Friday, 30 December 2011

I haven't done chemistry in seven years and I won't apologize

Oh, have I a tale to tell you, my friends. A saga for the ages. A story of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds and the true spirit of courage. A narrative tapestry of such a heart-rending beauty that even this paragraph of flowery bollocks can barely do it justice.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a story about a patch of mould.

I'll give you a minute to change your underwear.

Ready? Okay.

So it came to pass yesterday a few weeks six months ago that I had a lot of free time and almost no idea what to do with it, a circumstance admittedly rare in the tumultuous intrigues of my life HAHAHAHA no it's really not. Anyway, I decided I would alleviate my boredom with large quantities of beer.

But no! I must stop you there, dear reader, for this is not what you think. For I was not planning on drinking beer, oh no. No, I was going to use this time to BREW beer.

As an aside, I highly recommend beer-brewing to any self-respecting alcoholic bum out there as a cheap and wholesome way of maintaining your inebriated stupor in this economic climate. With nothing more than a big bucket, a good sense of hygiene and a fair amount of patience - okay, you can probably get away with just the bucket - you can turn fifteen quids' worth of ingredients into forty-plus pints of delicious golden brew guaranteed to refresh your palette through summer eves and winter nights. Well, that's the theory. What you'll probably get is forty-plus pints of a substance that could only be called beer out of an act of pitiable charity, but it's alcoholic and only occasionally poisonous and that's all that usually matters.

Anyway. Unless you're planning to drink the whole bucket in one go, you'll also need bottles. As it turns out, bottles are like twenty-five quid for a box of twenty. Bollocks to that, I thought, I work at a pub. So I nicked some out of the recycling skips.

This is where the mould comes in. Well, this is where mould in general comes in. The specific bit of mould – the shining thread of this weave – isn't here just yet. But he will be. Have patience, oh readers.

Now, I'd like you to imagine the state of the bottles I pulled out of the skip that bright sunshiny afternoon. And if you envisioned a bunch of slimy, crusty lumps that could probably crawl away under their own power if you left them for more than five seconds, then you're a tit. The average pub's recycling bins are emptied every two or three days at the very least. There's no time for any sort of mould to form. Give 'em a once-over with sterilizer solution and you're golden.

Unless, of course, you happen to suffer from a chronic case of Lazy Bastard, with the condition manifesting such symptoms as shoving all your bottles in the garage the moment you get home and forgetting everything of their existence for nearly three weeks. I'm certain there are websites out there with worse stuff in them than these bottles had, but if you've ever visited them you're probably due a visit from the child protection services any day now.

So. It turns out mould is a right bastard to get rid of if all you've got to hand is Fairy Liquid and a bottle brush; even bleach doesn't seem to shift the stuff. However, remember I mentioned using sterilizing solution? Well, the particular brand I use must have been made from the pixie dust of the magical land of I Want To Kill Fucking Everything, because nothing survives contact with this stuff. I'm quite sure the only reason it didn't eat through the bottles themselves is because it's quietly plotting the destruction of the entire cosmos and didn't want to reveal its capabilities too soon.

So the process for cleaning the bottles becomes thus:

  • Fill a bucket with twenty-five litres of warm water.  
  • Dissolve into this aqueous trove a single teaspoonful of sterilizing powder. Just the one. 
  • Fill a mould-infested bottle with this apparently pathetic solution.
  • Set the bottle down on a tabletop. 
  • Watch.

And maybe ten seconds in, the mould clinging so stubbornly to the bottle just seems to... give up. It just peels away and, like a nerd trying to have a life, drifts about aimlessly for a while before slowly breaking down.

And so, gleeful that I have once again found a short-cut around honest labour, I set about on that most British of past-times, colonial genocide. Fill a bottle, wait a while, empty bottle, rinse and repeat. (Hah! That's, like, the first time I've ever seen that phrase used in a situation where you actually do rinse something before repeating! Truly, every day brings a new experience.) All is well. Then, about thirty bottles in, I notice...

Here we are, ladies and gentlemen. This is the moment. Allow me to introduce the star of this spiel. The manliness that is. Give a big hand to:

A Spot of Mould About a Half-Centimetre Wide.

Since my camera is shit, our protagonist is played here by an actor.

Now, the bottle had been standing for the requisite amount of time and the solution was murky with the sludge of vanquished mycelia... but this one spot was still there. Whatever alchemical wonders comprised the sterilizer I was using, they hadn't worked their magic on this little guy (or girl, let us not be non-inclusive). It simply sat there, apparently unaware anything had even been going on. Well, it would, wouldn't it.

Okay, no biggie. This isn't even the first one I came across: a half-dozen other bottles all had some tough specimens too. So I rinsed, re-dosed, and let it stand for another five minutes.

And... no effect. Huh. Now this, I thought, is unusual. None of the others survived two doses.

Third dose. Extra-hot water. Shake bottle vigorously. Still no effect.

I stared down the neck of the bottle and I fancied I saw it staring back. And it was jeering. Waving its middle fingers and going ''Hurrr, is that all you've got? Huh? Huh?''

Oh, this shit is on.

I fill the bottle with water again, and this time I pour an entire spoonful of powder in along with it. The same dose that, so far, has been sufficient to cleanse thirty-nine other bottles. Hah! Take that, you little bastard! Let's see you survive this one!

Now twenty-five litres is, conveniently, around forty pints, making the solution in this bottle forty times stronger than the stuff I was using before. To give some idea of what this means, here's some other examples of things being multiplied about forty times:

Getting punched in the face by some average dude.
Getting punched in the face by four world champion boxers at the same time.
Eating a ham sandwich.
Eating like it's Christmas every meal for three days running.
Lifting a person of average weight.
Lifting a car.

No, wait, hang on: I'm British, so we're talking average weight in Britain here, aren't we. Quick correction:

Lifting three hundred cars that are made of lead after turning the local gravity up a few orders of magnitude.
Lifting a person of average weight.

You know, once upon a time it used to be the Americans who were all fat cunts and we Brits would point at you and snicker. And then one day my fellow countrymen just decided to start inhaling fish and chips instead of air. Nice going, crotchspots.

So anyway, you now have some idea of just how much stronger this solution was compared to its predecessor. This thing is like the Hulk of cleaning solutions. I swirl the bottle and I watch, intrigued.

And watch.

And watch...

... and nothing happens. Nada. Zilch.

All right, what the fuck.

I empty out the bottle and get another spoonful of powder - but I don't bother with water this time. Oh no, this time I empty the dry sterilizer right on top of this cavalier mouldy rebel. Fuck solution. I watch as the powder soaks directly in. I fancy I can hear it screaming, and I smile. Oh I smile, readers, and I walk away laughing as it burns.

Now despite the direct application of powder there was still a bit of water in the bottom of that bottle, which conveniently allows us to get a ballpark strength of this fresh assault. Let's assume about 20ml of water. The previous solution was a pint, which is 568 ml. (The British pint, at least. The US pint is 473ml, because we Brits can hold our drinks better. Oh wait, no we can't, can we, because we're also the drunkest nation in the world. What the fuck happened to us? WE USED TO RULE A QUARTER OF THIS FUCKING PLANET, WHY ARE WE SUDDENLY SO SHIT?). So we round up to 600ml because I can't be arsed, and this solution comes out at 30 times more powerful than the last one. That's 1200 times more powerful than the first one (well, assuming I disregard the saturation point since not all the powder could dissolve in the BLAH DE BLAH BORED NOW). Here are some things being multiplied about 1200 times:

The length and width of a mouse.
The length and width of a football field.
The total word count of all the books in the British Library.
The total word count of all the "Arrow in the knee" comments posted on Youtube in the last five seconds.
How sad I must have to be to have written this article.
How sad you must be to have read this far.

Five minutes later, I come back. I swirl the sludge around in the bottom of the bottle. I look through the glass.

It's still there.

I fancy I hear something in the recesses of my brain go 'ping'.

I'm not too sure what happened next. I remember there was screaming. Lots of screaming. I remember gnawing at the bottle mouth as if I could chew through the glass and kill that fucking mould with my bare hands. I remember suddenly being in the kitchen with a boiling kettle; I remember pouring boiling water into the bottle until the plastic funnel buckled and melted into ruin; I remember pouring two, two spoonfuls of powder in after it. At double potency, and since apparently the rate of a reaction doubles for every ten degree rise in temperature, I estimated this solution to have a cleaning potential of like a billion times more than when we started. Here are some things being multiplied about like a billion times:

A pound.
Like a billion pounds.

I remember seizing the bottle and shaking it until my hands blistered from the heat, until the air inside the bottle heated and the pressure shot up and boiling-hot sterilizing solution sprayed from the mouth and up my arms, and I remember how I lurched to the sink and tipped out the bottle and rinsed out the bottle and peered into the bottle and the mould was




And I remember... calmness. I remember quietly setting the bottle down, and slumping to the floor. And I remember crying as I lay there. Beaten. Humiliated. Unmanned by a lion in the guise of penicillin.

Folks, I didn't think there was any organism on God's green Earth could put up with the beating I gave this little guy. (Well, except maybe Deinococcus radiodurans. Or Thermococcus gammatolerans. Or any organism bigger than the average cat, which could almost certainly shrug it off with nothing more drastic than reconstructive surgery and a few years of counselling.) It was like something out of Braveheart. I threw at him the most powerful cleaner I had, I threw it super-concentrated, I threw it undiluted and I threw it boiling, and still he found the strength to look me in the eye and scream “FREEDOOOOM!”

Like this, except instead of Mel Gibson it's an old piece of crap at the bottom of a bottle. Oh wait.

I'd like to propose that we remember this little patch, ladies and gentlemen; that we remember his pluck and his courage and his resilience that let him bear a hundred times what a hundred of his companions could not. I say raise your drinks this hour and OH GOD I NEED A LIFE

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

No, I'm not 'Goal-Oriented'. Thanks for asking.

Oh, fuck it. The updates I've been pecking away at for the last nine months obviously aren't going to materialize any time soon, so here's a random rant I threw up last month at

What's with this sudden obsession job adverts have with "enthusiastic, extroverted goal-oriented team-players with a true zest for life and a real motivation to start a career in (x)"? I mean, it's bad enough that we're in a recession and there's fuck-all jobs for anyone, but now you can't even score an interview unless the prospect of being a part-time data-entry clerk leaves jizz stains across your CV.

I don't just mean being happy to have a job. I'm chuffed with anything that lets me earn money, but that's just the problem. They don't want you to do a job to earn money. They want you to do a job because it's your 'career goal'. Because it's what you've 'always wanted to do'. As if everyone ought to dream of one day selling sofas or dealing with tax receipts.

What I want to know is where this sudden requirement for enthusiasm came from. When, in all the time society spent trying to mould you into a good little human being, has enthusiasm for what you do EVER been important? Did you go to school because you liked it? Made sure to finish your homework for the sheer orgasmic thrill of doing algebra? Did you take a part-time job because packing the shopping of some half-dead old biddy who stinks of cat piss and keeps talking about her latest bowel movement is something you dreamed of since you were three years old, or was it to get some money and make your parents shut up?

At no point does 'wanting' to do something ever enter into anything. In fact, how often do you attempt to do something you WANT to do and get slapped down because apparently it's wrong? All they drill into you that hard work is usually, you know, hard, and quite often in life you have to do unpleasant things if you want to succeed, and that everyone has to do unpleasant things, and basically it doesn't matter what your feelings are as long as you get it done. And you get to the job market and people tell you that most people hate their jobs and hating the job doesn't matter, and they tell you 'Oh, you can't just wait for your DREAM JOB to turn up, you have to go out and do ANYTHING, even if you HATE IT,' and so you apply for a bunch of stuff you hate, and then bam! You come to the interview and suddenly unless you can prove that you 'like' the job, that it's your 'dream career', you can't get shit. The interviewer just goes 'Sorry, you seem like you wouldn't like this and I'm not going to hire someone who'd hate working here.' And then everyone else - the SAME FUCKING FUCKERS who told you to go apply for things you don't like - hear that you failed and go WHY ARE YOU APPLYING FOR THINGS THAT YOU HATE THAT'S DUMB YOU'RE DUMB YOU DUMBASS.

And as long as we're on the subject, how is half the shit they ask for in job adverts even quantifiable? It's like every single advert has a list of 'essential skills' and it's never stuff like "knows how to actually use a computer / wire plugs / install plumbing", is it? It's always "must be a Team Player, must be able to Solve Problems." Who doesn't have these skills? Oh, you want me to prove I'm a team player? Okay, once upon a time I was in a team and the team leader asked me to do something, and I responded by doing it instead of stabbing him in the face. As for problem solving, well! This one time, I realised I was hungry, so I got myself something to eat. So, when can I start?

None of this stuff was ever mentioned beforehand. If it's all really so important then there ought to have been some manner of class for it: they force you to learn the scribblings of some twat playwright who's been dead 400 years, surely they could devote a class or two on how to answer retarded questions. Oh wait, that IS what school does, isn't it. Never mind then.

So anyway, fuck it. I'm just going to play videogames and get fat until I see "Help Wanted: Must be a miserable cunt."