Saturday, 26 February 2011

The future of tele-conferencing

Another cartoon that's been floating around in the old noggin for a while. 

I originally wanted there to be a hand coming out of the screen and delivering a stinging slap.  Wasn't happy with drawing that though, so came up with the above instead.  Not enough pain on the guy's face methinks, and not enough of a feeling of r-e-e-a-a-l-l-y-y-y squeezing coming from the hands.

Who has not wanted to do this to a colleague?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Weekly Wordzzle 142-3

Once again, I've had to combine two Wordzzle challenges because of time pressure last week,  Moan over.

Go to Raven's Nest for rules, guidance, other players, next week's words and whatnot.

Mini the First (closet, camera, cheese, flagrant, music)

Ma’am, what can I tell you? You paid me a load o’ dough to crouch for hours with my camera in that cramped closet o’ yours. Yeah, I know you was sure he was cheatin’ on you while you was at work. Yeah, a flagrant violation of you marriage vows, I get it! But let me tell you what happened. He comes in, OK? He closes the curtains and puts on some soppy music and lights a few o’ them smelly candles. The doorbell goes and he lets in some dame. She wasn’t all that, lemme tell ya! Kinda porky actually. And no spring chicken, neither, if you get my drift. Anyway, they both come in and sit of the sofa. She gets out a package and they unwrap it together. Yeah, that’s picture no 3. They both coo over what’s inside like it was diamonds or something. Then they start eating – that’s picture No 4. Turns out, all they do is scoff weird kinds of cheese together. When they finish, they yab on about how nice it is and all that and then she goes. No hanky-panky, nothin’. Ma’am, he ain’t cheatin’ , he’s eatin’. Ma’am? Ma’am? Hello? Ah well, at least she paid in advance.

Mini the Second (chapter six, clams, spark plug, hustle and bustle, fragments)

Gary set the book down with a sigh and allowed the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre cafe to wash over him. He had forced himself to get to chapter six in what was possibly the worst novel he had ever had the misfortune to read. The plot – what there was of it that he had managed to glean from the fractured and disjointed fragments of narrative presented thus far – seemed to involve the illicit smuggling of a barrel of clams of all things. Gary was fairly sure that there was no such crime as clam-smuggling so this plot device did not strike him as especially engaging. The characters were as lifeless as the dummies in the clothes shop opposite and then there had been some nonsense about a broken spark-plug in the smugglers' van. It was just terrible. Suddenly, a shadow fell across the table and Gary looked up to see the lovely Jess smiling down at him, a pair of posh coffees in her hands. "Ooh, been reading, I see!" she said. She sat down and placed the coffees on the table. Then suddenly, she let him have it between the eyes with both barrels, "So," she said sweetly, "what do you think of my little effort so far?"

20-worder (sweetness, soap opera, leather jacket, matches, corn, pregnant, operation, moustache, crib, earrings, Pluto, space ship, make-up, peerless, wishing well, baby shower, cabbage, angels, ample bodied, plunge)

New to Harold? Catch up here

The sweetness of the sugar cookies was but a distant memory. The minutes ticked by as Harold loitered in the corridor awaiting Teatime's return. The little monkey seemed to be taking an awfully long time and Harold was feeling more and more conspicuous. Should anyone happen along, the sight of a strange, unkempt fellow clad in too-short jeans and scruffy leather jacket would be sure to raise an eyebrow or two. It wasn't a bit like on TV, where, whenever there was any kind of covert operation going on, they never showed this side of things - the waiting about while someone else did all the exciting bits. Earlier that day, they had discussed the idea of Harold himself going into Moon's apartment to plant the trackers, but it was agreed that Teatime, who was small and nimble would be less likely to disturb a sleeping Moon.

Inside the apartment, which was dark now that Harold had let the front door close, Teatime was doing his very best to be silent and to disturb nothing. He waited for a few minutes in the main room to allow his eyes to adjust fully to the darkness and to get his bearings. He had a torch (a tiny booklight, actually), but was loathe to use it unless absolutely necessary. Around him, the furniture gradually began to take dim shape out of the darkness. Human things looked so big and clumsy-looking! Somewhere in the room, a clock ticked away, neatly snipping off each pregnant second. From the bedroom, Teatime could just hear Moon's deep regular breathing. Good, he was properly asleep.

Once satisfied that his night vision was as good as it was ever going to be, he began the search for Moon's briefcase. The OGS agents were sure that he took this with him just about everywhere, so it was a logical place to hide a tracker. In one corner of the room, there was a small computer desk. Thinking it a likely place for Moon to have left the case, Teatime headed over to it, but there was nothing to be found except an old book of matches that had at some point been dropped on the carpet under the desk. Tut, tut, messy boy, thought Teatime. He scanned the room again, this time from the higher vantage point of the desk itself. Aha! There by the coffee table! That had to be it, surely. Teatime jumped noiselessly down to the floor and padded over the expanse of carpet to the dark oblong shape. Carefully, he laid it on its side and examined the catches. His hands being as tiny as they were, Teatime needed to use both on one catch. He pressed with all his strength on the little button that would release the left-hand clasp. The button pressed in alright, but the clasp stayed firmly engaged. Locked! Of all the bad luck! Now he'd have to go searching for the key.

As quickly and quietly as he could, Teatime went around the room looking on every flat surface – climbing up onto every shelf, peering under every piece of furniture. Humans were notoriously careless about these things, so the blasted keys could be anywhere. He'd overheard dozens of conversations involving people having lost keys and things simply because they could never be bothered to designate a particular place to put the perishing things. Honestly, for a dominant species... Teatime could feel the frustration building up inside himself. He had covered the room now and all he had discovered was a biro, a model space ship, a tasteless pair of earrings in the shape of tiny corn-on-the-cobs (a present for some unfortunate female, no doubt) and a crib-sheet listing the keyboard commands for a computer game which rejoiced in the peerless title of Moustache-Monty and the Cabbage-Lords of Pluto.

Where else could the keys be? Teatime heartily hoped that Moon had not taken them into the bedroom with him - that would put the tin lid on it for sure. Maybe in a kitchen drawer....

A streetlamp outside the kitchen window provided a more convenient level of illumination. Teatime hopped up onto a counter and looked around. On the drainer was a mug with a wishing well on it, a plate and some cutlery. In one corner, a biscuit barrel in the shape of an ample bodied piggie grinned back at him from next to a jar of instant coffee and an open packet of sugar. The front of the refrigerator had been turned into an ad hoc notice board with things attached to it by little magnets in the shape of cute chubby angels (Teatime quelled the urge to vomit). His eye fell on a note containing a reminder to tell Annie to "buy some make-up for the baby shower". Whose baby shower it was, or who Annie was, Teatime could not begin to guess, but these little snippets of another's life were quite fascinating in a way. Still, there was no time for such distraction now.

Carefully, he tried one of the top drawers. It was not easy to get the thing open from his position on the countertop, but he couldn't reach it from floor-level. He managed to slide the drawer open about an inch. Feeling that any speed added to his search by having a light far outweighed any risk of discovery, Teatime switched on his little booklight and peered in. Cutlery and no keys. The next drawer had cooking utensils and no keys. The last one had tea towels – and no keys. It looked like he would have to take the plunge and search the bedroom after all. How annoying!

Teatime slid the last drawer closed and then froze. A light had come on in the apartment somewhere, he could see it lighting up the living room through the kitchen doorway. There came the sound of a great yawn, followed by the creak of the bed as Moon got out of it. Then the soft sound of bare feet padding across the living room carpet presaged Moon's imminent appearance. Suppressing the indescribable urge to let out a monkey-screech of fright, Teatime looked for a hiding place.

There was but one, of course. Typical, he thought as he scrambled in. It was like the worst soap opera plot: the bad guy just has to get the midnight munchies at the worst possible moment and the only place to hide is... the rubbish bin!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Them's the Rules

They're everywhere! Everywhere I tells ya!


Jobsworths, that's who!

Now I'm happy enough with rules in general, they do keep things rubbing along well enough, but when people just accept them at face value without attempting to understand the purpose of said rule...then I start to go a bit shouty-crackers.

Let me illustrate.

The other day, a friend and  I were in Marks and Sparks.  We each purchased a few items and proceeded to the express tills, it being lunch-break and all.

As it turned out, a till became free for my friend first and off he went.  As he was getting his items scanned, he suggested I add my items to his and have all of them processed in one transaction.  So I stepped up to the counter and added my few bits and the cashier started to scan them.  He then turned to my friend and I and said quite sternly "I should point out that this till is for five items or less, but I'll let it go this time."

Now, fair enough, he had us bang to rights, but....

Let's do some maths.

I had four items and my friend had four.  Four plus four equals eight.  There were two of us.  Eight divided by two equals four. So it would seem that we each had less than the stipulated five items.

My friend paid by credit card, a transaction which took about half a minute.  Had I been paying for my own purchases separately, I too would have paid by card, adding another half minute to the proceedings.

Also, if credit card companies charge per transaction, by combining our purchases, we had just saved the shop the cost of a transaction.

Now, I know perfectly well why they have an item limit on the express checkouts: to stop people rocking up with great big trolley loads of stuff and gumming up the well-oiled machinery of commerce.

But, by my calculations, we had actually made things more efficient and cheaper for the shop.

Too much analysis?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Weekly Wordzzle 141

Well, I'm looking down the loaded barrel of Monday Morning, but there's still a little time left to enjoy some Wordzzle fun.

Go to Raven's Nest to see other players' offering and next week's challenge-words.


The Mini (caustic, cloudy skies, ballet, cell phone, covert)

My covert coach-bound observations reveal:

A Caustic voice dripping loud sarcasm into a tiny cell phone.
Cloudy skies whirling a mad fandango past the dirty window,
Trees holding their ballet positions, arms upstretched, fingertips barely touching.
Night falling, painting out the scene with a black velvet brush.
Dreams fading, as dreams will

The 10-worder (sugar cookies, muscles, drama, chimes, heating vent, paprika, runes, envelope, candle holder, stubborn)

New to Harold? Catch up here

"Hold on, not so fast." said Harold, "We can't just go running in there. Agent Moon won't be asleep yet, we have to give him chance to eat his supper and go to bed - or whatever he does at the end of the day. Agent Othello said he would call us."

"True enough, old Sock," said Teatime, "Got a bit carried away by the drama of the thing. So now we wait, I suppose."

Harold sat down on the floor and leaned back against a wall. He fished in the sports bag and brought out a paperback he had picked up earlier that evening - The Curious Case of the Candle-Holder and the Wind Chimes. It was a cheap and tacky murder mystery, but it would pass the time. Teatime tutted and fetched out a book of his own - an altogether more worthy tome on the history of the Inuit. About an hour went by when Teatime closed his book with a snap and said,

"Right, why don't you break out some of those sugar cookies you bought? I'm quite keen to get on the outside of some of them."

Harold shrugged and brought out the cookies. Soon he and Teatime set to and it wasn't much longer before there was nothing left but a few crumbs and the wrapper. Harold idly turned it over in his hands. It was a gaudy paprika-coloured thing, with a sickly-sweet close-up picture of a child's smiling mouth wide open to devour one of the cookies. The name of the product was written in such bizarrely stylised lettering that it might as well have written in ancient runes. Harold crumpled it up and tucked it back into the sports bag.

"No sense leaving behind evidence of our being here." He said, "Or of making a mess."

Teatime rolled his eyes, "A litter-conscious demon!" he sighed, "You're still not getting the hang of this whole evil malarkey are you?"

"I can't see the point of it." replied Harold, "The humans seem quite good at it all on their own without us lending a hand."

"That's not the point, though, is it?" said Teatime, his voice assuming that familiar didactic tone that Harold wasn't particularly keen on, "Your side lost. The losers don't get to dictate the terms of their surrender, the winners do. So you get to do the dirty work of providing mankind with a means to exercise his free will. End of story."

"Doesn't mean I have to like it," grumbled Harold.

"Well you should have thought of that before you threw in your lot with your so-called father."

"I know," Harold sighed, "But there's no going back now. The Penthouse does not forget - or forgive. Not the likes of us, anyway."

"So what have you got to lose? If there's no hope of a way back...?" The little monkey let the question hang in the air.

"You sound like my father," said Harold, "He keeps saying that and then calls me stubborn when I refuse to agree. Anyway, this is more fun than running around tempting silly humans, don't you think?"

"It has a certain appeal," admitted Teatime, "Although I wish we didn't have to spend all our time with those stick-in-the-mud agents."

"Well we're stuck with them unless we want to spend our time dodging Baruthiel and that big sword of his."

Demon and monkey lapsed into a rather tense silence after this. After about another twenty minutes, Harold's phone buzzed.

"Moon's apartment is in darkness from what I can see," came Othello's voice. "Suggest you make your move."

"Will do," said Harold and ended the call. "Right then," he said brightly, "Let's go." He replaced the black wig and the spectacles, but left his face as it was - he would change it only if they were discovered. He handed Teatime a small drawstring bag, which the latter slung over his shoulder.

They made their way quietly down the stairs to floor six. Harold pushed the door open quietly a crack and looked up and down the corridor.

"Coast's clear," he said quietly, "Come on".

They walked quietly along the corridor to Agent Moon's door. As the corridor was lit, albeit quite dimly, it was not easy to see if Moon's lights really were off or not. They would just have to trust Othello's judgement.

Harold placed his hands against the wood of the door and felt with his senses for the lock on the other side. Moon was obviously security-conscious: the door was secured with both a five-lever mortise plus a chain. For several seconds, nothing happened.

"Hurry up, old button," urged Teatime, "If someone should happen along..."

"I'm doing my best," Harold whispered back, "Why couldn't there have been a handy heating vent leading into Moon's place that you could have crawled into, then I wouldn't have to stand here like a lemon."

"That kind of ridiculously contrived convenience only happens in films and those cheap novels you enjoy so much, now do get on with it, there's a good fellow,"

Harold returned his attention to the door and concentrated harder. Minutes ticked by. If Harold had been human his muscles would have been seriously cramped and sore from crouching over the lock. As it was, his mind was beginning to get fuzzy when, at last, there came a soft click. Harold eased the door open a little, as far as the chain would allow. He gestured for Teatime to go through the gap.

"Are you mad?" whispered the little monkey, "You couldn't get an envelope through there. We need to undo the chain, for pity's sake!"

Allowing the door to re-close a little and propping it open just a crack with his foot, Harold picked up Teatime and held him while he got his tiny arm through the gap and disengaged the chain - which had just enough slack to allow this.

"Ok, in you go and good luck" whispered Harold as the tiny simian disappeared into the darkness.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Some Assembly Required

OK, I know I said I wasn't going to turn this into cartoons and not much else, but they're a-coming thick and fast at the moment....

I had the idea for this one a while ago and sketched and inked it the other day.  After scanning, I loaded it into Windows Paint and tidied it up.  The square stick in the caveman's hand was made longer and the instructions stone on the ground was almost entirely re-worked because, quite frankly, it was pants.  I think the guy's head is too big (amongst other things wrong).  It was fun to do, though. 

Any real artists out there, please feel free to weigh in with critiques and constructive advice.