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Couldn't resist the German sex-ed from the newsletter...
...so here's something to really put the kids off sex...

www.planetdan.net/pics/babies/index.htm in case you missed the original...
(Mon 28th Nov 2005, 23:39, More)

Ants with plans!

(Tue 1st Nov 2005, 10:09, More)

Best answers to questions:

» Pointless Experiments

Mind control
The human mind is a subtle and delicate thing, and putting it in front of 120 psychology students and expecting them not to tear the wings off to see how it flies is an act of stunning naivety. Still, every year people choose to put themselves in the firing line and try to lecture the little bastards. And boy, were we bastards.

The greatest experiment we ever tried was inspired by Pavlov. Reasoning that the dogs didn't have to consciously reason that the bell meant food was coming, I figured that the same should be true of humans. All I needed was a victim, a lecture theatre full of like-minded bastards and a way of keeping score.

The like-minded bastards were easy to find, and I had an opportunity to recruit them fairly early on in the term when a lecturer failed to show. This gave me the opportunity to take to the front and launch the grand experiment.

The question I asked them was simple - just as Pavlov made dogs salivate when they heard a bell, could we make a lecturer sweat when she thought a lecture was going well?

Obviously we couldn't measure a lecturer's sweat directly, unless one of us was prepared to seduce the luckless victim and take regular swabs - and even our flexible moral code drew the line at this. Instead we reasoned that the closer the victim was to the radiator at the side of the lecture theatre, the more they'd be sweating. Simple.

Thus the game began. When the lecturer moved towards the radiator, we leant forward and tried to look interested. When the victim moved away, we sat back and started getting distracted. The first couple of lectures were agony - trying to look as absorbed as possible whilst 120 people all try to stifle giggles because you once stood up and suggested something stupid - is nearly impossible.

After a month, my records show, the lecturer was spending 64% of her time within about 10m of the radiator. Within three months we'd got that to within 90% and we were pushing her more and more often into the 5m zone - a position so ludicrously uncomfortable that she couldn't actually see her own slides. By the end of the year we actually managed to get her to collapse with heat exhaustion after some clever bastard (not me, sadly) thought to bribe the caretaker to put the heating on full blast for two hours in the middle of summer (for "servicing", apparently) - we had conditioned her so well that she was unable to move out of the swiftly christened "death zone".

I guess this doesn't qualify for a pointless experiment as it taught me quite a lot. For example, if you're humping a radiator to get attention, you're best off getting a new job for the sake of your health. It also taught me that subtle mind-control techniques are amazingly effective. Now you will send me all your money.

(No apologies for length, because it was clearly enough to fuck at least one mind. No apologies for not naming lecturer nor university - but we told the new undergrads the secret and I like to think they've passed it on so that she's still there, hugging the radiator. Imagine the damage it'd cause if she realised the reason behind her addiction to Hammerite?)
(Thu 24th Jul 2008, 20:32, More)

» This book changed my life

Lost in a Good Book
Lots of people claim that books have shaped their life, and it's true. They shape the way we think, the way we react, the way we prefer our Martinis. One book, however, has done far more than that for me - and it's because of one thing the author wrote:

His name.

The book was The Eyre Affair, and the author Jasper Fforde. I had already read the sequel - Lost in a Good Book - and had been drawn into an inventive, hypnotic crime thriller set in the dirty backstories of the English canon. Miss Haversham was a girl racer, Poe's Raven a poetry prison, Wales a communist state where it sometimes doesn't rain.

I could tell you the whole story of how I discovered Fforde - the nervous breakdown at university; the summer spent avoiding the world by staying under a duvet with Mallory, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Melville; the moment of serendipity where I suffered a panic attack in WH Smith and grabbed a book at random just so that I could get out and hide from the world again without anyone thinking I was odd. Instead, I won't. All I will tell you is that I ended up with a sequel that made no sense as all the explanation was in the first book, that I read the whole thing in one overnight session, and that I laughed for the first time in months.

Then I bought The Eyre Affair, and my life was changed forever.

When I got home, I wasn't sure if I could cope with the excitement. I hadn't felt anticipation for anything since the breakdown, and I felt giddy with the emotion. Like Charlie with the chocolate bar, the only way to cope was to nibble the very corner and ease myself in gently. I opened the title page and saw a biro mark. Someone had written in MY book, that I had only just bought.

The penny dropped.

It was signed. At least, there was a biro scribble in the book, on the right page and with approximately the same letters as the author's name. But surely authors weren't coming to Evesham (pop. two asparagus fields) to sign books, were they? Terrified that I had been fooled by a biro-wielding ned, I settled down to read.

The book was everything I hoped for. Honestly, if you like literature than read The Eyre Affair - the central gag is that Jane Eyre is kidnapped and the book ceases to exist because it's written in the first person, but there's plenty more lunacy where that came from. The signature nagged at me though, and the only course of action was to turn to the interweb.

Again, I'll skip the story - the hunting for the website, the discovery that the author regularly signs books at random as they're packed for distribution, that my signature was real. All that matters is I started posting on the forums on his website. Stupid things - literary parodies, Eminem's Stan as written by Shakespeare, the Curious Case of Getrude Jekyl and Mr Hyde... The author even borrowed a couple of my jokes and slipped me into another book as an extremely minor character.


What changed my life was a girl who I met on the forums. She was German and liked Shakespeare. She was funny and taught me how to read critically. She could beat me in an argument, could spend all night typing rubbish and could spot the rare moments I was being sensible. I invited her over to England to see the RSC and she never left.

We're now expecting our first child and get married next year. That book changed the whole direction of my life. It started by giving me a good laugh when I was at my lowest ebb, and it's left me - through an enormous slice of luck and fortune - happier than I've ever known.

Not bad for an inch thickness of dead tree.

Actual length depends on soft- or hardback edition...
(Thu 15th May 2008, 22:37, More)

» Blood

Childhood Trauma
Good things about my Mum: Resourcefulness. When an epic nosebleed broke out just before school she found the obvious solution and gave me a tampon to wedge up my nose.

Bad things about my Mum: an inability to consider the effect on a 12 year-old boy when his schoolfriends realise he has a tampon up his nose. Specifically, when his schoolfriends realise that he has a tampon up his nose because she didn't think to cut the bloody string off...
(Thu 7th Aug 2008, 22:42, More)

» School Trips

Went to Poland to climb a mountain...
...with a certifiable bunch of lunatics. Looking after us was a geography teacher who presumed that 17 year-old lads could probably look after themselves. He was - just about - right.

Highlights included the fussiest eater in the world - he survived on a diet of boiled rice and 'mint chocolate'. He knew it was mint as it was in a green wrapper. The huge picture of hazelnuts on the outside naturally failed to ring any bells. His joy at discovering a MacDonald's was matched only by the depths of depression when he realised he didn't know the Polish for "I have a phobia of sauce", meaning he couldn't order anything ("Foreign chips have sauce on them. I read it once.")

Then there was the kid who, for reasons best known to himself, had bought a military-issue torch. Whilst brilliant for spotting enemy aircraft five miles away, the precise benefit of it escaped us until he became paranoid that somebody in the next room in a hostel was staring through a knothole in the wood - his plan was to blind them. Sadly they weren't staring at us, but five minutes of the intense beam shining back through the hole and roaming around like the eye of Mordor led to complaints and an undignified exit at two in the morning.

The bloke with the dear of heights naturally waited until reaching the top of the highest mountain we could find before bothering to mention it.

Then there were the 'charity' aspects. According to the letter we received thanking us, Polish cancer sufferers will receive much better care for our efforts. Seeing as our efforts mostly involved getting drunk with the local lumberjacks, throwing a Japanese woman fully clothed into a swimming pool, naked trampolining and teaching the kids new and inventive swearwords, Polish cancer care at that point was clearly lacking.

Finally, there was me.

Firstly I was got too enthusiastic saying 'goodbye' to my girlfriend at a party in some woodland. Brambles and foreskins are not natural bedfellows, and so I travelled with a healthy supply of anti-septic cream and a recurring nightmare I'd wake up to find my willy had turned green.

Then I decided to dive into a mountain lake. I hadn't noticed the icebergs. The hypothermia nearly killed me.

Finally I celebrated my birthday a little too wildly. After a few vodkas, I seem to have decided to sample the delights of the Polish railway network. My 'friends' happily waved me on my way, convinced I'd get off at the next stop and travel straight back. Unfortunately I got on an express...

The police were very good, once they'd realised that I was trying to explain that I could only order beer in Polish, and that I wasn't confusing them with barmen. They even drove me back to my hotel, 60 miles away, and only fined me £20 - which means I saved money on the combined fares for a taxi and train home.

My teacher's comment? "You better not puke in Auschwitz this morning with that hangover. The head'll kill me if he ever heard about a pupil being ill there."

Apologies for, well, pretty much anything, really...
(Tue 12th Dec 2006, 21:18, More)

» Rock and Roll Stories

Glasto 2000...
... and an extra 100,000 people decide to get in free. About 90% of them decide to go and see Rolf Harris.

The result? You couldn't get within two fields' distance of him.

The answer to this solution came via an angel with a loaf of bread. I snatched it off her, said "Trust me" - and waved the dough-based item aloft. Then saying the holy mantra of "Baguette for Rolf", I set forth. The now breadless maiden realised the cunning plan, and between us we blagged/confused our way forwards until we could hear and see the bearded wobble-boarder himself. WE couldn't get any closer at that point, so we made an offer to the gods of music that had helped our progress - by sending the baguette crowd-surfing to the front.

Sadly, I think security nabbed it before Rolf could eat it, damn them...
(Mon 3rd Jul 2006, 19:47, More)
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