Monthly Archives: December 2011

Draw A Stickman

drawastickman is fab. Try it now. All you do is draw a stickman (or stickdog, stickcat, stickinsect, whatever) and he comes alive and embarks on a peculiar adventure, with help from you and your drawing skills.

Mrs Meatloaf

Elderly Relative on hearing Meatloaf on the radio – What on earth is that?
Me – It’s Meatloaf.
Elderly Relative – Who’s she?


I was watching the BBC’s Young James Herriot last night with a relative who can’t hear too well, so we put the subtitles on. A good third of them seemed to be missing. But at least they were better than the live news subtitles which are clearly written by a confused Dadaist poet with an absinthe habit.
They did reveal something interesting though. Having gone on about sarcastic punctuation marks, I realised that subtitlers actually use them. When one of the characters said ‘And worth every penny’ sarcastically, they added an exclamation mark in brackets –
And worth every penny (!)
In the end, I found myself analysing the subtitles rather than actually watching the programme. COW MOOS was a good one. I also rather liked DOG GROWLS and SHEEP BLEATS.

Squeezing Past

Have you noticed, as I have, that the expression ‘excuse me’ has now been replaced with ‘Can I just squeeze past’?

Even Better Than Comic Sans

I always advise my media clients to avoid sarcasm during newspaper interviews, because you can’t really convey tone of voice in print.

And it’s the same with social networking. The sarcastic Twitter hashtag #blamethemuslims – sending up the tendency to blame Muslims for everything – got into trouble when some people took it literally.

Perhaps its inventor should have written it in Ethiopian, which has a temherte slaqî punctuation mark (¡) to denote irony.

A more recent irony signifier is the SarcMark – an inverted @ sign with a full stop inside.

But, until now, there’s not been a sarcastic font.

Cue Arial Sarcastic

It’s basically a backwards-leaning italicised Arial font. Not sure it’ll take off, but it’s an interesting idea. Perhaps new fonts could be devised to convey other tones or textures of voice – even accents. You could have a horribly mangled, distorted font for hardcore Geordie, a posh-looking Edwardian font for a county accent (ie. how the Queen speaks), an oddly extruded font for a Norfolk accent. Oh, and a comedy one for Birmingham.

Sadly, I can’t do fonts on Peacockshock, so you’ll have to make do with this one (which looks a bit Hertfordshire to me).

A Sarc Mark

Pin-Up of the Week

This week’s pin-up is the lovely Galliano, 16, who lives with Jane and Roger in deepest Surrey. She was named after the band, not the disgraced fashion designer.
Her main hobby is sleeping, but gastronomy comes a close second, and she has a penchant for curry, which probably dates back to her earliest weeks


I love this pic of Pickles the cat from Hampshire and a cheeky mouse. After being snapped by Adele Mallows, the mouse made a run for it and lives to tell the tale.

The Higgs Boson Particle Made Simple

Behold, the Large Hadron Collider shall bring forth a particle, and they shall call its name the Higgs Boson, and journalists shall call its name the God Particle. And Peacockshock explaineth it herewith.

I’ve always taken a dilettantish interest in particle physics, which looks at the loony behaviour of the tiny particles making up atoms. Top, Bottom and Charm Quarks have long been my favourites. But I also have a soft spot for the most elusive particle in the universe – the Higgs Boson.

Basically, it’s a teeny creature which has to exist if there’s any truth in the classic theories about particles and how they behave. But no-one’s ever found it.

The reason it has to exist is that particles have sizes or ‘mass’. You have a size. I have a size.

We obviously take mass for-granted. Otherwise we’d go mad thinking about it.

But, in the 60s, Peter Higgs (and various others) decided that mass must be caused by something. A thing must exist that causes particles to have a size.

This became known as the ‘Higgs Boson’. And it’s proved extremely elusive.

But, on December 13th, there’s a chance that a bunch of scientists in Switzerland will announce they’ve found the Holy Grail – confirmed the existence of the theoretical little varmint that causes mass, makes everything what it is, and keeps Weightwatchers in business.

The scientists are based at CERN (the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) and have spent years trying to get a photo of it, so to speak, by blasting particles at each other. They do this in a 17-mile-long chamber, in a thing called the Large Hadron Collider.

And they’ve been doing a heck of a lot of colliding.

In every 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001 square centimetres (known as a femtobarn), they’ve performed a vast number of collisions. This is to smash the particles up and, maybe just maybe, isolate the thing that’s giving them mass – the tiny Higgs Boson.

In fact, in each teeny femtobarn, they’ve performed millions of collisions.

The exact figure for this vast number of collisions is ‘five inverse femtobarns’. Just one ‘inverse femtobarn’ is about 70 million million collisions.

So – it’s hoped that a reasonable number of Higgs Bosons have popped out to confirm their existence. If they haven’t, they’ll have to rethink particle physics … the study of what everything’s made of. If they have, I suspect it will be mince pies all round and the Higgs Boson will become a celebrity and tour the chat shows.

This must all be very exciting for Professor Higgs, who’s in his 80s and lives in Edinburgh. Like all great intellectuals, he was born in Newcastle – Wallsend, to be precise.

Subatomic Barns Made Simple

I was intrigued that the tiny, microscopic areas where subatomic particles live are known as ‘barns’. So I checked it out.
Basically, physicists studying a uranium atom’s nucleus (during the Second World War) quipped hilariously that it was ‘as big as a barn’.
The barn then became the standard unit of measurement for such critters. And nowadays we have several variations on the theme, such as the –
microbarn (or outhouse)
picobarn (or silo)
yoctobarn (or shed)

Odd Units of Measurement

A Microdonkey
Moving swiftly on from barns …
Bored with inches? Centimetres getting you down? Here are some eccentric units of measurement from the world of physics and elsewhere …
A Beard Second
The length a physicist’s beard grows in one second.
A Canard
A Canard is a unit of quackery.
A Dirac
Speaking at a rate of one Dirac, you’d manage just one word an hour. This unit is based on observations of the famously taciturn Cambridge academic Paul Dirac.
A Donkeypower
One Donkeypower is a third of one Horsepower.
A Helen
One Helen can launch a thousand ships, obviously. To launch just one ship, you’d require a Microhelen.
A Mickey
A Mickey is the smallest detectable movement of a computer mouse. This is roughly 0.1 mm, but it depends on the equipment used.
A Sheppey
A measure of distance equal to about 7⁄8 of a mile, defined as the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque. This comes from The Meaning of Liff, by Douglas Adams.

A Warhol
Derived from Andy Warhol’s ‘everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes’, this unit represents fifteen minutes of fame. It can be used in multiples –
1 kilowarhol — famous for 15,000 minutes, or 10.42 days.
1 megawarhol — famous for 15 million minutes, or 28.5 years.

Pin-Up of the Week

This week’s pin-up is another cute fluffy rabbit I met at Van Hages garden centre.