or that it all depends on your individual taste, but in that case you’ve sadly – tragically almost – missed the point. Cool isn’t about what you think it’s about, it’s about what other people are doing all the time when you’re having a rest. But in a small town it’s easy. It’s clear. And in a small university town it’s so easy that even deeply uncool people can figure out where it is. And this was what Tom was thinking as he watched Jenny walk in to the bar.

Jenny was wearing thick rimmed glasses and had her jet black hair tied back in such a way that Tom was sure that later in her particular story she would take off her glasses, and let her hair fall to her shoulders in a moment designed to make the viewer say, “oh she’s actually beautiful”. But actually Tom could see perfectly well that she was beautiful now. But he could also see, as she dropped a small bag of tangerines on to the table and they all started rolling off in different directions, that she was an embarrassed klutz.

The two of them had been kind of avoiding each other since the beginning of the year. They had ended up at the same uni by accident. And really the only tension between the two of them was that they had once, when too young to know what it really meant, said that they would get married. They had just come off stage from being Mary and Joseph in the school nativity and they had been asked one of those fake adult questions that no child has ever really thought about. The adult asked if they had ever thought he they could be married and that is when it happened.

They had said that they would definitely get married and that they would be best friends forever. And that had been all that it took. The adult mentioned how cute this news was to all of the other adults and from then on they could never really escape from this thing that they didn’t ever understand.

Jenny, who had thought about this lots, had decided that it was this reason that they hadn’t been able to stay friends when they hit puberty. This, she reasoned, was not something that would have happened if they had simply been friends. In that case it would have been easier. But being betrothed to somebody who is changing that fast is tricky. Especially when you’re changing just as much. Tom just thought they’d drifted apart.

They’d been going to the same university for a year and a half now and still they hadn’t really acknowledged each other’s existence more than a quick nod or hurried “hi”. And Tom had noticed and logged in the back of his mind with a sense of embarrassment that he had had another different girl with him every time they met. And Jenny had logged in the back of her mind that she had been alone every time that they met. She was alone again now she noticed.

Tom wasn’t, however, with a girl but neither was he alone. He was with some guys. They had just come from a lecture and had folders, books, scarves and beer bottles littered around them. He looked over to Jenny who had every thing neatly packed away and on her table in front of her was a glass of white wine, a coaster, a pen and a newspaper.

Tom got up and walked towards her. As he made his way over he realised that she was deep in thought and probably wouldn’t notice his arrival. She was looking down at the paper and a lock of her hair fell off of her forehead and down in front of her eyes. She pushed it back up and then ran her fingers along to tips of the section and then tucked it behind her ear.

Tom arrived at the table and pulled out the seat opposite her. She suddenly looked up with a panicked look in her eye and almost started to say something before she realised who it was and changed her mind. So instead of the probable complaint she simply said, “Tom”.

“Hi Jenny,” he responded, “how are you?”
“I’m okay. You?”
“Yeah I’m fine.”
“What made you come over?”
“Well I just saw you there and I thought I’d say Hi.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well we’ve seen each other a million times and you’ve never come over before.”
“You weren’t alone before.”
“I actually was.” Actually, this was the moment that Jenny softened to him because although she’d been obsessing about this information clearly it hadn’t been important to him. But then she also thought badly of him again because he hadn’t been properly paying attention to her.
“Oh,” he said, “well I wasn’t alone probably. And so… Yeah…”

He took this moment to actually sit down on the chair he’d been gripping on to during the conversation so far.

“Okay,” he said, “it was the newspaper. That’s what made me come over.”
“Oh charming!”
“No! No. I meant something better than that. I meant that well it reminded me of when we first met. And I suddenly thought that it would be so much better if we could just first meet again. And pretend that there wasn’t any of that history there. That I could just kind of come over and as friends we could work on the crossword together.”
“I see.”
“Yeah, that’s all I was thinking. I mean it’s not as if we ever did the crossword together again after that very first day, so it wouldn’t be something from the past or anything. So what do you think Jenny? Couldn’t it work.”
“Well I’ve actually only got one clue left. But maybe. Maybe that could work. But…”
“You can’t call me Jenny anymore because that’s from the past too. Everyone calls me Jen now.”
“But… Couldn’t I just have that as my pet name for you?”
“Well maybe… Oh damn you!”
“That’s it! You just got it. The clue was Love Handle (3, 4) and it’s Pet Name! That’s what you just said.”
“Well in that case you’ll have to let me call you it!”
“We shall see.”

And at that moment, as a waitress walked past and Tom ordered a bottle of whichever white Jenny had a glass of her, she felt that feeling again. And it was delicious.

I drink Nespresso coffee

I drink Nespresso coffee,
I find it to be good,
But now I find it’s made by Nestle,
I wonder if I should.

That baby milk to Africa,
That was pretty bad,
But now no-one mentions it,
Perhaps it was a fad.

So now I’m using baby milk,
To make my coffee white,
This might be morally dubious,
but I think it tastes alright.

Toilet Tennis

Once while out with a group of girls, as the designated driver, I was able to discover one of the greatest secrets of the universe. That night the true reason why women take longer in the toilet than men was revealed to me, and also the related reason of why they go to the toilet in pairs.

In this perfect storm of a situation they were willing just for the night to reveal the utter truth of the situation, something that they have never done to a man who is sober. All I can imagine is that that night – they were really drunk.*

The answer is, of course, that they play tennis – in the cubicles. And as we know there is a common tendency of women to go to the toilet at the same time. This is because they have a match lined up and ready to go.

The exact rules are not widely known among men-folk but generally involve lofting the spare toilet roll over the tops of the cubicles. Games can take upwards of twenty minutes and this is the main reason that these things take so long. Toilet-tennis is rapidly being banned in chic establishments as it has been widely linked to the emergence of male homophobia. Male homophobia it is widely agreed is far more common than that among women. This is due to men’s inability to play toilet tennis.

Many years ago when toilets were coming into fashion, toilet tennis was invented. Both men and women played at first. But more often than not the men would find that the spare roll that they were using would fall into the urinal or bowl that was less guarded because they weren’t sitting down. Although most men didn’t care about the roll getting soggy, and just scratched the game, men couples leaving the toilets soon came to be scorned.

People who sat near men couples soon noticed the smell of urine on their trousers and so began a dislike among society of men going to the toilet together. To make matters good and equal opportunities a lot of chic restaurants, as I say, are banning tennis altogether rather than letting men sit in their restaurants covered in piss.

*Actually to get back from the pub to where the car was parked I had to take this merry band across a field which had cows in it. The part of the field we had to walk across was about a normal persons’ one minute walk in a straight line. And in that time two of them “got lost” and wandered into the middle of the cows. That’s how drunk they were. I can still vividly remember now trying to herd the ladies to one corner of the field after one of them declared that she would only answer to me shouting “Moo”.