Pictures from Minnesota

I’m very much looking forward to being back in my adopted second home of Minnesota next week.

I haven’t experienced a Minnesota winter since January 2012, when the snow reached my knees, the temperature was colder than I could have ever thought possible, and everybody I met told me what a mild winter they were having.

Since then, my every visit to the Land of 10,000 Lakes has seen the sun shining and temperatures rising, making the ideal opportunity to grab my camera and go for a walk.

I must have taken countless pictures over the last few years, but here’s a few of my favourites.

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Music Monday: Public Image Limited – Music to edit by

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy editing a large writing project I started back in late 2012. I normally find that the best way to completely lose myself in a task like this is to block out the rest of the outside world with music.

In most cases, I’ve done that thanks to some kind of trance music or, at the other extreme, power metal. 

Lately, I’ve found that if there’s one thing that really helps me zone out from reality and lose myself in my writing, it’s this live performance by John Lydon’s Public Image Limited at Glastonbury 2013.

For your listening pleasure then, this is PiL.

Creative writing: The only thing worse than a stubbed toe

Most people may have told you that the worst feeling in the world was heartache; or possibly grief, or sorrow, or a stubbed toe. Not me. I would have told you that the absolute worst feeling was waking up in a morning and feeling tired.

Stubbed toes aside, most of those other feelings had inspired numerous works of art and literature. The only thing tiredness had ever inspired was a deep desire to go back to bed. Besides, no matter what emotional pain a person went through, they could at least find some small way to deal with if they were awake. But being tired, that was one of the few things in life with the power to render a person completely and utterly useless.

Especially if that person happened to be me.

I couldn’t deal with tired. It always felt as though thick gunk were seeping from some black swamp at the back of my brain, gluing all my thoughts together in one big mush before slowly trickling downwards, oozing out beneath my eye lids and doing its damndest to weld them shut. As it did, my veins would rattle inside me, bubbling and throttling, spitting and snarling until they were soothed by a breakfast of coffee and cigarettes.

Whilst I waited for such sweet poison to take effect, I would stumble around the house like a moron. I’d put the cornflakes in the fridge and the milk in the cleaning cupboard. I would take a fresh pair of boxers from my bedroom drawer, set them down and then misplace them six or seven times before putting them on backwards and almost falling over myself as I did so. Nor it was it particularly uncommon for me to blast hairspray under my arms and furniture polish in my hair.

Of course, Nancy would often take great pleasure in my early morning mishaps. Yes, it frustrated her some that for the first hour or so of each day I could only communicate to her via time-delay; responding to her every question or comment by staring at her vacantly for half a minute like some gormless idiot then muttering something vaguely resembling words. Yet it also came as a source of great hilarity for her when I would leave for work only to come sloping back several minute later because I’d forgotten to swap my slippers for my shoes or –I shit you not-made it most of the way to work with my dressing gown still on.

If she had been any normal person, she might have understood how I became rendered numb by fatigue on a daily basis, but Nancy was not a normal person at all. She was a Morning Person.

Music Monday: Led Zeppelin vs. The Beatles Mashup

Taking The Beatles’ Helter Skelter and mixing it with Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, this is probably one of the best mashup tracks on the Internet, and at least the best I’ve heard so far.

It’s like one giant celebration of rock ‘n’ roll, made all the more enjoyable by an impressive video.

How not to translate British English to American

Every now and again, someone on the internet will provide the commendable service of attempting to explain British English to Americans.

On the whole, I applaud their efforts.

After all, Americans use a very basic, occasionally childlike version of Her Majesty’s English (remember, these people gave us movies to refer to moving pictures), so helping them out in the event that they should meet a Brit not plucked from the set of Downtown Abbey can only be a good thing, right?

A packet of digestive biscuits, yesterday

Well, yes, you’d think so. Except that these attempts to explain ‘Britishisms’ (their term, not mine) usually come from the very same Americans who don’t quite understand them in the first place.

Sure, many of them get the general idea, but more often than not it seems that the subtleties and complexities of British English are lost on our friends over the ocean.

Flummoxed

Take the rather wonderful Merry Mix-Ups, in which the good folk at Dictionary.com give their take on 9 British Terms That Flummox Americans.

Things start off well. We’re told that, whilst our friends in the US might think of a saloon as the kind of door-swinging, spit-and-sawdust bar familiar to fans of Western movies, in the UK, the last thing you’d want to do in a saloon is drink because it is, of course, a car.

So far, so good, until we move to the next definition.

Pants

And then it all starts to get a bit pants.  Here’s how Dictionary.com advise using the word:

The word pants means “underpants.” If you must discuss the heavenly breathability or superior fabric grade of your new slacks, consider using the term trouser to ensure it translates accurately.

Now, I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I am saying that we’re not all quite so formal over here.

Tell the average person on the streets of England that you like they’re pants, and they’ll more than likely thank you -assuming you to mean the long item of clothing which covers their whole legs from waist to ankle- than walk away wondering how on earth you managed peak at their Y-fronts.

The word trousers still get used but often in a more formal environment.

Just to confuse matters further, pants can also refer to something that is rubbish or naff, but let’s not get ahead ourselves.

Biscuit

I was almost ready to forget all about Merry Mix-ups and get on with the sad, empty existence known as my life. Then the Dictionary dudes decided to have a go at explaining the differences between the British and American understanding of the word biscuit.

In British English, the word biscuit, also known as a digestive biscuit, or sometimes just a digestive, refers to what we might call a cookie or cracker.

OK, that’s partly right. Yes, what we call biscuits, the Americans know as cookies, and what the Americans call biscuits, we call yummy bread things we don’t s really have in the UK which is a shame but anyway.

That’s fine. This whole digestive business isn’t. A digestive biscuit is a certain type of biscuit in the same way that an Oreo is a certain type of cookie.

Or, to put it another way, all digestives might be biscuits but not all biscuits are digestives.

Make sense? Good, now maybe I can get on with looking forward to ‘tea time,’ ignoring my dental hygiene and saying C’or Blimey like a good little Englishman.

PS: For the most hilarious British/American translations on web, have a butchers at this feature from the Huffington Post