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Ampersand

The mess that shift+7 makes.

The mess that shift+7 makes.

The ampersand. There it is sitting on your keyboard. What is it? Is it punctuation? Is it an abbreviation? Does that sort of thing even have a name? It must do and I’m sitting here with several hundred pounds worth of internet connected computing power in front of me – I could easily look it up but to put it bluntly I can’t be bothered. That’s one things the Reviewsless staff all have in common, apart from from our amazing senses of humour obviously, our devotion to laziness. We put so much effort into being lazy it’s actually tiring. Yesterday I spent so much time being lazy I had to go to bed to make sure I had enough energy left to be lazy enough today to not look up that little bit of information for you. You see – always looking out for the reader we are. Always thinking ahead for you.

So is the ampersand useful we ask? Well yes, um, on Twitter when you realise you’ve gone over the character limit. You scan over the tweet and see if you’ve typed the word “and” and so can save yourself 2 whole characters. It is invariably never enough and you end up having to accept some awful butchery of English grammar to manage to say whatever witty, pithy comment you were making but that’s about it. Is there any other time that the ampersand is at all useful? We can’t think of any. It’s no easier to type then just typing the word “and” and when hand writing, well, have you ever tried it? Its the only punctuation mark-lettery-character-thing that starts at the bottom right. Go on try it. It doesn’t matter how you do it you have to start at the bottom right and that’s just wrong. Plain wrong. I mean one of us writes quite strangely and has been told he does his P’s funny but not even he feels comfortable starting at the bottom right. It’s writing backwards and not even left handed people can be comfortable doing that. At least I don’t think they can be. I could probably ask one or look it up but, well, see above.

So what I’m saying is that ampersands are probably more useful than a tilde but less useful than a minky whale but for different things obviously. And if you don’t know how useful a minky whale is then you just aren’t trying.

See? Useful.

See? Useful.

Smolensk

Smolensk is a small Russian city located just south of Reading. It was relocated to Berkshire during the early 90’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is famous for having the first McDonalds in Russia in England and the local specialty – deep fried armadillo’s ear (that’s an armadillo’s ear deep fried, not the ear of a deep fried armadillo, which is pretty much the same thing when we think about it.)

Taking a trip to Smolensk is definitely worthwhile and couldn’t be easier with direct buses from the centre of Reading every 20 minutes and trains from London, Moscow and Kiev all stopping there, though the food on the trains from London is a bit questionable. Once you’re there, there is a wide variety of sights to see, and seats to sigh. The Bongo Museum is an obvious highlight, especially on a Tuesday. We’d also recommend a stroll along the banks of the river (be careful to stay on the right side of the safety fence though as radiation can kill) and try Pavel’s Palace of Porcine Pstuff for day of pig filled pfun.

Yuri Gagarin was from Smolensk. He is famous for being the first person to get the bus to Slough and return safely. His house and grave are both tourist attractions and are worth a visit but be prepared for a lot of locals trying to sell you cheap Slough tourist tat.

As mentioned earlier Smolensk is proud of its many and varied eateries both of which are reasonably priced. They accept any and all forms of payment including barter arrangements involving penguins. When we say that, we mean that they accept penguins in return for for food, not that they engage in arrangements with penguins. Although they might, we’ve never seen a penguin eating there. What they do with all the penguins we couldn’t possibly say but let’s just say its hard to get a hold of enough armadillo ear during the cold, hard Berkshire winters.

Once a year, in June, Smolensk is host to the Berkshire County Russian Show where there are displays of shepherding, livestock competitions and a military parade through the centre of the city by the red army displaying the latest Russian military technology. The livestock has been kept apart from the military hardware ever since the unfortunate and well documented events of 2007 when a badly controlled litany of llamas (yes that is the collective noun for llamas, or it is now at least) got in to the same compound as the tactical nuclear missiles and nearly caused an international incident.

So all in all we’d say Smolensk is a fun day out for all of our middle England comrades.

Points

What’s the point?

This is not only a question specifically for this project, but a wider question. Without wanting to get into the deep philosophical question of ‘what’s the point’ we do want to get into the flippant question of ‘what’s the point’, proving that flippant and philosophical are closely related, making much of this website philosophical.

So the point.

Trying to win an argument is often about making a point. Irrelevant things are pointless. Sticks can be pointed (underrated Monty Python sketch) and can be pointed at things.

So the point. What is a point? What is the measure? Showing someone a Wikipedia entry that shows that a tomato is a fruit (it isn’t) is proving a point. Correcting your/you’re on a remedial’s Facebook status is proving a point. Establishing an international trade embargo on North Korea to prevent their nuclear weapons research is proving a point. It seems unlikely that we’re talking about the same point. And so we propose a measure, because we like to help in these matters. The SI unit for a point should be a Poinsettia (P). It’s only ever rolled out at Christmas and no one likes them much anyway, so we might as well reapportion them.

Someone saying something valid on Question Time gets 1P. Pointing out that it’s not your round is 2P. Explaining why the moon landings DID take place is 4P. Knowing that Bumblebee was a VW Beetle is 898786P. A simple and linear measurement. Just what we all need.

Barbecues

Barbecues, or BBQ’s if you’re someone that I will openly despise, are the last great bastion of the hunter gatherer element of us. The most primal of cuisine. Meat. Lots of meat.

Before we continue, we have to address the BBQ. We have a question. Why? Barbecue isn’t a long word. It’s 8 letters long. BBQ is 3. You’ve saved yourself 5 letters. What are you all doing with the extra time you’ve saved yourself? It’s the same with Xmas and donuts. It gets worse though as Q is next to W on the keyboard and when you google BBQ with that slight slip of the type, well, it’s a different game altogether. So lets just not BBQ ok? Unless it’s my go in Scrabble (for our younger readers, Scrabble is Words with Friends for people who have friends who will bother arse to come to your house) and I have those letters, in which case I’m all for it.

Barbecues are an opportunity for, predominantly (we’re not being sexist here, just making a call on what we’ve been privy to in our limited experiences), men to cook meat badly and present said badly cooked meat proudly to people, demanding respect for our efforts and another beer. We may be wrong, but there are no Michelin starred barbecuaries. Barbecued food is either poisonous or burnt.

Still without wanting to be sexist, barbecues tend to have very gender specific roles. Men do the fire, ruining of meat and the taking of the credit. Women do the inviting people so you don’t have it on your own, the buying of everything, including the charcoal, buttering the buns, sorting the salad, sorting any drinks that aren’t beer, plates, cutlery, glasses, napkins (if you’re posh) or paper towels (if you’re like us) and a myriad (yes a myriad) of other chores. And that’s just before the barbecue, it doesn’t include the clearing up while men out things on the barbecue that shouldn’t go on the barbecue, like seeing if you can make a rocket out of a Pringles can. They don’t, however, do the cooking of the meat, so they can’t have the credit. Men like barbecues.

Barbecues have literally never been mistaken for a Bieber queue.

Penguins

Penguins are the most reliable of birds. If you lend a penguin a fiver, he’ll give it you back the next day. It’ll be wetter, and slightly more fishy, but its there for you. Penguins are one of the few animals that won’t run with scissors, even if you didn’t supervise them. A penguin has never started a war, created a religion or been a presenter of Top of the Pops. Thoroughly dependable.

I once bet a person that penguins could fly and won. It didn’t fly for long, and it was a fairly vertical flight, but I still won. The penguin didn’t.

Most penguins understand Aramaic, but unfortunately have never been to Aramaia. Plus they can’t talk, which is good as they are horrendous liars. As a slight aside, that’s an interesting turn of phrase, as saying someone is a horrendous liar is to actually say that they lie a lot, not that they’re bad at it. Terrific liar would be more accurate. Or bastard. It’s a bit like saying someone is your worst enemy. Anyway, they are, don’t listen to them. It was like that when I got there, they’re just stirring up trouble.

Dog collars were originally called penguin collars, due to their colours, but God didn’t like the term and told people to stop using it.

Despite the adverts, you should not pick up a penguin but if you insist on doing it the blue ones are best. Which brings us to the fact that penguins are are actually multi-coloured but they colour themselves in using felt-tip pens so they can disguise themselves as rocks. They don’t do this to hide from predators you understand, they do it because they like to hang out on rocky shorelines laughing at people kicking rocks that they think are penguins and stubbing their toes.

The height of a penguin is directly proportional to the width of William Shatner on the day that it hatched.

Penguin is an anagram of gunpine.

If you have six penguins and kill one, you have five penguins and you’re a meanie, but a meanie with a good pie. You will have also made 5 worst enemies for life. They will be absolutely awful enemies because they will disappear off to the South Pole and just chunter about you amongst themselves.

Presents

Who doesn’t love getting presents? Everyone, surely? I know we do. They’re great. It’s a thing for nothing. Who doesn’t like a free thing? Obviously this largely depends on the thing, but people rarely buy someone Typhoid or a rabid pitbull for a present, so even if they get it wrong, it’s still a thing that’s better than not having the thing. Even if you give the thing to someone else as a present for them, you don’t need to get anything else, as you’ve got that one. Things are good when they’re presented things.

So we all love presents. Well, actually, no. People who get you a present normally do so for a reciprocal reason, i.e. Christmas, Birthday, anniversary of the moon landing, that sort of thing. This means that you get a present, BUT you have to give a present as well and that’s where the process becomes a problem. I like my mother. She’s not a bad egg really. Better than Hitler, worse than world peace. She physically carried me for 9 months before spending the next few years also physically carrying me. She hasn’t done it recently, but then I’m considerably bigger than her, so I guess that’s only fair. She loves me and she wants me to be happy at arbitrary present giving events and so puts in a lot of thought. Most of that thought is ringing me and asking me what I want. She’s still never bought me a helicopter. Once this process has been repeated each week for the 13 months leading up to such an event, I am then presented with things that are well meant, but essentially useless – oh and alcohol. I then, in order to reciprocate, give her things that would fall into the same category. We are both now in a position where we have less money, but have more things that we didn’t really want. This process is repeated amongst a variety of friends and family until we all have no money, things we don’t want and Mr Amazon is a bit richer. However, to bring up the idea of not doing presents is met immediately with an accusation of being a ‘tight arse’ or ‘not joining in the spirit’. Both of these things are true and I’m ok with it.

Secret Santa is the worst. Everyone in the office, who barely tolerate each other with a thin veneer of irritating bonhomie, convinces you to join in their tawdry ‘fun’ by making you shop for one more person than you absolutely have to. The people you normally have to buy presents for have been innoculated to your rubbish gift purchasing over a number of years and have learned not to get their hopes up and all have really good ‘that’s just what I wanted’ faces ready for when they open up the parcel of Mr Men underwear or a packet of Morrisons chicken thighs in a hot sauce (other chicken thighs are available) and frankly most of them are related to you, so it’s probably partly their fault in some strange genetic way. Work ‘friends’ have rarely had this important preparation though. So, with budget set, you trawl the websites and gadget shops looking for that ‘hilarious’ present that will make everyone acknowledge that you are both thoughful but also quite the whizz at finding an oddity that will tittilate your colleagues. This isn’t what happens. You buy them something you’d hate to get yourself and think that they should feel lucky to be getting anything at all. This allows your colleagues to finally see the contempt you hold for them and get a little bit of respect for being so good at hiding it. Offices should just let people slash each other at Christmas and have done with it.

I haven’t mentioned wrapping, posting or having to remember taking them with you (at which I’m not very good) but I’m sure it goes without saying, so I won’t.

I do like gifts though.