Ichabod is itchy

May 31, 2006

Cryptic clue of the day

Filed under: crosswords — by ichabodisitchy @ 11:10 pm

"Sailor tosses around birds" (9)

Go to cryptic creations for the answer.


May 29, 2006

Loos or toilets?

Filed under: travel — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:12 pm

n my family (of middle class expats), we always use the word ‘loo’. That is the word we were taught to use as kids– indeed, we were actively discouraged (and even reprimanded) if we ever said ‘toilet’. ‘Toilet’, we were told, is a common and vulgar word. Obviously, this is nonsense but you know, these things stay with you your whole life. My step-children use the‘vulgar’ word all the time (my not being around during the formative years of their life when they were learning to talk) and I must admit that it does not fail to grate on my ears every single time. 

For a long time I’ve known I’m not alone in this ‘loo’ vs ‘toilet’ debate– I remember several years ago listening to someone on Woman’s Hour who had obviously been brought up with the same ‘toiletism’. She was talking about the difficulties she has in explaining to her five year old son why he needs to use the word ‘loo’ when all his friends say ‘toilet’.

But I hadn’t thought the debate was so wide-reaching. Imagine my delight when I saw this public sign at the Hay festival over the weekend:

A whole festival of like-minded people– no wonder I felt so at home!

Books, books, books

Filed under: literature,travel — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:09 pm

Just got back from the Guardian book festival, at Hay-on-Wye, where we have spent the weekend listening to authors discussing some of their latest literary offerings. Terry Jones told us all about The Barbarians, Mozzam Begg talked about his personal experiences in Guantanamo Bay, Paul Rusesabagina discussed his time in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, when he saved 1,268 lives at the Hotel Diplomat and DBC Pierre showed us his latest historical documentary (made for Channel 4) about the fall of the Aztec empire in Mexico. We also went along to a wonderful Poetry Gala, where Margaret Atwood, Tishani Doshi, James Fenton, John Fuller, Seamus Heaney, Don Paterson, Owen Sheers and Hugo Williams each got 8 minutes to perform a reading of their poetry.It was our first time at Hay– but we’ll definitely go back.

The town itself lies on the border between England and Wales, surrounded by countryside and very picturesque. The streets run higgledy-piggledy up and down a little hill, and every other doorway leads into a second-hand bookshop– where all the walls (and half of the floors!) are covered with books ranging from first edition H Ryder Haggards to the full collection of Colin Dexter. Everyone wanders around with bagfuls of books, talking about who they’ve been to see at the festival and what hidden treasures they’ve unearthed in town.

The kids enjoyed it too. Although most of the children-friendly activities don’t start until later on in the week, they did go along to some of the talks with us and ran around the garden of the simply beautiful house we rented with a group of friends.

We did also take them horse-riding on Saturday, although unfortunately it absolutely peed it down with rain the entire time we were out on the horses, so what should have been a pleasant jaunt through the countryside turned into a rather chilly and very wet tramp through the mud! This was, however, somewhat compensated by the fact that once we’d got back to the festival we ran smack bang into Albus Dumbledore (a.k.a. Michael Gambon) wandering around the site. Well, as any of you with kids can imagine, that made up for all sogginess and other discomfort endured!

I've put up some photos on flickr if you want to see more. 

May 25, 2006

24: It’s been a long day

Filed under: literature,tv,Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 10:46 pm

WARNING: this post contains plot-spoilers

We watched the last double-bill of 24, series 5, last night– tense to the end and, as usual, lots of unresolved issues. So I've been left with the feeling that I simply have to watch the next installment– but we have to wait a whole year for it!

I am a complete 24-addict. Never mind that the plots are insane and sometimes downright silly (a nuclear bombing in Los Angeles, Kim getting kidnapped 3 times in 24 hours, nerve gas being released in a shopping mall to mention just a few). 24 has the perfect mix of tension and plot development that keeps me on the edge of my seat and aching for more.

In this series, like all the others, Jack has had his share of ups and downs– he's come back from the dead, lost his two best friends, almost lost his girlfriend, been disowned by his daughter, been on the run, watched most of CTU die, killed an ex-colleague and tortured a president. And then, just when you think he's in the clear– evil President Logan will be brought to justice, Audrey (and Senator Heller) have miraculously recovered from fatal injuries and Bill is back at CTU– he's carted off by the Chinese, tortured and left beat up and bleeding on the last boat to China!

What will become of him? How can I possibly wait until next year to find out? I hate cliff-hangers. Maybe I lack imagination, but I find it so frustrating when all the loose ends are left hanging.

Last year, Lewis gave me The Mystery of Edwin Drood for my birthday. I knew, of course, that it was unfinished, but I had it in my mind that it was only the final chapter or so that was missing and that, by then, everything would be so far down the line that the ending would be clear. As those of you who've read it will know, it's not just the last chapter that's missing– not even the last two or three. Nope. It's the last six! Out of a total of twelve! That's more than 'unfinished'. That's not even started in my opinion. You are left completely in the dark– what happened to Edwin? Did John Jasper slip him into the quicklime? Will Dick Datchery solve the puzzle? Will Neville marry Rosa? So many questions left unanswered–it does my head in!

Getting back to 24– I am consoled by the fact that leaving Jack facing such a totally bleak future means that at least they'll have to make another series. I'm counting the days- beep beep beepeepeepeepeepeeeeeeeeeep. 

Cryptic clue of the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 10:13 pm

I've been having problems with the formatting of these. Someone has told me the highlighting white text isn't working for getting the answers. And it seems so messy to publish a clue one day and the answer again the next. So here's my newest idea- I will post the clue of the day on ichabod and have created a separate page (cryptic creations) where you can pick up the answers. Hope this works.

"Party of last five nutters" (8)

Go to cryptic creations for the answer.

May 24, 2006

Cryptic clue of the day

Filed under: crosswords,Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:21 pm

"Go look in a search engine" (6)

Highlight this space GOOGLE for the answer.


Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:20 pm

Lewis has pointed me to the wonderful world of pandora bots, where you can create your very own chatBOT virtual personality. You can assign your chatBOT a 'basic' personality and then train her (or him) to answer questions as you would (well, that's the idea anyway!). This is done through a basic set of fields that describe the basics like favourite colour, where you live, what you name is etc. On top of that, you can keep track of the conversational logs your bot has with the 'public' and, if she doesn't give the answers you like, train her based on those specific questions (or broader ones via use of a wild character "*").

Pandora bots is created by ALICE, using AIML (Artificial Intelligence Mark-up Language), and has many options for customising your bot, particularly if you want to pay for bells and whistles like a talking bot. The subscription talking bots offer lots of customisation– voice, facial characteristics, clothes, background, movement etc. But there are also four 'standard' characters if you want to just try them out first. These can't be customised in terms of how they look, although you can assign them different voices. Each one comes with 500 free text-to-speech 'streams' per month.

I have set up ichaBOT– my virtual personality. She has a picture (that doesn't look like me in case you're wondering) and even an English accent!

There is also a text-only version of ichaBOT but trust me, the text-to-speech streaming is worth it. I'd recommend asking who Lewis is.
ichaBOT is still being trained– the more questions you ask, the more I'll be able to customise her, so please visit her and have a chat.

May 23, 2006

Cryptic clue of the day

Filed under: crosswords,Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 9:30 pm

California, say?

Highlight this space STATE for the answer.

May 22, 2006

Cryptic clue of the day

Filed under: crosswords,Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:46 pm

To celebrate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday, here is a special Sherlock-related clue.

Prof. Moriarty taken out by poisoned air of Dr. Prior? Elementary my dearest!

Highlight this space IRENE ADLER for the answer.

Happy birthday Conan Doyle

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:36 pm

As somewhat of a Sherlock fan, I loved Google's nod to his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, on today, his birthday. They've made a customised Google logo:

 conan_doyle_res.gif[Other customised logos available from the official Google logo site]

Seems timely for Nick Rennison's new biography of Sherlock Holmes, for which I was reading a review in yesterday's Observer. 'Surprising as it may seem', writes the reviewer,'most people think of William Sherlock Holmes as a fictional character, the creation rather than the silent partner of Conan Doyle'.

I must confess I am one of 'most people', not having realised Sherlock was 'real'. Delighted to hear, however, that the real Holmes had all of the fictional one's flaws– he was apparently addicted to drugs and obsessed with Professor Moriarty and the Fenian underground, just like the Sherlock I know and love. And that he prevented an assassination attack on Queen Victoria. (I hope I won't find out next week that Dr. Who saving Queen Victoria from werewolves was also 'real'!).

I love the grumpy side of Sherlock Holmes– he can be so pompous and disagreeable and yet I still love and adore him, and Conan Doyle even more so for being able to bring him to life in the pages of his books. 

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