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From David Ould over at Stand Firm, here’s a little gizmo regular port swillers will know I can’t resist playing with: The Atheist Bus Slogan Generator.

Here’s my first go:

partylikehellbus3

And here’s another:

ecusabus1

I’m sure others can do much better, but I find this pretty amusing.

(The whole bus slogan back story here for those of you who missed it.)

A glass of wine with the Abbot.

UPDATE: Fixed the second one.  How ’bout a divvy while we’re at it?

who-ya-gonna-call

softball-for-dummies In anticipation of my duties at the ballpark this spring, I’ve just picked up a copy of Kathy Strahan’s Coaching Girls’ Softball.  My plan is to read it on the sly, thereby either reenforcing the eldest gel’s belief that I know everything about everything, or else at least preventing her from discovering that even after swotting up Softball Coaching for Dummies, I still can’t make a go of it.

I’ll keep you posted on how the studies go.

But I really mention this here because of an association it brought up in my mind.  I know that some of you port-swillers are old enough to remember shamelessly wallowing in front of Fantasy Island on Friday nights? No? Oh, yes you do! Confess!!

Anyway, for some reason I have always retained a recollection of one story line that involved a nerdy little librarian who wanted to get out and have an Adventure.  Mr. Rourke duly obliges him, putting him in all kinds of tricky situations in which he must do something highly skilled in order to save himself and the girl who is tagging along with him.  And it turns out that although he’s never actually done any of these things, he has read about them, and thus has the skill sets at hand.  For instance, he becomes an expert fencer as soon as he picks up a rapier.   I can’t quite remember what the “moral” of this particular little story was supposed to be, but for some reason I never forgot the basic plot.

With any luck, after getting through this opus I’ll be a regular Joe Torre.

The Cambridge (UK) City Council has discovered a threat to trees far worse than drought, tent-worm or unscrupulous logging companies:  Toddlers!

Council officials want to ban children at a nursery from playing under a tree because they claim they will damage the roots by trampling on the ground.

Officers are applying for a permanent preservation order on the 30-year-old cedar to safeguard it from damage.

Parents have called for common sense and say that the children – aged two to four – exert too little pressure to cause any harm and will be too restricted in where they can play if they are not allowed under the tree.

The move follows a Cambridge City Council report into the health of the tree at the Under Fives Roundabout Pre-School in Cambridge.

The report argues the tree, which covers half the playground, will suffer if the ground is “poached and compacted” by “constant activity” which could stop water reaching the roots.

It recommends: “Ideally, the children would not be able to play beneath the tree.”

Poached ground is commonly caused by cattle cutting up grassland with their hooves near gates and feeding points, exposing the soil leaving it open to erosion.

The council served a tree preservation order on the school on June 9, 2008.

A planning committee meeting will be held tomorrow (Wed) to hear objections and decide whether to confirm or reject the order.

Achtung! Der Vald ist Verboten!

The council’s principal arboricultural officer Diana Oviatt-Ham said the children could compact the earth and starve the roots of water.

“They were advised right from the start when they were interested in the site that there were going to be constraints on the use of the tree,” she said.

She said that if the order is upheld council planning officers will work with the school to agree on exact restrictions.

Mrs Oviatt-Ham added: “If the order is upheld we hope we will be able to reach a satisfactory compromise as to how the area is used.”

I’m guessing that any such compromise will involve guard towers, wire and a “line of death” but that’s just the cynic in me speaking.  [Ed – As opposed to who else?]

“Oh, well,” I said to myself when I started reading the article, “At least it’s not the usual argument these days that the kiddies shouldn’t play under the tree for fear of their own safety.”

Alas, that’s in the game too:

The council report also warns the tree might need to be trimmed if children are allowed to play underneath.

It states: “In addition, cedar trees shed spiky needles and exude resin, which could result in complaints from parents and an application to trim the tree to reduce the nuisance.”

Thank God the playing fields of Eton weren’t covered with spiky cedar needles and resin drips – Boney would have waltzed right into London otherwise.

So what do we do? It’s evident that children and trees cannot peacefully coexist.  One of them has got to go.  As to which? Well, if you enjoy the pitter-patter of little feet around the house, for Heaven’s sake don’t ask Jonathon Porritt, who chairs HMG’s Sustainable Development Commission.

For the two or three who come together to swill the port here, my apologies for lack of posting the past few days.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve been suffering from a bout of writer’s block.  On the other hand, I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts and every time I try to make contact with my Muse, she keeps making excuses about washing her hair and waiting for important overseas phone calls.  So there you are.

I suppose this is as good a place for another round up of odds and ends as any, so here goes:

•  Yes, we watched the Sooper Bowl.  I do believe that it was, in fact, the very first football game I’ve seen all year.  For some reason, the older I get, the less interested I am in the sport.  At any rate, going into it I had dubbed it the “Apathy Bowl” because I don’t really care that much about either team.  Nonetheless, I am glad that it turned out to be such a good game.  I suppose I’m also glad the Steelers won just as a matter of conference loyalty.  But my chief moment of pleasure came when the sideline teevee babe made a valiant attempt to quote somebody she identified as “F. Scotts Fitzgerald”.  I had a sudden vision of Jay Gatsby in a kilt.

•  Speaking of sports, I spent about three hours Sunday afternoon watching 60-odd gels go through the paces of throwing, catching and hitting for softball tryouts.  I’ve got another round of it next Sunday, plus a possible make-up session the Sunday after that.  Then the draft begins.  The ten year old was in this week’s batch and put in a perfectly credible performance.  I don’t believe anyone is going to draft her for the majors this year, but since I’ll be coaching AAA and she and I more or less assume she’ll be on my team, this is no bad thing.

•  There are certain persons of my acquaintance who, when asked how things are going these days, reply with a big smile, “Hopey and changey!”  I find this intensely amusing and have started doing it myself.

•  And speaking of hope, I really can’t stand the new Pepsi “refresh America” ad campaign which features words of encouragement plastered all over bus stops, the metro and the like.  It’s soda, fer chrissakes!

•  Speaking of refreshing, I decided that I need to start branching out more in my reading.  To this end, I selected at random this weekend Joseph Conrad’s The Rescue, an adventure romance set in the islands of Malaysia.   As has usually been the case when I’ve read Conrad, the dialogue has proven the greatest challenge to overcome:  I find it sometimes vague, sometimes stilted, sometimes downright improbable.  I have never made up my mind whether this is my own poor perception or a fault of the author himself.

• And finally, in noting the passage of Groundhog Day yesterday, I couldn’t help being reminded again of the fact that I have never made it all the way through the film of the same name without dozing off.  I have no idea why this is, given that I am a fan of Bill Murray and the film is generally recognized as one of the best made in recent years.  Go figure.

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