Monthly Archives: August 2006

Mnemonics, poor Pluto

August 28, 2006

Personally I was extremely annoyed that Pluto was recently demoted to the status of a dwarf planet. It’s really not fair to poor old Pluto, a planet that has steadfastly guarded the currently accepted outer reaches of our solar system since its discovery in 1930. It may yet be reclassified again as a new type of trans-Neptunian object, or TNO. I read all sorts of reasoning behind the demotion of Pluto, but as far as I’m concerned it’s been a planet since its discovery, it has its own moon (Charon) and should therefore stay a planet. Mind you, I’m no astronomer. Just a guy with opinions.

But of course, the more pressing issue now is that all the mnemonics that people have used to remember the planets in the solar system are wrong. We no longer need to remember Pluto as a planet, therefore the mnemonic doesn’t require the P at the end. The most common mnemonic, as far as I can tell, is “My very elegant mother just served us nine pizzas”. There’s also the less politically correct (perhaps Lewinsky inspired) “My very easy mother just sucked up nine politicians”. There are variations on the theme, obviously.

So, a mnemonic for the solar system without a P at the end? The obvious one would be the original without pizzas on the end, with the N for Neptune signified by something else. For example, “My very elegant mother just served us noodles” or “My very elegant mother just served us needles” if you prefer your mnemonic mothers to have a macabre and sadistic streak.

On doing a little research on the subject, however, I discovered that all the work had already been done. Those fine folks over at already held a competition for a new mnemonic and got some cracking results. Read all about it here and choose your own favourite for future use. I get the feeling that the Michael Jackson one might stick.

And for those of you that read mnemonic and think only of really bad Keanu Reeves movies, this link is for you.

And as there might be some people out there that wonder what all the fuss is about, you don’t need me to tell you how important using the right words can be. Check this out, for example. Astronomers have opened a can of worms with this one.

Sidebar below

August 28, 2006

It has come to my attention that some of you out there are still using Internet Explorer for your browsing. I have no idea why, but that’s not really an issue for me. What is an issue, however, is that when you view The Word in IE you don’t get the sidebar of links and info on the righthand side – it appears right at the bottom of the page below all the current posts.

I’ve been unable to correct this, so if anyone has any tips to fix it, please let me know. As far as I’m concerned the best fix would be to start using Mozilla Firefox, but that’s just my opinion.

EDIT 29/8/06: My heartfelt thanks to James Frost, who stepped up and fixed my blog template so that it looks just as good in IE as it does in Firefox. Don’t think that this is any reason for people to continue using IE, however; my feelings on that piece of software are already quite clear, I’m sure.

Incidentally, James keeps his own blog detailing his move with his family from Scotland to New Zealand. It makes some interesting reading. You can check it out here and James has earned himself a place in my links section for his sterling work on my blog template.

The Word via email

August 24, 2006

I’ve recently discovered a great service offered by Feedburner. They now supply an option for people to subscribe to a blog via email rather than just the traditional RSS feeds. You can read all about it at the Feedburner site and their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are on their homepage. I’ve added the option here on The Word (in the sidebar on the right), so if you’d rather not have to check regularly, but would simply like to receive an email whenever The Word is updated, put your address in the box and click the button.

Osama’s lust

August 24, 2006

You sometimes can’t help laughing at things that are really quite serious. For example, the thought of Osama Bin Laden arranging the murder of a man in order to have that man’s wife as his own. You think I’m making this up? Not at all.

According to the autobiography of Kola Boof, a Sudanese poet and novelist, old Osama was courting just such an idea. And not just any husband and wife. He was planning to take out Bobby Brown in order to have Whitney Houston. Has truth ever been stranger than fiction?

The perfect couple?

In actions that keep Osama’s integrity as a hardline and devout Muslim completely untainted, he apparently kept Kola Boof against her will as his mistress and would tell her repeatedly about his lust for Whitney. Kola writes, “He said that he had a paramount desire for Whitney Houston and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke of some day spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting with the superstar.

“He said he wanted to give Whitney Houston a mansion that he owned in a suburb of Khartoum.

“He explained to me that to possess Whitney, he would be willing to break his colour rule and make her one of his wives.”

Well, isn’t it good to know that even someone as strict and disciplined as Osama Bin Laden is prepared to break their colour rule for the right girl. Boof also talks in her book about how Bin Laden would “ramble on” about his favourite TV shows, which included The Wonder Years, Miami Vice and MacGuyver, and how, “In his briefcase, I would come across photographs of the star [Whitney Houston], as well as copies of Playboy … It would soon come to the point where I was sick of hearing Whitney Houston’s name.”

Boof reports that Osama would constantly espouse, “How beautiful she was, what a nice smile she has, how truly Islamic she is but is just brainwashed by American culture and by her husband Bobby Brown, whom Osama talked about having killed, as if it were normal to have women’s husbands killed.”

You have to wonder if Osama still lusts after her which such fervour now.

Perhaps he’ll try to suppress Kola Boof’s book. The Word asks the question: Is Kola Boof the new Salman Rushdie?

Improved SF and Fantasy forums

August 22, 2006

For those of you that enjoy chatting in cyberspace about things that excite you, there’s recently been a merger of a couple of Speculative Fiction forums. The result is one of the largest discussion forums on the web, with over 12,000 members. Of course, as with most forums, I expect that only about 4 people post regularly. Anyway, interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. Check it out at:

Oxymoronic yoghurt

August 21, 2006

Some of the worst word abusers around today are those stone-hearted automatons that run the evil empire of marketing. These people make creating need the cornerstone of their endeavours with no greater purpose than turning a profit, regardless of the impact on people, the environment or anything else. Maybe I’m being a little bit harsh, but I bet some part of you agreed with everything I just said.

But back to the word abuse. These marketing folk turn and twist words to suit their agenda to such a degree that half the time they end up talking gibberish. And it seems that people don’t even notice. Personally I’m surprised that the marketing people, that are effectively English language majors and make a living editing copy, don’t spot such things . Of course, the alternative is that they do spot these things, but don’t care. They just want your money.

Here’s today’s prime example:

Seems like an ordinary pack of six yoghurts? If you can’t see the nonsense, take a closer look and see if you can spot anything completely nonsensical:

Yep, you got it (please, tell me you got it) – Yoplait Original New Thick & Creamy. How on Earth can it be both original and new? The terms, by their very definition, are mutually exclusive. These people in the Yoplait marketing team must have sat down and thought, ‘Let’s call it New and attract some more customers!’

Then some slimy creature at the board table hissed and squirmed and said, ‘But if it’s new, we might lose those current customers already giving us their hard earned dollars!’

Then a third dark-hearted creature, the slimiest of them all, said, ‘So call it “Yoplait Original” to keep the existing customers, then put “New” somewhere on the label to attract new consumers to our brand!’

The first slimy marketer looked suspicious. ‘Surely people will notice that and think us fools?’

To which the slimiest replied with rolls of greasy laughter. ‘Ha! As if the stupid public would notice! Now leave me alone, I’m counting all my money!’

But we did notice, right everyone? And we’re not going to stand for it. We’re going to rise up against such blatant manipulation and word abuse. Make your voice heard.

And in case you need any more convincing that advertising uses complete nonsense to make you think their product is worth your hard-earned, have a look at this guy:

He got a good deal and saved money. That’s like jumping into a swimming pool and getting wet, isn’t it?

MySpace for BlogFolk

August 15, 2006

I’ve recently come across this site, which is good news for bloggers everywhere.

It’s a little bit like a MySpace community, but dedicated to bloggers. On the site you can create a profile for yourself and list your blog. Others can then find you or your blog through searches and you can join communities of like-minded blogfolk. And yes, I’ve just invented the word blogfolk.

It’s only a beta version at the moment, but I get the feeling it could well catch on. Check it out and see what you think. Have a look at my page if you’re interested and hook me up in your contacts.

"If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable."

August 14, 2006

I’ve just learned that the anarchist/communalist writer and philosopher Murray Bookchin died recently. He suffered heart failure at his home in Vermont, USA on 30th July 2006, aged 85. Bookchin is the author of two dozen books and a thinker way ahead of his time. He drew attention to and hypothesised on ecological and capitalist issues well before other people had even considered that there were such things as ecological and capitalist issues.

Along with the quote in the title of this post, Murray Bookchin is credited with a number of extremely thought-provoking ideas. As with any great writer, whether you agree or vehemently disagree with what he had to say, he wasn’t afraid of saying it and he said it very well. Provoking an important debate has always been, and always will be, one of the most valuable aspects of the written word.

Other Bookchin musings include:

“Capitalism is a social cancer. It has always been a social cancer. It is the disease of society. It is the malignancy of society.”

“Nor do piecemeal steps however well intended, even partially resolve problems that have reached a universal, global and catastrophic Character. If anything, partial `solutions’ serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis. They thereby deflect public attention and theoretical insight from an adequate understanding of the depth and scope of the necessary changes.”

“In our own time we have seen domination spread over the social landscape to a point where it is beyond all human control. Compared to this stupendous mobilization of materials, of wealth, of human intellect, of human labor for the single goal of domination, all other recent human achievements pale to almost trivial significance. Our art, science, medicine, literature, music and “charitable” acts seem like mere droppings from a table on which gory feasts on the spoils of conquest have engaged the attention of a system whose appetite for rule is utterly unrestrained.”

And one of my personal favourites:

“The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking.”

You can learn more about him at this Wikipedia page and you can read some of his writings from this archive. Do your own search too if I’ve peaked your interest.

Rest in peace, Murray Bookchin, a wordsmith and thinker of the highest calibre.

Church Signs #2 (and other poor word choices)

August 12, 2006

Remember the little discussions we’ve had recently concerning church signs? The original post was back in June and here’s the follow up, in case you missed them.

Well, Central Baptist Church in Sydney is at it again. This is their latest sign:

So, do you feel ugly today? Seriously, who gets up one day and thinks to themselves, “Man, do I feel ugly!” Obviously the church is referring to god, as Jesus, dying on the cross for our sins. The small print at the bottom of the sign reads:

“God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, from Romans.

But what’s with the vanity angle they’re trying to spin? Beautiful people are fine, and getting on with their beautiful lives, but ugly folk take heart – you at least have god to turn to. I can’t help but speculate that, if these people believe in god, surely they must also believe that god made them. Ergo, he must have made them ugly. But it’s OK to be ugly, as god thinks they’re to die for. And they’re supposed to be fine with that. But they’ll still be ugly. And ugly by who’s reckoning beyond their own?

Obviously, I simply don’t get it. I really don’t know what this particular church is driving at. Other than perhaps trying to attract more ugly people into their congregation.


On the subject of poor word choices, I know that naming things can be quite difficult. Choosing just the right brand or hook to really sum up what you want people to think when they see your company name is very tricky. And certainly, this is doubly hard if English is your second language. But you’d think people would do a little market research before committing their name choice to the Business registrar and having a nice glowing sign made up. So, assuming that is the case, you have to wonder what on earth these people were thinking when they named this shop on the edge of Sydney’s Chinatown.

The 2.13 million dollar comma

August 9, 2006

This is for anyone that thinks punctuation is optional. Yeah, I’m talking to you, kids of today.

I originally read about this on Neil Gaiman’s blog. A Canadian company stands to pay an extra $2.13 million due to one little comma appearing in a contract where no comma should have been. Now, this is obviously an unlikely thing to happen to anyone that’s just lazy when they send a text message, but it proves that grammar and punctuation are important things, not just the sick obsessions of us weird writer types.

The full story is reported on the website, so check it out here.


The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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