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10:57 am: Words at World's End
To get this out of the way at the start: I work on the environmental effects of air transport. Since starting this work, I have gradually built up the sort of carbon footprint which in forensic terms might be used to identify a barbecued yeti. How? By flying. A lot. To many and varied conferences in many and varied places. I've just counted up the things I already know I will or might be doing next year and they include five trips to the Americas, so it ain't getting any better. On the plus side, I've been to many and varied places! Only without writing about them or doing anything with the copious pictures I've taken. There being a whole upcoming three months without international travel on the horizon, I thought I'd sit back, take stock, and post pictures.

This is set of pictures number one, containing various things to do with words, peculiar translations and found things, including a particularly fine example of garbled pseudoscience. It is mostly silly and flippant.

Malta, July 2009: Ghar Dalam cave. Whilst in this cave, we were completely safe from space bees! Thank goodness.

Malta, July 2009: church at Marsaxlokk. Possibly a creche? Admittedly the thought of no food or drink does make me quite sad.

Beijing, July 2009: hotel bedside table.

Make your choice, adventurous stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had
- C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Substitute button maked 'do not' for bell. Reader, I pressed it. A little red LED came on above the button. Nothing else happened[1]. As yet, calamitous retribution has not crashed down on my head, but it can only be a matter of time.

Beijing, July 2009: Olympic Park. For what it's worth, I'd do a great deal more than detour in such a situation. (In the interests of mocking bizarre translation in an equal-opportunities way, it is worth pointing out that both English from Chinese/Japanese and Chinese/Japanese from English can go very, very wrong.)

Beijing, July 2009: Forbidden City. Man. Um, this is kind of true.

Beijing, July 2009: Olympic Park. I kind of feel I have an emotional connection with this grass by now. There it was, baring its sensitive underbelly before me, and all I could think of doing was crushing it beneath my feet. No longer, I can assure you. Although I'm not sure how the people who cut it can live with themselves.

Beijing, July 2009: Dongzhimen Night Market.
It should be noted that this was the only stall with English labels on the foodstuffs and Chinese labels separately, as opposed to the other way round. Draw your own conclusions. One of my conclusions was 'ooh, curly!'[2]. Anyhow, we didn't eat at the market. Instead, we ate at a nearby restaurant where the vegetarian section of the menu proudly began with "fatty intestine slices".

Washington, December 2006: Smithsonian Museum. This was at the end of an illustrated line of panels discussing the Awesomeness of Spacesuits!! And how each layer of a Spacesuit did Really Cool Things!! I'm guessing from the expression on the poor astronaut dude's face that he's really wishing they'd concluded the discussion one layer above.

Anchorage, September 2008: cab of old steam locomotive, public park. An unconventional approach to the personal ad. Plus points: has not lost the power to dream. Minus points: leaves personal ad in an abandoned train, creepy, picky, lists address as local prison.

Anchorage, September 2008: W 5th Avenue and N St. For reference, this was in the brief period between Sarah Palin being unveiled as John McCain's running-mate and the global financial system going completely tits-up. This stencil was all over the place, as were the attendant devil-horns and altering of 'hope' to 'nope'. Interestingly, the Anchorage Daily News was strongly pro-Obama. My attempt to cycle to Wasilla was thwarted by a magic disappearing cycle path, but I can still hum the jingle of the Wasilla Mattress Ranch.

Cambridge MA, January 2008: Restaurant wall near MIT. Could this graffito be based on one of the London 2012 BBC user-submitted olympic logos? I detect a certain similarity in design.

Mumbai, October 2007: Sanjay Gandhi National Park. I mainly include this picture because it's rather blurred, in the sort of way that photos become a little blurred when it's getting dark of an evening, or the photo-taker is trying to move at a greater-than-anticipated velocity.

Savannah GA, September 2009: Fire Station. Um, I'm kind of unclear about whether the person in black is meant to be facing forwards or backwards. I feel it might be good to have the situation clarified before taking advantage of this Safe Place.

Bucharest, July 2009: Otopeni Airport, TAROM inflight magazine. The key to truly earth-shattering pseudoscience is to start, somewhere, somehow, with a tiny grain of truth. Maybe even more than one. Then mix those tiny grains of truth with fifteen hundred gallons of high-fructose corn syrup, strain through a dog's left bollock, add the heart of a pink unicorn and advertise them as whole-grain truth-containing wisdom. Bonus marks: derive the theory of relativity! Heck, it's not that hard.

[1] In the interests of telling the whole story, we eventually worked out from comparing the Chinese characters with ones elsewhere that the button was meant to say 'do not disturb', and thus a great deal of nothing happening when it was pressed was perhaps not very surprising.
[2] I hear tell that Google has a big screen at Google headquarters which contains nothing but an endlessly scrolling list of the searches currently ongoing in the world[3]. I imagine that at least the publically-viewable screen is filtered somewhat. Only this is the sort of food-related experience that has one googling such things as 'sheep penis dildo', see, and I wouldn't want anyone at Google to get the, uh, wrong idea (for what it's worth, ducks definitely have curly penises, wheras the kangaroo has a most unnerving bend. FWIW, these sites are probably not safe for work, unless you work in a cock factory.)

[3] Which makes me wonder: what will the searches be like, when the rate starts to slow? What will the last Google search be?


[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
Be patient with our little server, gnimmel's friendslist!
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 10:20 am (UTC)
*strokes fluffhouse gently*
Date:September 29th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC)
I am stealing that Forbidden City quote.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 10:54 am (UTC)
I think that's where the title to brrm's LJ comes from.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 11:16 am (UTC)
Looks like it - I just had a look at their userinfo and there's a very very similar picture....
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
I'm so smitten with the grass now.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)

Hotel bedside console

Was this the Friendship Hotel, by any chance? I think the "Do not" button turns on the "Do not disturb" light outside the door.

I saw some wonderfully whimsical variants on "Keep off the grass" on my visit to Beijing. The best one was probably "The grass is growing pleasedon 't disturd it."
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Hotel bedside console

It was the Beijing North Star Continental Hotel, but I suspect it was the same system (we did work out in the end that it meant 'do not disturb', and shortly thereafter found out about the outside light).
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
This is an awesome and wonderful post.
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