Monday, 21 May 2012

America, Och Aye


To Whomsoever finds this blog post,

Even though I’d been to this strange, otherworldly place before, the land has a strange habit of surprising you. Just as you think you’ve accounted for the climate, the wildlife, the flora and the residents, something you simply didn’t expect can throw you for a loop. I’ve been here for a few days, a week, I can’t tell with these strange days where the sun is shining and nary a drop of rain nor a tuft of cloud to offer shelter from its well-meaning but often destructive gaze. For two or three days I had internet access, but even that has confounded me. I’ve kept myself sane by working and reading,* and keeping myself cool and hydrated. Considering I had once been hospitalised for dehydration back home in Scotland, this is something of a concern.

Still, I managed being torn away from the beloved internet. After all, I managed for most of my childhood: 8-year-old Aly wouldn’t see the problem, and probably marvel at the tiny notebook computer I’m using. Indeed, it’s given me a chance to appreciate where I am more, and the things the locals take as normal which utterly fascinate me.





Behold, the Gambel's Quail. Look at these wee things. Titchy birds with bobbing feathers nodding over their heads, troops of chicks marching after their parent. They don’t look real. They’re Pokemon. What is that feather for? I bet it’s used for hypnosis to confuse predators. Or perhaps they sweep with them: you know those small birds that groom elephants and clean crocodiles’ teeth? Like that, but they sweep the rabbits’ burrows, keep them neat and tidy. Or maybe I’m being a bit too imaginative. It’s probably something mundane like a courtship aid, or communication with other individuals, or to shoot magic missiles at coyotes.


And then we have the Desert Cottontail. As if rabbits weren’t already dangerously adorable, these beasties are smaller, have bigger ears and eyes, and gambol about like playful children. If Monty Python’s taught me anything, it’s that these are the deadliest creatures on the continent, and no doubt the real cause of its namesake's "noble mind in ruins."


I couldn't even hazard a guess as to what this beastie is (well, aside from the obvious fact it's some form of reptile). It's probably one of the critters described here, but I didn't get a close enough look to be sure. Not many reptiles in Scotland: just the adder, the common lizard and the slow worm. No snakes so far, which is just as well, but I'm still on the lookout for jittery arachnids. Still, I don't entirely trust that lizard, the way it's nonchalantly looking over its shoulder at the big hairy ape daring to take its picture. It's almost as if it knows... something. I'm starting to see what Howard saw in reptilians' unsettling gaze. "...They are possessed of a cold, utterly merciless cynicism and sophistication, and sense of super-ego that puts them outside the pale of warm-blooded creatures..."

Quails, cottontails and lizards are as common in Arizona as herring gulls, capercaillies and haggises are back home. Outside of the flora and fauna, there are occassional man-made relics which perplex me somewhat.


This is a fire hydrant. A yellow fire hydrant. Now, there aren't many of these fixtures in Scotland, Land of Dampness and Deep Wet, but they're there, albeit only as a wee yellow plate on the side of the road marked with a yellow "H" sign: as such, when we see above-ground fire hydrants, it's usually the familiar red one seen on Sesame Street and the like. So seeing a yellow one is a bit like walking into some mysterious mirror universe, where the sky is green, the sun is blue, Scotland dominates international football, and the Academy Awards are legitimate. It's a frightening place.


To flip things around, it never occured to me how blasted weird British plugs are. They're monstrous, unwieldy things that take up three times as much as those for American counterparts, have three prongs, and are only actually used by a handful of the world's countries. Using an adaptor just makes the thing look even more preposterous, and there's a change plugging it in with cause sparks to fly from the outlet. The great British Plug dates back to the aftermath of World War II and the copper shortage which necessitated a new design, unfortunately making absolutely no allowances for use in other countries. Even today, there are some twelve different types of plugs in use. One would think "can't we just adopt one and make things easier," but as with currency, language and region coding, countries tend to be very prideful and uncompromising, refusing to adopt something that's better because it would somehow undermine their national pride and culture. Even for plugs.

That said, the smaller, simpler American outlets aren't perfect.  I just don't feel right jamming two electric prongs into their little eyes.


Did they have to make them look so frightened? Perhaps it's intentional: perhaps, by making the outlets resemble worried little cartoon faces, this will subconsciously reinforce the danger of electricity. "No, small child, don't stick your finger in my eye! Please! If you do, terrible things will happen!" It actually wouldn't surprise me if that's the case: pareidolia is recognized enough to be adopted by car manufacturers, and even now substantial thought and research has been placed in making universal warnings that can be recognized well into the far future. Or maybe it's just a coincidence. That tends to be the case with me.

This might be something of a silly and frivolous post, and I can only apologise for the long space between postings: for whatever reason, the internet at my local area has forsaken me, leaving me to borrow my relatives' bandwidth every so often. Until next time, I'll try and put up something of more substance.

*Alright, alright, I was levelling up Cyndaquil in Pokemon HeartGold. I’d brought the DS just as an added distraction, but there’s a reason it’s a gaming phenomenon. Just a few more gym battles and I’ll get my hands on Bulbasaur...

15 comments:

  1. Yes our power outlets do look quite frightened.

    On the other hand, I vastly prefer the technology in your ginormous plugs, they have built in fuses, it's genius! Ours don't, you have to have a separate surge protector to do the same job. I also like your outlets because they have on/off switches on them.

    The one thing is though, while there are about a dozen outlet types in the world, and no real chance of standarization, the Electronics Manufacturers of the world have seen fit to deal with the problem in their own way, most electronics now a days, will be rated for anything from 110v to 240v.. meaning the only you thin you have to adapt is the plug itself. With the advent of HDTV's, the NTSC/PAL/SECAM issue is also more or less a thing of the past.. since the electronics can now step up or down the feeds themselves with no specialized equipment needed, most DVD player manufacturers are increasingly ignoring region coding locks too.

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    1. Well, when you put it that way, the old British plug starts to look rather good! I didn't even notice the absence of switches on US outlets, but I'm starting to appreciate British engineering a bit more again.

      It's good that technology is starting to coalesce (especially that horrid region-coding) though unfortunately that naturally means losing a few beloved pieces of technology. I'd just gotten the handle of the wee red, yellow and white plugs...

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    2. The best thing about those switches is, they have been present for years and years, but completely eliminate the relatively new problem of "Electrical Vampirism", where you think a machine is turned off but it's secretly still sucking juice and running your light bill up..

      I dunno if you have ever checked, but something you might find interesting, none of our TV's/DVD players etc. have SCART plugs on them. Though my Pioneer Laserdisc player has them..

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    3. "Electrical Vampirism" sounds like something entirely different to me...!

      I did note the lack of SCARTs on the TVs here, I figured it to be an American thingy.

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  2. Hero of the Federation21 May 2012 at 23:43

    Every day, Federal scientists are looking for new ways to kill bugs.

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  3. You need to visit Georgia, Al. The rolling green hills convinced many a Scotsman to settle here, my own ancestors included.

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    1. While I doubt I could ever leave my homeland for long, I don't rule out visiting anywhere. Ten years ago I would never have considered flying out to the middle of Texas, and five years ago I wouldn't have dared brave Arizona. Who knows what the future will bring?

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    2. Al, you and the ladies need to make it to Florida. You know you always have a place to stay with Claudia and me.

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    3. Hah, you'll live to regret saying that, Jeff!

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  4. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.

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  5. I'd not wish to inflict Atlanta Hartsfeild-Jackson on poor Al, Charles.

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    1. Heh, true Lagomorph. But you and I could meet him there and help him cope.

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  6. Good idea. I recommend the very first place we take him is The Vortex.

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    1. You madmen, you'll never take me alive!

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    2. Heh, yeah he'll love Little 5 Points.

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