Monthly Archives: July 2012

It’s the exception that proves the rule

I’m sure you’ve heard some dolt say this line, “well you know it’s the exception that proves the rule”, you may even have been said dolt – I know I have been.

i before e except after c

Although we were all probably taught this at school, most people now know that it isn’t true. In fact, in more cases it’s the other way around. In many more words it is i before e after c too. But this is still trotted out as a common example of the exception proving the rule.

But this isn’t what the phrase “it’s the exception that proves the rule” is supposed to mean. Lots of people seem to think it’s a kind of shorthand for “we’ve looked into this properly because we aren’t just telling you what’s generally true, but about the exceptions too”, a kind of grown up version of showing your working. And showing your working is important, and to be encouraged, but that isn’t what it’s about.

The phrase actually dates back to Roman times*. In a court case a dude was trying to become a Roman Citizen, the only problem was that he was from one of the provinces. The lawyer who opposed his case pointed out that several other provinces had restrictions on allowing people from provinces to become Roman citizens so a general rule could be inferred that people from the provinces shouldn’t be allowed to become Roman citizens. Cicero, who was the dude’s lawyer, argued that this was faulty logic. He said that instead, the fact that particular provinces had restrictions in place inferred that there must be a general rule to which these were the exceptions. He was saying the fact there was an exception proves that there was a general rule that people could come in. The existence of an exception, indicated that there was a general rule. That’s what the phrase is supposed to mean.

* What doesn’t these days?

Fauxbituary #1 – Algernon Q Fuzzbutter

Algernon Q Fuzzbutter
1908 – 2012

Algernon Q Fuzzbutter, the inventor of the oversized mattress label, died on Thursday peacefully in his bed. Fuzzbutter would, his family said in a prepared statement they had prepared earlier, have appreciated the irony of his place of death. “Dad was always in bed, even when he wasn’t confined to it,” said Sarah Munt, his daughter (63), “as far back as I can remember he kinda lived in there.”

“Perhaps,” said Arthur Scofield, a formerly disgruntled employee who has reconsidered his opinion of his former employer in light of his death, “he went there to dream? He certainly dreamed up some kooky ideas we had to implement over the years”. Indeed he did, Fuzzbutter had 73 and a half patents to his name, but not one of the devices, contraptions or aides ever caught on as well as the oversized mattress label.

In an interview with this publication back in 1932 he spoke about the genesis of the idea, “It just occurred to me, the labels they were putting on these mattresses were about the same size as the labels in a shirt, or a pair of bloomers, but the mattress is much larger than these other items, so why not have a label commensurate with the larger size of the object in question?” He also revealed in the interview that he hoped one day to add large labels to cars and even refrigerators, but alas he was unable to live to see his dream become a reality.

Algernon Q Fuzzbutter is survived.

Artist in training – Part 1

People sometimes ask me, how do you have time to do all of these things? I tend to tell them that the answer is that a) a lot of things take a lot less time to do than you’d think, b) mainly it’s by just getting on and doing them, and c) practice.

I think a lot of people say, “oh I would like to be good at such an such” but don’t do anything about it because doing something about it would take a nebulous amount of time. I always think, I’d like to be good at this in about x years, gosh that’s not very long, I better start practicing if I’m going to be ready by then.

I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my poor ability with art (performance art I’m ok with). And as Nina grows up I’d like to be better at drawing and painting. So I think that over the next five years I’d like to be able to become competent at drawing and painting. There’s only one way to do this, practice.

So here’s the first picture I’ve created since I was at school:

It was done on the iPad so you can actually see a recording of how the painting* was constructed using the excellent app Brushes.

*Is it a painting? Is it a drawing? It feels more like you are drawing a painting?

What’s Latin for Alien?

I can remember sitting in class squirming with excitement for first break. My three best friends at that school were all in the year above and when they saw this they were going to think it was so cool. I can remember finding Pete and Rich, but I can’t think where David was that day. We went to one of our usual haunts, the top of the fire escape at the back of the school gym*. This sounds like a nice out of the way spot, but it wasn’t totally hidden. My school had two quads** – an upper quad and a lower quad. The upper quad was between all of the classrooms so was not very useful for break times, sure you might hang around in there from time to time, but with all the teachers looking on it wasn’t much fun. Also with all of the windows on the classrooms there were strictly no ball games, the lower quad was where all the serious playing went on. The two quads were separated by the gym, and the fire escape faced the path between the two quads, so a lot of kids would walk past, but most wouldn’t notice us up there on the fire escape. But we could watch them.

Once we were safely up in our spot, I was ready to show Pete and Rich my treasure. I had found it on the window sill of my bedroom that very morning. Proof of the existence of Aliens.

It was a yellow pad of paper, with the hard cardboard back, the thick binding at the top so that you could rip the pages off. Most of the pages had been ripped off and the pad had been left, blank, on the window sill the night before. But now there was a diagram, a schematic for something on the page. I explained the situation, showed them what I had found, and said breathlessly “this drawing must have been beamed down from space on to the page”. They agreed, that much was clear and certain to our eleven year old minds.

What would we do next with this discovery? We must consult the authorities. But, I reasoned, we would have to be careful as there must be a reason that diagram was beamed to us rather than to the prime minister – to me the prime minister seemed the most likely alternative recipient.

Just then our Latin teacher came walking past on the path at the bottom of the stairs. We called down to her and ran down the stairs, “Miss Cooper, Miss Cooper”. She stopped and looked to see what we had to show her. The diagram, she agreed with us readily, could easily be alien, but had we considered the ancient Egyptians? I pointed out that the paper had been left on a window sill and behind the curtains, therefore leaving a direct line to outer space. Aliens, I reasoned, had to be the prime candidates.

This might all seem pretty strange to you, but Miss Cooper was very happy to believe our story. She once brought dowsing rods into school to check if there were lay lines in our classroom which might explain some of the poor marks people were getting. Frankly, if you weren’t cultivating a good number of eccentric habits then I don’t think you were allowed to teach at the school.

The next step was clear, I needed to show this drawing to my father, he knew about electronics and making things, he would be the next step to understanding what the Aliens wanted us to do.

I showed it to him that night and he thanked me for returning his drawing, he’d wondered where he had misplaced it. He didn’t seem very worried for a man who was suddenly in possession of international*** state secrets. But maybe he was just playing things cool in case I was working for the Prime Minister.

* You may be wondering why a school gym had a fire escape, I mean it wasn’t as if it was series of running machines on top of a Yates Wine Lodge. The gym had a stage at one end and that was, of course, elevated, so needed a fire escape.

** A quad is the name at posho schools, like what I went to, for a quadrilateral playground, which of course you might think means all playgrounds. What do you mean you’ve never heard of playgrounds in a pentagonal shape? Only kidding, I think the quadrilateral part was to distinguish it from more natural grass-based playing fields. I mean you might think it’s ridiculous, but most people have to make do with just the word playground to mean both a space with swings in it and an empty rectangle of concrete where they could play at school. We just called the later a quad.

*** Or Galactic.

What’s the deal with this gamboling blog then anyway?

“What’s the deal with this gamboling blog then anyway?”

So yes, on and off for many years I have periodically updated this blog in fits and bursts. Sometimes I have written a new piece every day including weekends. Sometimes I haven’t. Not all of the archive is still in place due to a problem, and eventually I will go back and fix this, but I’ve been saying that for a while.

“So is gamboling back?”

Well I’ve probably said that over the years more times than I would care to remember.

“But this time is different right?”

Um, probably not. I mean I’ll stop again, but that’s what you want really – how on earth could I keep you interested if I wasn’t interested?

“Ok, so not different?”

Well a little different. This time I have built up a buffer. So if I don’t write anything at all from the point that I publish this post you’ll have a month of stuff, not a month of every day stuff but a month of stuff with enough frequency you might be able to keep up, but that it doesn’t seem sporadic.

“So why not just publish one of these things instead of writing a thing about why you haven’t written anything?”

YOU AREN’T THE BOSS OF ME! No I didn’t mean that. Well I thought I better explain what was going on.

“Ok, so you’re back, what kind of gamboling phase is this going to be?”

The mixed bag phase, with features, articles, fiction. Things like “Reasons to be Cheerful”, and the question for the comments will be back. There will be none of the ponderous thought pieces and more of the silly stuff. The cool thing is that there are ideas and features I’m really excited to introduce you to, and that hasn’t happened for a while.

“So when is this first article coming, why don’t you publish it already?”

It’ll be here in a an hour. It might already be here, if you haven’t been madly refreshing this semi-dormant site every five minutes for a year just in case something is published.

Hope you enjoy it,

Alex.