This week in Bulgaria

I thought just for a laugh I’d pick a country at random and share some current news on ‘happening moments”. I chose Bulgaria………

beautiful Bulgaria

The item which caught my eye was an offer from Mensa to all the 318 Bulgarian candidates competing for Bulgaria’s 17 seats in the European Parliament to sit an IQ test.

With 17 days to go to Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections Mensa, not for the first time apparently sent out invitations to sit a free test. .

The test is free, and candidates should agree to their results being made public.

Apparently, these elections in Bulgaria are not the first time Mensa has issued such an invitation.

In September 2014, it issued the invitation to all 5232 candidates in the National Assembly elections. Sixteen accepted.

In 2016, four of the 21 presidential election candidates took the test. Their results were deemed “below average for society”. All four were eliminated at the first round, but perhaps for reasons of their obscurity rather than anything else. Neither of the two candidates who made it to the second round of the presidential elections – Tsetska Tsacheva and Roumen Radev (who won) took the test.

I wondered how our current UK politicians would do and came across this gem for Boris Johnson, would be future Prime Minister of ‘Great’ Britain…………..

Boris was asked: “Take two apples from three apples and what do you have?” Johnson said: “Loads of apples.” He then changed his answer to one apple. The answer the questioner wanted was two apples…………

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For Pho’s sake, fancy a burger?

A warning to the three people in the world who read this is to make sure you’ve had your dinner before you open the link at the end. There’s nothing malicious in the link, but it may cure your desire for fast food for a while 😀

I rarely eat fast food. I’ve never been to Greggs for years and McDonalds maybe once in as many as 5 years. We tend to cook at home or eat out. Once in a blue moon we’ll get a Chinese carry out (see ps at the bottom). So, the chance of me ending up in McDonalds were slim, but……. while holidaying in Australia, I’d been heading to downtown Sydney by train to a little Vietnamese place, Vermicelli near the QVB building at Town Hall. They served fresh Chicken Pho soup with hoisin, chilli, lemon etc. Lovely. I liked it that much, I think I went 5 or 6 times in 10 days. I even took a picture of my Pho….

Not fine dining but beautiful

It was Saturday and my wife had to go to the office to work. I set off yet again for my Pho soup. It was $10 of awesomeness (breakfast in the hotel was $38 !!) Even with the train fare and 2 diet cokes it still came to only $16. I wandered round to the train station at Circular Quay. As usual it was busy busy with tourists flocking to the ferries and Opera House. I was now a seasoned Opal card expert ad flicked it over the sensor to open the gate to the station. I should have realised things would be different today when the stairs to my usual platform were blocked off with ‘No entry’ tape.

Big ships and tourists at Circular Quay

Luckily they had someone there to tell me I’d need to go to Central and walk or get the bus back to Town Hall. This was fine. My Pho pilgrimage was back on. 15 minutes later I was in sweaty Central. 28 deg C and even more hot and humid underground. I needed my nice cool Vermicelli cafe, my diet cokes and even more my PHO PHO PHO!!

I set off on my slightly longer walk, rucksack on back and a now rumbling stomach. For a Scotsman used to slightly greyer skies and 20 degree lower temperatures, by the time I got to Stockland Food Court, I could feel the sweat running down my back. My pace along Pitt St quickened. I entered the building, my journey was nearly over, my Pho was nearly min………..closed……what do you mean CLOSED!! The whole Food Court was in darkness. It turned out quite a few of the cafes and fooderies in downtown Sydney close at the weekend as all the city workers are having barbecues, sailing, swimming or sitting on the beach. I stood like a child who’d had lost his favourite toy. I pictured office city slickers stuffing their faces with barbecued short ribs and a cold beer laughing in the sunshine while I stood like a wet burst balloon.

I slowly walked back to Central. I could have found another place. There are hundreds, but, I was in the huff. It served me right. I’d assumed rather than checked. It was my own fault I was Pholess. 😞

It wasn’t long before I was back at Circular Quay. There are loads of eateries there so I wasn’t going to be stuck. Then I saw it. On the corner opposite the train station was a McDonalds. No Dave don’t do it. Don’t. Noodles and fresh chicken in a sweet broth is what u need. That’s healthy, Not a Big Mac and fries. I was through the door and in.

First thing I noticed were the large screens. Ooh, ordering was all automatic. I’d never seen that before. I watched a kid order a meal in seconds and pay for it using his phone. I thought…..doddle. Within seconds I’d ordered a chicken burger with medium fries and a Diet Coke. I was starving, this was quick, cool and easy. They even had a screen where I could follow my number 106 meal’s status. It was currently at the ‘preparing’ stage. I wondered whether this was now the norm and I was just out of touch. Suddenly my status changed to ‘Ready’ and my meal was mine. I rushed round the corner to my hotel , whisked 22 floors up in the lift and wheeched through the door to gorge. It was after noon so I’d probably have eaten hummus with a side of polenta by now, so I didn’t even feel bad as I stuffed french fries down my throat.

who needs people when you can have this……..

Later in the day I admitted the offence to my wife, who, instead of rolling her eyes and tutting, said she’d like to go there too. So, a few days later we stood outside McDonalds once more.

‘It’s cool, they’ve got these screens, you just click, pay and it’s there in seconds’

‘Great, I’m starving’ she replied.

We went in.

I’d big upped the place and the speed of service, so, when I was a screen with ‘Out of Service’ on it, I was slightly embarrassed. I turned right only to find ALL the screens had the same message. Even the little service status screen was dead.

I had to actually stand in a queue, speak to someone AND hand cash over the counter. How 21st century humiliating 😀😀

We ate our grub outside in the sunshine and laughed at how easily technology can fall down. When I was a kid we used to go to Matthews cafe in The Vennel with my Dad. They had no computers, just nice staff , and, the greatest chips ever made. The staff knew us. They talked to us. Asked us about life, football and chips. Now 10yr old kids were interfacing via their Huawei with a screen which could die on them at any second. I decided not all new technology was progress.

The next day I was back in Pho city. The woman serving smiled and said hello.

‘You are back’ she said

‘Yes. I love your Pho soup’

She pointed through to the chap preparing the food through the back.

‘Everything is prepared fresh’

I smiled. It was great to be back…….

‘For Pho’s sake, fancy a burger?’ was written by David Linden. Catch me on Titter @qosfc1919 – ©️Dodo Productions 2019

PS in looking up a picture of the touchscreens in McDonalds and when they’d been introduced (2017 I believe) I found this article…….. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/health/a759768/traces-of-poo-found-on-every-mcdonalds-touchscreen-kiosk-tested/ I’ll say no more 😂

Centennial Park , Sydney

Although I’d class myself as a long way off being a ‘twitcher’, I do like birds. Despite having some decent camera equipment, I’m lazy. Sitting for hours waiting on ‘that’ moment isn’t in my DNA. I even bought a portable hide which I tried out once and has sat in the garage ever since. However, Sydney provided some easy opportunities to see nature close up. I couldn’t take my 150-600 Sigma lens so stowed my D700 with a Tamron 70-200 hoping to raise the energy to actually use it.

After a couple of days on the beach, I told my wife we were heading to Centennial Park. I think I’m right in saying it’s the biggest park in Sydney (although what difference that makes to anything I’m not sure 😎)

‘What’s there?’ she said suspiciously.

‘Wait until we get there. It’s a small surprise’

Map of Centennial Park

It wasn’t miles and miles away from our hotel, but, in over 25 deg C heat, a Scotsman can get sweaty and grumpy, all at the same time. So, I searched to see if the excellent train system went by the park, starting from Circular Quay in Sydney harbour.

So, having pursued all the train timetables and routes, an hour later we were on a bus. Yes, bus. Now, Sydneys trains and ferries are comfortable and easy to get around with. The trains are double decker, quiet and clean. The ferries are easy to hop on and off, leading you to stunning views and beaches. The buses…….for a start they are mostly bendy buses. So they have the concertina bit that allows them to be a bit longer and get round corners more easily. However, although the first bus was easy to find as the bus stop was near the ferry terminal at Circular Quay, the electronic screens on the bus didn’t work, so you had to guess where you were and our bus driver seemed intent on breaking the Guinness World record for squeezing the most people on a bus. At one point a Japanese tourist came on and asked the driver if the bus went to Bondi beach. We were already standing and squeezed into the bendy bit of the bus. To my dismay the driver said ‘yes’. This ‘wrong answer’ resulted in a further 20+ tourists leaping aboard.

‘Oh what fun’ I thought as another 20 tourists got their Huawei’s out. As the fun of getting around Sydney in comfort and calm dissipated rapidly, I held on for dear life looking for a sign for Centennial Park. Around 10 stops later I decided to take a leap of faith and press the red button to stop the bus and perhaps get the driver back for squashing us by getting off and ruining his World record attempt.

Eventually we found ourselves on the side street as the mobile phone addicts careered off in the distance towards Bondi beach (I didn’t have the heart to tell them Bondi faces the wrong way for the sun at this time of year, so you have to lie the opposite way to get a sun tan 🙂 )

It wasn’t long before we managed to find an entrance to Centennial Park. At first I thought I’d messed up as there were very view people, a couple of dead ends and not much going on. However I did manage to take a not very good picture of this bird which might be a cockatoo of some sort. At this point I’m not 100% sure. 🙂

Pretty sure it’s a Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo

My other half was getting hot and sweaty and a bit frustrated at my vain attempts to get a half decent picture of said Cockatoo.

‘Where are we going?’

I remembered I’d taken a copy of the map above on my I-pa, so I wheeched it out and soon we were heading for civilisation. After another 10 minutes walk we started to spot cars and people. It was Easter Monday and soon it was obvious some of the locals had set up family barbecues and picnics. Some had music going, some were playing football, some were just having a cold beer in the shade.

We stumbled on a large cafe in the centre which was pretty busy so we bypassed it and headed for a seat beside one of the ponds. There were various birds enjoying the pond so I powered up the Nikon and randomly snapped away.

I really liked these black swans…….

cooling down in the water…..
On a mission…..

There were geese, cormorants, Moorhens and Coots

Cormorants basking in the sunshine

I soon realised we’d have been better buying a portable barbecue, some beers and taking a couple of beach towels as we were both getting thirsty, hungry and hot. With only a couple of bottles of water in the rucksack and a cafe with no seats left, I’d come ill prepared. I consoled myself by thinking about all those tourists facing the wrong way on Bondi beach 🙂

We found another pond which contained large fish and more colourful feathered characters

At this point I still hadn’t found what I was here for. Another look at the map and we headed off for a part of the park called Lachlan Reserve. With the promise of a nice cold white wine when we returned to Circular Quay, my other half trudged on. Eventually, I looked up and found what I was looking for. While locals through rugby balls to each other I looked up to the trees…..

all wrapped up…..

….Flying foxes…..loads of them…hanging from every tree. Huge vampiry type hanging things everywhere. Suddenly something startled them and they took to the skies.

amazing looking creatures

The bats that live beside us in Scotland are tiny, only come out at dusk and are so quick you can’t get s shot of them. These creatures were gliding from tree to tree majestically. I’d ticked a box 🙂

With the photo session a wrap we headed off for our rendezvous with the returning Bondi beach crowd. The first bus was so full it drove right by us. The second one was also full but I think it was the Guinness Book of Records guy and he let us on. Squashed and hot we finally made it to base. Next time I’d use Uber 🙂

Back to base safely

Centennial Park – theworldaccordingtodave @qosfc1919 on Twitter ©️Dodo Productions 2019

Crane – The Voyage of Ineptitude Chapter VI – The Drekken

Commodore Higgins stress levels were reaching epic proportions. Crane was never supposed to lift off, never mind disappear into space. Although he’d given him the most useless spaceship ever, the most useless crew, the most useless mute aliens, he’d escaped. His father was dead, his ship was a heap of rust, but , he’d still managed to evade him. There was little chance he would discover his plan, but, he was a nagging thorn in his side. If he caught up with the rest of the fleet, he would die anyway. If he got that far, his new friends would deal with him. However, Higgins had nothing to lose by hunting him down and killing him anyway…….

Crane sat in his warm bed contemplating the present, the past, the future, the fact Fittipaldi was snoring no more than a poke in the eye’s distance away. Since landing randomly on Planet Taupu, he and his crew had been nearly tickled to death by some small furry animals, almost gored by a by a giant bull type rhino thing, hypnotised to death by Greks and squashed by giant fireballs. Apart from that everything had been hunky dory.  

The crew had gorged themselves on food and beer to the point where the majority were sleeping soundly. The unit Bloorp had managed to transport from the Arkadia 2, had enough bunk beds to hold 20 people and a large open communal area and kitchen. Crane decided to join them and go to sleep. The morning and decisions about what on earth to do next could wait……

The Drekken wasn’t quite standing in front of the rock face….you see, it was sitting having a cup of whatever evil aliens drinks, a million miles away in space….the thing on guard was the hosts Kreta – whatever it could see, the host slurping whatever Drekken slurped, whilst no doubt watching the Evil Alien equivalent of Housewives of Atlanta on daytime TV, could see as well. The thing that made the Drekken’s Kreta particularly good and evil, depending on your point of view, was its ability to alter its energy field, it not only could change shape, create its own force field, and, make fierce noises at will, it could make itself almost invisible to both a human eye and standard electromagnetic tracking devices. It also had a weapons array which was scary, even, when just written in biro on an A4 sheet of paper. It scanned the area…….all it could see were Greks, presumably trying to find prey to hypnotise, and the 10 Armataks stationed beside it.

The next morning Bloorp was already ahead of everyone else’s game. 

‘Mr Crane. I have a plan which might pave a way to reach your fathers signal’

‘That would be great Bloorp, because the only idea I have is to stay here and hide from the Greks, the fireballs, the cold and anything else that might be lurking on this ball of nonsense’ 

‘Well Sir, I have been monitoring the electromagnetic interference overnight, and, every 35 minutes, it fades to a point where not only can I contact the Arcadia 2, I can transfer equipment or people in oth directions. My scans have found a Skydiver module in Bay 324 of the Arcadia 2 right next to some boxes of plastic cup holders. If I transfer it to this position, we can fly through the ice peaks and fireballs to the signal position much more quickly than we are currently managing to do’

‘Fantastic work Bloorp, let’s go!!’

‘There is only one problem Mr Crane’

‘What is that Bloorp?’

‘The Skydiver can only take two of us. The rest would have to transfer to the ship or stay here’

‘That sounds ok. You and me fly to the signal area. Try and find out whether my father is still alive. Go back to the ship and go home. Great plan!’

‘There is a but Sir…..’

Crane rolled his eyes. Ever since they left Earth, every sentence seemed to end with a ‘but…’

‘Well, during the lulls in interference I have been able to detect what is out there’

‘and….?’

‘I have detected several Armataks and another lifeform which I have never encountered before. It appears sentient but made up of some new form of energy. There are also approximately 526 Dreks…..’

‘and don’t tell me. This mysterious lifeforms is right where we are going?’

‘I’m afraid so Mr Crane….I’m afraid so’

‘What about the signal area? Have you gleaned any information on what’s there?’

‘It would appear to be an encrypted force field protecting something else. The Armataks appear to be stationed around it, as is the energy form’

‘Why would they not enter the force field? Are they protecting it?’

‘It could be a trap Sir, that I cannot tell. However, your father’s signal is coming from within the force field. If he set up photon encryption the Armataks would not have a clue how to open it and, perhaps it is something the other mysterious entity cannot decipher either’

‘So, what next Bloorp’

‘I suggest we transfer the crew back to the Arcadia 2, transfer the Skydiver module to this position, you and I fly to the position and land in an area where I’ve detected a high magnetic field. This may allow us to get close but unseen’

‘Ok Bloorp. Let’s go’

Commodore Higgins stared at the 3D image in the centre of the room. There stood Earths President Sultar Omegin, as usual draped in garish green robes and gold jewellery. Higgins could not stand the man. Soon he wouldn’t need to….

‘Good afternoon Commodore. I trust your unexpected lift off from Earth bodes no ill?’

‘No…no…no President Omegin. A new engine prototype needed testing, and, with most of the new fleet out on their lengthy mission beyond the Copernicus boundary, I thought I would be the first to test it’

‘Yes……that was something I wanted to ask you about. Why would we send nearly ALL of Earth’s modern defence force on a potentially risky mission leaving us relatively defenceless?’

Higgins coughed briefly….

‘We are building more and our agents across the systems have indicated no threats to either our Solar System nor our other bases beyond’

‘That’s not quite the story I’m hearing. The message I’ve heard is one of our fleet on this ‘special mission’ of yours was damaged after coming into contact with an unknown vessel. I also hear you have a rogue ship which was fired upon while trying to leave EarthDock. Perhaps you could enlighten me?’

‘I have not heard of any such attack. The damaged ship you mention had an engine failure which has been repaired. As for the ‘rogue ship’, there was indeed a ship stolen by a traitor who managed somehow to evade our security systems. We are currently hunting him down and he will be treated accordingly’

‘Good. I wouldn’t like to think you are letting things slip Commodore.’

….before the Commodore had a chance to reply the President disappeared from view. He thumped the table. Who had attacked the fleet and managed to inflict so much damage. He knew of only one race with weaponry superior to Earth’s fleet and he knew it couldn’t be them…..

Earth Credit Molybdenumgp03

With the crew safely back aboard the Arcadia 2, Bloorp and Crane kindled up the engine of the SkyDiver. Silent, due to it’s photon drive system, stealthier than an Aberdonian opening his wallet, it would be difficult for anything to detect them. They skimmed quietly between the ice towers toward the signal. Within twenty minutes, they’d reached their destination. Crane grabbed a Disruptor 7E whilst Bloorp took his most dangerous weapon, his mind.

‘Captain Crane……I can sense the other entity. It may be able to sense us. It’s energy is being transmitted from another source. It is not real in the human sense but it it is emitting brain waves. I’ve never come across such a thing. If it is dangerous, we certainly can’t kill it’

‘Oh great. This journey just gets better and better.

‘I suggest I disable the Armataks while you distract the entity’

‘Oh….so you get the easy job and I get to take on an energy field with a brain’

‘Captain Crane. Once I have dealt with the Armataks, I will change places with you and you have to find a way in’

‘Ah ok, fair play. I’ll probably be dead by then but at least it’ll be over with quickly’

Crane and Bloorp skirted the last ice tower. Five red and black armoured Armataks stood in front of a rock face with a large cave which shimmered in the cold blue light.

‘There’s a force field covering the entrance. If it was indeed your father who was here, he left this to protect something.’

Just then a laser energy blast cut through the ice just above Bloorp’s head.

‘Armatak directly behind you Captain!!’

Crane swivelled, ducked, rolled over twice, shot and missed. Luckily this distracted the Armatak which gave Bloorp the chance to send a concentrated Gamma radiation burst through it. With the plan already in tatters, Crane ran to the left of the entrance taking out two Armataks on his way. Bloorp managed to lift himself twenty feet off the ground allowing him to pick off the Armataks near the right hand side of the rock face.

As ice powder settled and energy beams died, Crane and Bloorp found themselves standing in front of the energy field.

Suddenly two things happened. Crane’s fathers voice spoke and the Kreta started moving.

‘Hello. My name is Peter Crane. If you receive this message, the only way to enter is by saying the nickname I called my dear wife’

‘Wow. It’s him. It’s his voice’

‘Captain Crane. If you know the answer I would hurry. I think our friend has awoken’

Crane turned to see something tall, shimmery black with yellow eyes walking towards them.

‘He called her different things……Mary…….’

Nothing happened

‘Bunnykins’

Nothing happened

‘I would hurry Sir……’

Even Bloorp sounded scared.

The only reason they were not dead was the Kreta was waiting on instructions from his Drekken. Fortunately for Crane and Bloorp the particular Drekken in question was watching a film about The Drekken killing everyone in the universe. Suddenly the Drekken clicked something was going down. He could now see what his Kreta could see. One thought of ‘kill’ was enough to bring an extra glow to the Kreta’s already glowing eyes.

Just as a flash of something left the left arm of the Kreta Crane uttered the word…..

‘CuddleBumps!!’

Sometime later Crane awoke. He was sore. Everything ached. The good news he acknowledged, the fact he could feel pain possibly suggested he was still alive. He looked up…..

‘Thank you Mr Crane for saving our lives’

Bloorp’s head, which normally took the shape of a large magnifying glass, was in it’s almost human form.

‘You guessed correctly Sir, the force field opened, you pushed me through and jumped. in a nanosecond the force field closed again which stopped us being vaporised’

‘Where’s the thing?’

‘There’

Crane turned. He could see the glowing eyes parading up and own outside. It looked angry.

‘I guess we might die getting back out but let’s see what’s inside here’

Bloorp and Crane walked into the pitch black cave. Bloorp reverted to his viewer and lit the path. The first thing Crane noticed was a cool breeze. That meant either an air-conditioning system or another source of air. They walked for about five minutes when suddenly the area around them lit up. A large almost transparent screen appeared above a metal desk in front of which was a chair.

The screen flickered into life. Crane’s father appeared.

W’At last Christopher, you’ve found me. I knew you would. I have much to tell you but hopefully there will be time to share our stories at some future date. I may be dead by the time you read this, but hopefully not. We have no time to lose. To cut a long story short, Commodore Higgins tried to kill me. He thought he’d succeeded, but I managed to escape. I have been one step ahead of them on the run ever since. He is plotting something so bizarre, so evil, he will kill all of us and everyone on Earth. We HAVE to stop him’

Crane turned to Bloorp. Bloorp turned to Crane. They looked back at the screen…….

‘I set off on Luna 5th of 2340 with the aim of finding a base on a small moon called Scillus surrounding the planet Metra. The planet has an advanced civilisation with advanced weaponry and sensory systems so be careful. I’m hoping Higgins will want to avoid moving EarthForce ships near that system. That might buy me time and my life. Hopefully, I will see you there. Good luck’

With that the screen disappeared leaving Crane and Bloorp in the darkness with only the yellow light of the very agitated Kreta, lurking outside the Force field at the cave entrance.

‘I’m presuming that wasn’t around when Dad left. It doesn’t look like it’s leaving anytime soon. Any ideas on how to get back to the ship without being frazzled, mollicated or zapped to death’

‘Mr Crane. The force field stops 30metres into the cave. We might be lucky and find another way out or we may be trapped for ever. If we attempt to leave by the front entrance I give us a 10% probability of surviving. If you open the forcefield again we can try to escape another way’

‘……and what probability of success do you give that option?’

‘Less than 5% since I do not know what is behind the energy field’

Crane groaned. A less than 1 in 10 chance of success either way. He stood up and started walking toward the back of the cave.

‘Ok. On my mark I’ll say the password, we’ll jump through. The forcefield will close and we’ll see where that takes us’

Bloorp followed Crane to the edge of the forcefield.

Crane turned. His face only lit by the dim glow from Bloorp’s head.

‘Wait a minute. What if we open the forcefield twice or even thrice in the hope that thing enters the cave. It then closes trapping the beast inside. I know it still leaves us in the lap of the gods, but, at least it won’t be it that kills us’

‘That might work Mr Crane. I’m impressed’

‘Thank you Bloorp.’

Crane shouted ‘Cuddlebumps’ fourteen times before the Kreta finally stumbled into the cave. Unfortunately it was fassssst. It rocketed towards Crane at the speed of light. It was almost upon them when the forcefield closed. Crane opened his eyes.

Forcefield closed – check

Kreta other side of forcefield- check

Bloorp on correct side of forcefield – check

‘Well, that went well’

It was about then they heard the growling noise from behind them…………

‘Crane – The Voyage of Ineptitude Chapter VI – The Drekken’ was brought to you by @qosfc1919 and DodoProductions©️2019

#sketchjanuary

I don’t even begin to state I can draw but if you practice you can usually draw something like it’s at least recognisable. One thing I love about Twitter is there are many talented people who don’t care whether you’re great at something or not, they just want to share their enjoyment of a subject. My drawings I’ve contributed to the 2019 of #sketchjanuary are well ordinary, but who cares, join in the fun. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.