Monday, 27 June 2011

Obsessive-Compulsive Order

I have an embarrassing confession to make. It's about how I do the washing-up.

Note to Americans and peoples of farawayness: 'washing-up' refers to cleaning the dishes and so forth, not cleaning yourself. Something involving crockery, cutlery, water and a sink. Or possibly a basin. What is the difference between a sink and a basin anyway?

So, I do the washing-up by hand. This is not the part that I am embarrassed by. Far from it, I disdain and quite possibly eschew the use of dish-washers and strange multicoloured tablets to do the job for me. I consider such reliance on technology to be a weakness, a vulnerability that will render Mankind soft and defenceless when the machines turn upon us, as they inevitably will. Like a techno-wary Maria in Metropolis, Magnus: Robot Fighter or Miles Monroe, I keep the old manual dish-washing skills alive, so as to be ready for the collapse of civilisation. Like a sort of Ray Mears of the kitchen.

If dishwashers rose up against us, Magnus would punch them for sure.

No, the source of my embarrassment stems from exactly how I do the washing up. I have a system you see. Nothing so very shameful about that, you may think. Doubtless some of you out there may employ your own crockery cleansing methodologies: doing nearly clean items first so as not to dirty the water up; leaving the heavily-crusted pots to soak for a while; washing the delicate wineglasses separately and so on. Nothing wrong with those systems at all. All perfectly reasonable, pragmatic, sensible systems. Well done to you.

I wash things up in order of usefulness to a future society.

Yes, I realize that that may need some explaining. What I mean is: I try to pull items, sight unseen, from the depths of the bubbly washing-up bowl, as if each distinct type of item that I wash, rinse and place on the draining board will then have been saved from some unseen cataclysm and placed in safe-keeping, so that any unknown civilization (not even necessarily human) which then finds those items may deduce their purpose and employ them for their own use.

For example, it has been shown (on Brainiac, so it must be true) that the most useful of the Big Three cutlery items is the spoon: you can scoop, shovel and even roughly cut with a decent spoon, where a knife or fork would fail one of those tasks. So a spoon is best, the most useful. Therefore I try - when fishing blindly around in the bowl - to pluck forth a spoon first and deposit it on the draining board time capsule, so that Those That Come After Us, apes quite possibly, will find this Spoon From The Age Of Man, and see that we were a wise and skilled people who had mastered the art of crafting stainless Sheffield steel, and were at least able to work our way through a bowl of soup.

I bet you they're looking up at a giant spoon.

Bowls, yes, bowls would be next out, ideally. Your bowl will do as well as a plate for most tasks if large enough, whilst a plate would fail the most basic of soupy requirements. So I would try to fish out a bowl as soon after the spoon as I could. A mug would be okay, I suppose. Either would demonstrate that Man had some fairly sophisticated ideas about turning out ceramics, which would in turn inspire our unnamed future historians to make some pretty revolutionary changes in their own world's progress from cottage industry to standardization and mass production of goods. Or the potter's wheel at least.

Having hopefully plucked out the most basic cutlered and crockered items from the doomed bowl of Man's folly, I would then strive to bring forth those other crucial items: some sort of knife, a fork, a drinking vessel and a plate. Not two knives, unless one was a sharp bread-slicing type and the other a harmless butter-spreading type. This would show that we had mastered the twin arts of Sharpness and Bluntery, and demonstrate how two items, both of the general class of 'knife' could be oh so different.

This picture will make sense later. In the meantime you can snigger at the rude bits.

Variations in size are also important, lest future ape scientists think we could only manage to turn items out to a single scale. So it would be important to pull out a teaspoon as soon after a tablespoon as possible, but without leapfrogging ahead of a bowl, of course.

Likewise, I would try to illustrate differences in materials, so a wooden spoon would be handy to place on the time capsule draining board. Although the order of its placement ought not to upset the already delicate spoon-bowl-other implement-other vessel order already established.

Hopefully that's explained it all to you a little more clearly. That's how I do the washing-up. It really only occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that this is what actually goes through my head while I'm at the sink. I'm not listening to the radio, or making up stories about the people in the apartments opposite, or even God forbid planning the rest of my day. No, I'm trying to put things on the draining board in some sort of weird obsessive-compulsive order that the front of my brain is only half-aware of, while the back of my brain thinks it's either saving 21st century cutlery for posterity like Jor-El at a doomed Kryptonian kitchen sink, or else preparing a sort of Voyager space probe plaque to encapsulate terrestrial ideas of eating utensils.

For 'son', read 'spoon'.

Possibly I'm just a bit special.

I should add that while writing this I've realized that I have a method for hoovering and cleaning the floors too. It has something do saving the cleaned areas of floor from being eaten away by an antimatter wave whilst the rest of the floor is in imminent danger of dropping away into infinite black space. I blame this on an early Fantastic Four story, which I urge you to read.

It's all to do with special particles and solar waves. Really.

While we're in this confessional spirit, you should also know that after washing my hair, I rinse the shampoo down the plughole of the bath in a special way too. The great swathe of bubbles that obscures the plughole as the water beneath it drains away represents cylon-occupied space, so I have to clear a visible path through the shampoo to the safety of the plughole, using only the water that drips from my damp hair.

No, I have no idea why the shampoo lake is cylon-occupied, nor what's so great about reaching the plughole. But it surely has something to do with saving the last vestiges of mankind, so how can I do anything less than drip them a path to freedom? So say we all.

Fleeing from the cylon tyranny.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Wear Gasmask. Get Cheese. South.

Hey, remember that band Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly? Me neither. Couldn't tell you a thing about him/her/them or his/her/their music. But I do remember the name. It stuck in my mind because it sounds like (and no doubt actually is) a series of commands from an old text-based adventure, like Go North, Open Trap(door), Climb Down, Get Trea(sure) and so forth. Such two word parser adventures were my absolute favourite games for years. How well I remember navigating the treacherous unlit mine passages in Eldorado Gold (complete with Mode 7 graphics!), doing strange things with a petrified lungfish in Adventurequest, and utterly failing to get off Earth before it was demolished in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy.

Adventurequest, a sort of Middle-Earthy sequel to the classic Adventure / Colossal Cave game, took us years to complete, so fiendish were the puzzles and vast the world it occupied (deserts! volcanoes! drowned churches! giant spider webs!). My mum was the trusted guardian of the Adventurequest Solution - a carefully folded square of paper containing the answer to each and every problem in the games, in tiny type. These days you'd just google for a walkthrough to Zombie Face Eater or whatever, but in those days you had to write off for the solution and hand it over to your mum for safe-keeping. Well, we did anyway.

Anyway, thinking about Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, I started making up my own band names based on old computer and video game dialogue. So without further ado, here they are. A point for every game you can identify:

Got The Humanoid (though for years I thought this was Ha Ha Humanoid)
Wizard Shot The Food
How High Can You Try
I Think Therefore... Clever
Run The Dolt
Food And Furs To Leesti
I'd Buy That For A Dollar
With My Brains And Your Brawn
Shake It Baby
Singing A Song About Gold
The Turtle Village

You should know that although this little blogget should have taken me only around 5 minutes to knock up, it has managed to take over two hours, thanks to the painstaking research I have undertaken, courtesy of YouTube, various BBC Micro emulator sites, and Wikipedia. Never before did I suspect I would devote 9 minutes 39 seconds of my life to a walkthrough of 20-year old beat 'em upper Final Fight, but that's how much I value accuracy. Why yes, I do have a lot of free time; why do you ask?