F4 U1 N1

Last night’s game of Scrabble, on hold.

She’s winning as usual. Came out of the gate with a seven letter word. We’ll have to play piecemeal through the week or not at all till next weekend.

She usually reads the board upside-down. Doubtless she could take on a dozen challengers at a time, blindfolded.

Here are my letters. Too bad I’m not allowed to phone a friend.

Me in more carefree times

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Pocket Museum


I’ve got a 2,000 year old Roman coin in my pocket.* It’s genuine, if the dealer was legit. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be; an abundant supply is available to those interested in history but lacking a trove of disposable income. I would’ve gone for the Yappese Rai but there was no way I’d get that home in a cab outside The Flintstones.


Yap Island ATM

I bought it almost as an afterthought when sourcing a gift for my father, who long ago was bitten by the numismatic bug. I’m not a collector, though will admit to a fondness for £2 coins, especially shiny ones.


My wife gives them to me. She’s so nice.

It’s cool being able to walk around with something in my pocket that a resident of these windy isles could have carried in his before the Dark Ages. (Did they have pockets back then? Do I need to look that up? Can I trust Wikipedia? Oh let’s, especially as they aren’t motivated by filthy lucre.) What might he have spent it on? A haircut? Small amphora of joy juice? Tip for the attendant at the baths, accompanied by a wink? I can only imagine. Which is kind of the point.


“Let’s play the fall of the Roman empire again”

Recently the Bank of England introduced a new fiver. Can’t say I’m a fan. It looks sharp, but it doesn’t like to be folded—a nonstarter for those of us who don’t bother with wallets. It’s also disconcertingly slippery. They say it’s good for the environment, so there’s that.


Bank of England governor showing off new note just before it slipped out of his hand

Peep Show aficionados may remember the rather icky episode when Jeremy is making a deposit at a sperm bank but has nothing in the way of visual stimulation. Desperate, he tries it on with Queen Elizabeth on the front of a £20 bill. When it flutters to the floor in the heat of passion, Sir Edward Elgar on the flip side spoils it for him. There was even a Facebook page devoted to this particular gag.


No caption necessary

The banknote featuring the quintessentially English composer on the back is no longer legal tender, though Liz’s ballroom eyes and a stirring rendition of Pomp and Circumstance might still be a potent aphrodisiac for some.


Now appearing on Netflix

They say power is the ultimate turn-on. I don’t know about that, but in order to be worth anything, money needs power behind it. Traditionally the face of that power has been stamped right on top.


The emperor always won the toss

That now pleasantly worthless old Roman coin of mine was later joined by a gift from my father: my inheritance, as he put it. One hundred trillion dollars, backed by the full faith and credit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. While admiring the Chiremba Balancing Rocks, one is given to pondering the value of money and the state of the economy in general. It’s a whole lot of zeros.


It’s all worth about the same at this point

Cash money is rumoured to be on its way out anyway. The banks would certainly prefer it all be relegated to a museum. I rather hope it stays in circulation. I may not carry much of it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

* for the purposes of this post. I seem to have misplaced it. I hope the parking garage didn’t get it.

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Big Gulp

The world awaits my seminal paper, In Defense of Mouthbreathers.

I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of air. It might have something to do with all my cycling, which instills the need to suck in oxygen at prodigious rates. Or it could be a vague feeling that my nose is filtering out the good stuff. Whatever the reason, I am not ashamed to admit to giving my lungs the biggest hole in my arsenal to inflate themselves.

My concern is that breathing using your mouth is too often tainted with negative connotations. As The Urban Dictionary puts it, a mouthbreather is

1. Literally, someone who lacks enough intelligence that they never learned to breathe through their nose.
2. A really dumb person.

When humans first acquired the power of speech, doubtless they quickly moved on to insults. “Why can’t you just yawn and be done with it?” said Lucy to the “handy” habilis painting her cave, ignoring the 1.2 million year gap.

RDH Magazine has this to say: “Mouth breathing affects the pH of the entire body… A low pH oral environment is not only corrosive to the teeth directly, but the acidic pH activates the acidophilic and acidogenic bacteria to set up housekeeping. Building a healthy biofilm in the presence of acidic saliva is nearly impossible. Acid begets acid.” Oh dear. Parenthetically, RDH, you don’t make it easy find out what those letters stand for. Rooting for Dental Hygiene?

“We know that breaking a habit is nearly impossible and starting a new habit is just as hard. And like it or not, one habit will be replaced by another, so finding an alternate habit is a good strategy.” Just when I was about to take up the harmonica.


How they used to “cure” mouthbreathers in unenlightened times

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What’s in a name

I changed my name about a dozen years ago. I didn’t change it to anything as spiffy as, say, Mark Twain, or offbeat as Kate Winslet’s husband Mr Rocknroll, but it met the main criteria of being different from that which I’d spent 20 years vaguely dissatisfied with. (If the math doesn’t add up to my age, that’s because I wasn’t always bothered.) I did it because I could, and it was easy. Except for the explaining part.

How do you tell your father you’re discarding the family name, apparently dissing him and the line of fathers which begat ungrateful you? If you’re a girl getting hitched, it’s not an issue even in these days of fewer nées; patriarchy has its silver lining. Boys are expected to display the marque. That’s one reason for the extra enthusiasm with which cigars are handed out, at least in the movies.


“Eeny, meeny, miny, Moe. OK, you’re Moe. Don’t cry, your brother got stuck with Sue.”

I didn’t tell him at first, even going so far as to carefully remove all luggage tags when my parents would meet me at the airport for my annual visit to the homestead. But eventually it seemed prudent to gingerly let the cat out of the bag and hope for the realistic best, i.e., a shrug and a sad smile of acceptance. I honestly still don’t know how he took it; I don’t remember if his body language was mute with shock or I averted my eyes at the crucial moment. Other than a steady stream of perhaps-not-always offhand remarks which suggests it remains a sore spot, we’ve never discussed it in any depth. It helps to have cultivated a reputation for being [pick an adjective] odd/‘creative’/difficult.

It’s hard to gauge the importance of the name that’s been stuck on the birth certificate. On one hand it’s—sorry, papas everywhere—meaningless. On the other, it’s your bloody name, innit. Tends to crop up on a daily basis. Gets called over the loudspeaker, machine-printed in junk mail, chiselled onto your gravestone. In my case, constantly misspelled or at least mispronounced.

If I’d been born Native American and followed traditional conventions, my parents would’ve called me boy-who-cries-a-lot, thanks to colic. In my teens this might’ve then become hogs-mirror-with-comb, perhaps finally culminating in adulthood with naps-on-couch.


Not exactly a role model, but we all have our redeeming qualities

As it was, I went from something howmanyofme.com informs me only 28 other Americans shared, to a meeting hall of closer to 300.

The transition wasn’t too great of a lurch in the small family unit of me and my wife. She’d known me as my now official first name since the 80s, the initials my parents had bestowed having formed a perfectly serviceable moniker that happened to appeal.

I retained my middle name as a kind of keepsake. My new surname came more or less out of a hat, like my father’s, at least from the point of view of a zygote swimming in a universe of possibilities. (I know, a zygote doesn’t do much paddling. It’s more a wallflower waiting to blossom.)

My wife didn’t follow suit. There’s no reason she should have. She chose it; I didn’t. Who could have guessed she’d be landing on what was to be my maiden name.

Not long ago I started visiting my hometown on a regular basis via the local newspaper, which has been giving me space to write about life as an expat. Call it boy-who-crossed-pond. As a byline I chose my old name. It made sense; my parents and their friends would be reading. I wanted them to be able to say “Yeah, he’s ours” should they be pleased with the result, without resorting to tedious explanations. (On the flip side, should they feel the need to cringe, well, tough luck. Heh.) Though pen names are common enough, it’s an unnecessary obstacle in a conversation.

I’ve also reverted to my given name on Facebook. Not only is it easier for relatives who haven’t been kept apprised of my idiosyncrasies to process, it’s pleasing to feed data-hungry Zuckerbeasts white lies.

Ironically, as I have a bit of a lisp, my self-chosen name appears to be difficult to convey to anyone needing to take it down. “Fam?” I’m frequently asked over the phone. <Sigh>


Original art spotted in a gallery. Afford it I couldn’t.

PS. Walker, Sam Walker. 007½, licence to drive on the left.

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Merry Grimace

Camilla and Charles in their 2013 Christmas card, looking pretty much as you’d expect them to if you stumbled upon them: Want to trade hats? Not now Charles, maybe when we get home.

2014: Cheers

2015: Have a cozy Christmas

2016: Duty callsThe Croatian on the right is, as I’m confident they say in that part of the world, hungry like the wolf.

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Faceplant

What blogs? you ask, if you don’t mind my conjuring you up and dropping you seemingly in mid-paragraph. Present company excluded, those would be Another Cycling Forum, since retired except for the slowly expanding l’image vidage collection, and Not Another Cycling Forum. Clearly I like forums, even when they’re not. I’m intimately familiar with the software, and prefer how threads work to posts on a more typical blogging platform.

This is a confession: I finally fell into Facebook. Not wholly; I’m not even using my real name. More accurate to say I’m using the old one. It’s one way of kidding myself I haven’t capitulated.

It’s not so bad. I mean, it’s the devil’s handiwork, but otherwise not as terrible as I’ve long been telling myself.

Not that I’m really getting anywhere with it. Few of my Friend requests have been RSVP’d.


credit where it’s due

I still don’t do Likes. Viral vids give me the hives, too many emoticons a case of eyeroll. Most sorrowfully of all, not everyone finds reimagining pivotal scenes in Shawshank Redemption conducive to carrying on a conversation. (To keep that little photoshopping project from having been a complete waste of energy, I cc’d it to Twitter, to be absorbed into the public commons in the fullness of time.) So far it’s been most useful as an outlet to vent my insomnia.

Where to next? Having placed myself in exile from all the forums in which I’ve ever taken up residence, I may have finally reached a social media dead end: the dreaded Zero Club, where everybody knows my name. Even Medium.com, with its almost perfect interface, offers no solace: who needs sad stats floating on the screen in silent rebuke?

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