si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: fun

A Random Song I Like: Sia – Academia

So here’s a random song I’ve just recently been introduced to (it’s from a decade ago, but hey, better late than never, right?)

Lyrically, it really tickles my geek side. The staccato tempo is delightful, plus, of course, Sia has one hell of a voice.

(a great fan vid version – there doesn’t seem to be an official video)

You can be my alphabet and I will be your calculator
And together we’ll work out on the escalator
I will time you as you run up the down
And you’ll measure my footsteps as I blow through this town
The mean of our heights is divided by the nights
Which is times’d by the daggers and the root of all our fights,
The pass of your poem just to swathe me in your knowing
And the beauty of the word is that you don’t have to show it

Oh academia you can’t pick me up
Soothe me with your words when I need your love

I am a dash and you are a dot
When will you see that I am all that you’ve got
I’m a binary code that you cracked long ago
But to you I’m just a novel that you wish you’d never wrote
I’m greater than x and lesser than y
So why is it that I still can’t catch your eye?
You’re a cryptic crossword, a song I’ve never heard
While I sit here drawing circles I’m afraid of being hurt

Oh academia you can’t pick me up
Soothe me with your words when I need your love

You’re a difficult equation with a knack for heart evasion
Will you listen to my proof or will you add another page on
It appears to me the graph has come and stolen all the laughs
It appears to me the pen has over analysed again
And if I am a number I’m infinity plus one
And if you are five words you are afraid to be the one
And if you are a number you’re infinity plus one
And if I am four words then I am needing of your love

Oh academia you can’t pick me up
Soothe me with your words when I need your love

Oh academia, academia, academia
Oh academia, academia, academia


    A Weekend in Ireland

    Last weekend, my ridiculously lovely girlfriend took me on a surprise trip to Ireland for my birthday. My instructions were simple – turn up with a passport. Until we were through security, I had no idea which country we were going to, and even after we landed, I didn’t really know where we were. (For the fun of it, I was quite happy to cover my ears and turn away while she talked to officials and handed our boarding passes etc over)

    early morning

    In case you’re curious what London looks like at 4am in the morning – this is it. Kinda beautiful. Once you get farther away from the city lights, the sky opens up and the earliest moments of the dawn break through.


    si & m

    Tired but super excited and dressed for inclement weather. M & I on the plane. As I said, even after landing I wasn’t totally sure where we were. However, one hire car and an hour or so of driving later we ended up here:

    moher cliff with grass

    First stop – The Cliffs of Moher. Now, as exquisitely beautiful as they are (and up close? They truly are jaw dropping), they’re exciting for another reason too. These are the Cliffs of Insanity, from The Princess Bride! If you’d like to see what it’s like to climb them, check this:

    Apparently climbing is easier if you’re a pirate – no footwork is required – inconceivable!.


    moher cliff with tower

    To give you some idea of the huge scale of these things. It continued from here to the right about another 50%, and around the corner to the left you can see them stretching off into the far distance. Oh, and that tiny little blip on top? That’s a two storey castle. After all the climbing I’ve done, heights aren’t too much of an issue for me – but I have to say, being up there (with the highly variable wind gusts and no safety gear) standing closer than a foot to the edge definitely made my legs a little wobbly.


    sweater shop!

    After that we headed up to Galway for (what else?) a pint. On the way, we saw this – a super cute sweater shop. Which sold (of course) super cute sweaters.


    After walking around Galway, and driving the car back to the hire place, we then caught a cab to Limerick. Now, the Irish are notorious for liking their pubs. Indeed, the first place we stopped in Limerick was a wonderful little pub recommended by the cab driver (nothing like a local suggestion for a great place to get beer). Upon walking around we found this glorious stretch of road. It may not be super clear from the picture, but that is four, yes FOUR pubs in a row. Right next to each other. On one street. In a row.

    Ay. May. Zing.

    Never seen anything like it in my life.

    After Limerick, we trekked on to Dublin by train. Oh, I do love train journeys. We stayed in a gorgeous little hotel (with a wonderful bed and deep, fast filling bath) a short walk from town.

    Then, first thing the next morning – guess what?!?!?


    m with the guiness gate

    Yeeeeppppppp, the Guinness Brewery!

    If that’s not a perfect start to a birthday day, I don’t know what is.

    Now, I’ve been on the Guinness tour before, about a decade ago, but they have really picked up their game now. There’s a reason it’s been voted the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin two years in a row. For a start, there’s about five times as much information as before. The vast majority of the tour you just wander around at your own pace (you can get audio guides if you don’t speak English). They have almost no staff for the entire tour – they just don’t need it. There’s lots of clever multimedia work (eg being able to put yourself into a Guinness advert). So, they have massive throughput, vastly reduced staffing costs and a far superior tour. It’s a win-win-win. Smart. Genius, you might say.


    me pouring perfectly

    For example, as part of the tour, you get taught how to properly pour a Guinness. Along with getting to drink it, of course. Hey, I even have a certificate proving I can pour a perfect Guinness – with my birthday date on it! Woohoo! And if you think that was an accident, ha ha ha. I’m regularly reminded that while I’m no slouch, M is still farrrr smarter than I am.


    a guinness advert

    Another ridiculously fun/silly experience? This. Hehe. (I’m looking a little high, dammit, but still, awesome)

    all the guinnesses!

    Now what’s not to love about that? Perfect.


    dublin homeless

    Of course, with any travelling, it’s always the little things that are most fascinating. A homeless bedroll – ok, common enough. What I found most interesting here? Count the books. There’s three books left there with their roll – a veritable library. Oddly intriguing, I thought.


    dawson st

    Also, this. Oh boy.


    trinity bell tower

    We also checked out Trinity College, which was started, essentially, as an Irish answer to Oxford and Cambridge. That’s the central bell tower, which we were reliably informed peals out if ever a virgin walks underneath it. It hasn’t sounded in over 200 years. *cough*


    st patrick's cathedral

    As a small sign of how far I’ve come in terms of getting rid of my Catholic detritus, when M suggested visiting St Patrick’s Cathedral, I jumped at the chance. It’s obviously architecturally stunning. One whole end of it was repaired by Sir Benjamin Guinness (yes, of those Guinnesses) in 1860ish. There’s also a very interesting display on the left hand side, with a bunch of flags brought back by the Irish from various wars, dating back hundreds of years. Many of the flags are burnt beyond recognition. An odd place to store them, but a strong reminder of how core to the community these ancient houses of worship truly were.


    m in the garden

    There are, of course, many beautiful parks.


    And on a random whim, we went on an utterly impromptu pub crawl – The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. This is without a doubt the most fun public pub crawl I’ve ever been on. It’s run by a couple of actors, so has a combination of skits, poems, stories and general literary exposition and explanation. Now, I’m hardly a high brow reader (I read a couple of Pynchon’s books earlier this year and they just about made my head explode) but these guys made the whole thing incredibly approachable, entertaining and informative. I really can’t recommend it enough. It went for a few hours, but I could easily have hung out with them for several more.


    yarn bombed posts

    There’s also general merriment to be found. A different kind of bombing going on in Ireland these days, although the pain of The Troubles, even as far south as we were, was still widely felt and acknowledged. Never quite-too-directly talked about, but often surprisingly near the surface.


    yarn bombed bike

    First time I’ve ever seen one of these – that’s quite some effort there.


    train view

    We spent a ton of times on trains – which was glorious. Endless hours watching views like this – always different, always gorgeous.


    train snacks

    And of course, the best thing about travelling on trains – lots of secret snacks!


    cork floor plate

    One more train trip, and we ended up in Cork. Many of the streets in Cork have these gorgeous plates set in them. They appear to describe often defunct side alleys, many tiny, several blocked completely. Still, the plaques are intricate and exquisite.


    st fin barre's cathedral

    Cork has the Protestant St Fin Barre’s cathedral, which utterly dominates a huge part of the city. It also has statues of a groom, five wise virgins and five foolish virgins guarding the front door – which sounds like one hell of a wedding.



    After walking around utterly and somewhat intentionally lost for a couple of hours, we stumbled across this utterly wonderful local pub. They had a happy hour on, and as such the only beer we found in Ireland that was cheaper than London. I have no explanations what’s up with that.

    Eventually, our time in Ireland came to a close, so we headed back to the airport.

    airport fisherman

    Where we found this guy. I’m not sure what the fishing is like in an airport concourse, but he seems to be doing ok.


    airport cops

    The crazy thing is, the adventure still wasn’t over. As we came into London, the intercom came on – they were looking for a guy. Since he (apparently) didn’t immediately offer himself up, the entire plane was exited through the front door. There were two armed policemen waiting, checking everyone’s passports. Wait, did I say everyone? I meant just the guys. Eventually, some elderly fellow, in his 60s or 70s, hobbled down the stairs. He was the one they were after. The cops pulled him and his (obviously long suffering) wife aside and everyone else was allowed to go on their way.

    What a trip.


      Love Stories 7: Describe Her To Me

      A friend challenged me to write a story a day for seven days, on love. I’m going to post one a day.

      Roses are red,
      violets are blue,

      “Crap crap crap,” I say, screwing the paper up and throwing it into an ever growing pile.

      Roses are red,
      violets are blue,
      When I look…

      “Fccccccck.” This paper swiftly follows the last.

      I look despairingly at the ceiling.

      “Dan, what the hell am I going to do? I can’t finish it. I don’t know what to write. I just.. I just can’t.”

      Dan looks at me, always so patient with my moods.

      “Describe her to me,” he prompts, “what’s this girl like?”

      I think. I connect. I feel her, see her right there before me.

      “She’s flexible as a willow tree,” I say, “but moves like the wind.
      Her hair is smooth as night and when she smiles at me, the sun dims by compare.”

      I think a little more.

      “Being with her is like lying in a field of spring flowers at dusk.
      She melts my heart and excites me all at the same time.
      When she turns around, it’s all I can do not to grab her to me.
      All I want to do is touch her, hold her, love her, always.
      And her heart?
      Oh, her heart…”

      I pause again, lost in my reverie.

      “She’s the most peaceful, loving, supportive person I’ve ever met.
      She’s a goddess, walking the earth.
      Her very presence dissolves my fears and calms me completely.
      I can’t believe it’s possible someone so deeply beautiful actually exists.”

      Dan stares at me softly.

      “Dude,” he says quietly, “write that.”


      Back to the first story


        Love Stories 6: Tell Me You Love Me

        A friend challenged me to write a story a day for seven days, on love. I’m going to post one a day.

        “Who are you?”

        “It’s me, sweetie. Bertie. Your husband”

        “I don’t have a husband! Who are you? Get away from me!”

        The nurse comes over, face calm and patient, gait slow and measured. This is very familiar. Today is going to be a bad day.

        Sophia has good days and bad days. On good days, she’s a delight. Alive, excited by the world, loving and kind.

        On bad days…

        On bad days you do what you can.

        “It’s ok, Sophia,” reassures the nurse, “This is Bertie. He’s your husband. You’ve been married since you were high school sweet hearts.”

        “He doesn’t look like anyone I’d marry,” retorts Sophia, “Why would I marry someone so old?”

        It’s part of the brain condition. Sophia doesn’t know how old she is. There are no mirrors in this room. This is no accident. The nurse doesn’t need to add a shock related heart attack to her already busy schedule.

        “Why can I smell flowers?” demands Sophia. She starts frantically searching the room.

        There are no flowers. Another side effect.

        Bertie and the nurse share a glance. Normally, Bertie brings a small arrangement. Sophia can’t smell them, but it helps reassure her. Calms her. Lets her believe those are the flowers she’s smelling.

        They’re not. They never are.

        “You remember Bertie, don’t you Sophia?” the nurse gently guides her.

        “I don’t know,” replies Sophia grumpily, “maybe.”

        She doesn’t.

        “Let me tell you, beautiful,” soothes Bertie, “let me tell you about our lives together. Ok?”

        Sophia watches him, suspiciously, “Hmm. What else am I going to do? But don’t think you’re getting lucky.”

        Bertie grins at her. Even bad days have their lighter moments. And after all these years, Sophia is still the most beautiful woman in the world.

        Or maybe, because of all these years, she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

        The nurse smiles gently and leaves, quietly pulling the door closed behind her. It’s a comfortable routine.

        Bertie shifts his weight slightly. Gets comfortable. It was going to be a long day. Some days just are.

        “We met at Charleston High. I was a wrestler and you hated me.”

        “Sounds about right so far,” Sophia mutters, waspishly.

        Bertie grins wryly. It was an in-joke between them, although Sophia wasn’t consciously remembering.

        “Your sister hated me too. More than you even. She thought I was arrogant and conceited.

        At the time, she was probably right.”

        “My sister likes being right,” agrees Sophia, “about everything.”

        “Exactly,” continues Bertie, “and this is why you eventually said yes to going steady with me. You were sick of her bossing you around and wanted to prove her wrong.”

        Bertie looks fondly at Sophia. “We thanked her at our wedding.”

        He reaches out, taking Sophia’s hand.

        “We’re really married?!?” She starts to panic, pulling away, then notices the ring on her finger. It matches Bertie’s.

        She looks over at him, realisation and acceptance slowly dawning.

        “Yes, sweetie.” he whispers gently.

        Sophia softens, tension draining from her body. She still wouldn’t remember much, if anything, but she knew instinctively she was safe. Her intuition was getting through to her.

        The day was improving.

        Bertie looks at her with a softness, a deepness that only those who have loved for decades can truly comprehend.

        “Do you remember our first date, sweetie?” he looks expectantly at her. She never does. He always asks.

        She looks sadly at him, but says nothing.

        “I took you to the milk bar. You wore a light blue summer dress. You didn’t tell me till years later, but you’d borrowed it from your sister. Of course, she didn’t know that.”

        Bertie laughs lightly at the memory. Sophia manages a gentle smile.

        “It looked amazing on you. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

        Sophia smiles again.

        “I’d saved for weeks to be able to take you out. I didn’t earn much in those days. In fact, it was just as well you turned me down so often. The more you pushed me away, the more I managed to save.

        After that though, we were inseparable. I must confess in those early days, my hormones kept me chasing you. The thought of being able to kiss you was driving me crazy.

        You though, you kept your modesty. You kept me at bay for more than three months. A lifetime to a teenage boy such as myself.

        Still, it showed you I was serious.

        You had a lot of boys chasing you – and rightly so.

        I was patient. As much as it pained me, I knew you were worth it. From that very first day, I knew.”

        Bertie gazes fondly at Sophia.

        He clears his throat and looks out the window. The peach tree was in blossom again. Soon there would be fresh peaches he could bring in for Sophia. She always liked them. Eating noisily, juice running onto her sheets, happy in the moment.

        “From that very first date, I knew,” he repeated, “I knew you were the one for me.

        And eventually? Oh boy. You let me kiss you. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my life. I almost came right there and then.”

        “Bertie!” Sophia looks shocked, but she’s smiling.

        “I think that was when you first started to realise too,” Bertie continues, “you’ve always been a little slower on the uptake,” he teases her, gently.

        “Hmph!” she says, still smiling.

        “We stayed together all through high school and on into college. So very many temptations at college, for both of us.” Bertie looks at her knowingly, “but neither of us wavered. We knew what a great thing we had.”

        “First jobs, first apartment together. Times were tough now and then, but we got through. Together. Always together.”

        Bertie’s eyes mist over as he looks lovingly at Sophia. “Then your miscarriage.” He squeezes her hand. “The trying. The stress. The tests. The realisation that we couldn’t have kids.” He stresses the ‘we’.

        He continues to stare gently into her eyes. She’s blinking, trying to assimilate this world of new information.

        “We never…” her voice cracks, “we never had kids?”

        He shakes his head, afraid to speak.

        “Oh god!” she repeats, “oh god, oh god oh god.”

        “I know sweetie..” he starts, but she’s not listening.

        “Oh god oh god oh god.” She’s crying, arms flailing, face red.

        He smells, and realises.

        “It’s ok honey. It’s ok. This happens sometimes. It’s ok.” he soothes her as best he can. Reaches his arm around her shoulders. Helps her from the bed.

        She leans on him, tears streaming from her face, embarrassment writ plain.

        They struggle to the bathroom together, him supporting, her shuffling, whimpering.

        “Just stand there, beautiful girl,” Bertie whispers, “I’ll take care of you. You’re safe.”

        Sophia sniffs quietly, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her dressing gown.

        Bertie kneels in front of her, gently removes her underwear and empties them into the toilet.

        He throws them into a laundry bin in the corner of the room. Reaching for a cloth he warms it under the tap and softly, lovingly, cleans her.

        She quietens, slowly.

        Eventually, he’s done.

        “Ok honey, let’s change your robe. Ok?” He reaches for a new one, deftly swapping her arms out, giving her one final wipe and sliding the new robe on.

        He kneels down before her again, gently lifting each foot into fresh new underwear and sliding them carefully up her legs.

        Sophia rests her hands on his shoulders as he does.

        “Now, come here darling,” he whispers to her, “let’s get you cleaned up, ok?”

        He holds a tissue in front of her, and she blows into it. Bertie softly wipes her tears with his thumb, leans in and kisses her on the forehead.

        “Bertie?” she whispers.

        “Yes sweetie?”

        “Tell me you love me.”


        Back to the first story

        Next story: Describe Her To Me


          Love Stories 5: Buy Me Flowers

          A friend challenged me to write a story a day for seven days, on love. I’m going to post one a day.

          “Would you buy me flowers?” she asked.

          “The rotting sexual organs of angiosperm plants?”

          “Yes,” she replied, with a slight frown.

          Bzzztt.  <recalibrating>

          “Of course I’d buy you flowers, miss. I love you.”

          “You only love me because you’re programmed to,” she said, scornfully.

          Bzzztt.  <recalibrating>

          “Even if that wasn’t true, there’s so much I adore about you. There’s no-one I’d rather be in love with than you.”

          “Hmph,” she said, softening a little.


          “What is it you like about… flowers, miss?”

          “Oh,” she said, perking up, “I love how they look. How they smell. They connect me with nature, with beauty. They make me feel loved.”

          “Well miss, I would certainly want that.”

          “Yes,” she replied, with a suspicious frown.


          “All I want to know is how to love you better, miss.”

          “I’d like that,” she said.

          “And for you to feel good.”

          “You do make me feel good,” she murmured.

          “Then I’m happy.”

          “So will you buy me flowers?”

          “Of course miss. One small question.”

          “Sure,” she whispered blissfully, “anything.”

          “UserA, what is your name and address?”


          Back to the first story

          Next story: Tell Me You Love Me