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Showing posts from April, 2015

Blogging from A to Z: H is for...Helicopters

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After the boffins discovered dinosaur juice, henceforth referred to as oil, locked away beneath the North Sea, they realized to get it out, and into cars, they'd need big drills. And the drills would have to be fixed in place on some sort of...rig. And to operate the rigs they'd need dudes in hardhats.


But, how to get those dudes to the rigs to operate the drills?

Since science wasn't smart enough to bio-engineer giant flying transport creatures, it fell upon the helicopter companies.

My dad worked for almost twenty years for British Airways Helicopters (later bought by British International Helicopters and then CHC Helicopters) and it was thanks to him I got to fly a Sikorsky S61N.



Okay, that's not completely true. My dad was contracts manager and not a pilot, but he did manage to swing me some time in the S61 simulator, alongside an actual pilot.

This was no home computer simulator, this was one of those fancy state-of-the-art boxes on pistons, that give you a realistic-f…

Blogging from A to Z: G is for...Glottal Stop

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In America, despite my manly good looks, keen mind, and effervescent sense of humor...


...the first thing people normally notice about me is how I talk. Nowadays, my accent has been corrupted by the use of American words, the need to slow down to be understood, and the subtle assimilation of residency. Here in America, I still sound Scottish enough to raise questions about where I come from. To people in the UK, I sound American.


One thing people pick up on is my pronunciation of certain words, particularly those with the double t in the middle: Butter - Buh-uhr. This is due to Scots using a Glottal Stop when pronouncing those words.

A glottal stop is a complete or partial closure of the glottis (vocal folds) creating a sound which is used instead of the actual sound of the letter. So in butter, instead of the hard "t" sound I use a glottal stop.

Americans also use glottal stops, but you just don't notice it. Don't think too hard about it...just say:

Cat litter.

Did you ma…

Blogging from A to Z: F is for...Feist and the Foo Fighting Fleetwoods!

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Last year I started a little journey through the alphabet talking about music. I like music a lot and know more than a normal person should about a lot of useless stuff. I started it HERE and continued HERE.

Now I'm working my way through the #AtoZChallenge and, reaching the letter F, my pal @LaurieBwrites suggested, nay DEMANDED, I write something around the Foo Fighters. I thought I could combine both my alphabet postings...so,

Foo Fighters

*tumbleweed*
I have to own up to not being a big fan or filled with jammy delicious knowledge about them. I have a lot of time for Dave Grohl who seems like a decent bloke, a great drummer, and a good frontman for his group.

Of all the music of theirs I've heard, my favorite is easily Hero.

- "There goes my hero, he's ordinary"




Feist

Quirky Canandian chanteuse who first came to my attention after Apple used her song 1234 in an iPod commercial. After rooting around on youtube, I found that she had plenty more interesting songs to li…

Blogging from A to Z: E is for...Etaoin shrdlu

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Etaoin shrdlu!

No, I'm not typing drunk. And no, Etaoin shrdlu is not a Gaelic curse word or the name of an elf in a new story I'm working on. It's not something offensive written backwards and it won't summon magical beasties if you say it while waving your arms around. (I think. I haven't actually tried that last one. Let me know if I need to put a magic disclaimer in here.)

What it IS though is a nonsense phrase...yeah, no kidding...common in the old days of newspaper publishing when Linotype machines were used.




Back in the days before computers, and other newfangled technology like indoor toilets, Linotype machines were used to print newspapers, magazines and the like and the first two columns on the left hand side of the keyboard are...etaion and shrdlu. And the reason for the order is as simple as letter frequency: e is the most used letter, followed by t, a, i and so on.



So, much like QWERTY is synonymous with today's keyboards, Etaoin shrdlu was the old tim…

Blogging from A to Z: D is for...Dispatching

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Those who follow me on twitter --> @SpartaGus  probably know this much about me:

1. I'm from Scotland. (One time a nurse stuck me with a needle to draw blood and all that came out was the quiet drone of bagpipes and the scent of heather. Granted, I might've been hallucinating...)

2. I wrote a book once (available from all good book stockists named after tribes of warrior women...yes, that means --> Amazon)

3. I work Wednesday through Sunday on the #BigTrainSet

So, what does working on the #BigTrainSet mean? (I hear you cry)

It means I'm a train DISPATCHER. (Got to the letter D eventually! Yay! The crowd goes wild)

A dispatcher is akin to an air traffic controller, except trains can't fly. Yet. My job is to line up trains through St. Louis and get them where they need to go in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

If you ever saw the Denzel Washington movie Unstoppable, about the runaway train, I'm like that one desk guy Rosario Dawson talked to...



Except we …

Blogging from A to Z: C is for...Comic Book Covers

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Back in 1982, a trip home to Virkie in the Shetland Islands, after visiting my Gran in Ayrshire, would involve a couple of buses, a train and two flights. The trips weren't terribly long, but my folks had to tow around a 9 year old (me) and a 7 year old (my wee brother) and so, to keep us quiet some of the way, they bought us comics.

Choosing comic books as a kid is easy, you pick the coolest covers. So, from the small selection at the newsstand at Kilwinning Railway Station I picked...




Ghost Rider (Vol.1) #67 - Cover by Bob Budiansky (Apr 1982)

The Avengers (Vol.1) #218 - Cover by Don Perlin (Apr 1982)
I had no idea who any of these characters were. (This was decades before Robert Downey Jr would turn Iron Man from second string hero to box office titan.) Ghost Rider looked scary and cool, with his flaming skull and motorbike. An obvious choice for a nine year old. The Avengers all look horrified and apparently unable to stop whatever is going to happen. An invitation to read more...

Blogging from A to Z: B is for...Bass

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Meghan Trainor wasn't wrong when she proclaimed it's All About That Bass.

...although I'm pretty sure she was talking about having a big booty.
Whaaaa?
Nonetheless, bass is where it's at as far as music is concerned. The bass and drums form the backbone of most popular music and without it you end up with Kenny G.

I used to play bass guitar and it's to an unsung pioneer of the instrument I'd like to dedicate the rest of this blog post.

I'm pretty sure if I asked you to name your favorite bassist you'd give me a list which might include: Paul McCartney, Sting, Flea, and if you're Canadian, Geddy Lee. Let's be honest though, it's the lead singer with their antics out front, or the lead guitarist in their tight pants that usually draw your attention. The average music listener knows the Rolling Stones's Mick "Big Lips" Jagger and Keith "Has taken so many drugs he should really have died years ago" Richards, but do you remembe…

Blogging from A to Z: A is for...Alphabet

Before your eyes roll back into your skull with boredom, let me ask you a question:

Did you know there used to be 27 letters in the alphabet?

Did you know YE...as in Ye Olde Tea Shoppe...is not a thing?

Did you know that people are pushing for NEW letters of the alphabet?

No? Well, read on my friend...


27th Letter of the alphabet

Today's emoticon-heavy, text messaging generation fully understand the benefits of brevity and a good smiley. This is not a new thing.

Not so long ago, in the middle 1800's, English speakers used 27 letters of the alphabet. After Z came &(ampersand)

So why is & called ampersand and not just and?

When the alphabet was recited, with & after Z, it would sound confusing...

W, X, Y, Z, and and.

Instead, it was spoken like this: W, X, Y, Z and per se and. Per se meaning "by itself" Over the years, "and per se and" was smooshed together and became ampersand.

So, for a while & was the 27th letter of the alphabet.



Ye

Ye isn't a thing …