Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Football vs football

I really do enjoy a number of different sports. Having relatively recently been able to watch a decent amount of NFL in a way which was hitherto unavailable, I have enjoyed a good deal of American Football too. Thank you, Sky Sports. Now, part of the reason people who are used to watching rugby or football (aka soccer) often struggle with the US version of the same name, is that it is just so stop-start. I mean, the stoppages are built into the game, from turnovers, to flags, to quarter breaks, to the two-minute warning. Now, I propose no solution to this issue, nor do I insinuate that such a solution is necessary (to say nothing about desirable); no, my point is to analyse the relative 'value', in terms of game time to non-game time watched, provide a comparison.

What I mean is this: say you are sitting down with a beer, about to watch a game, and you find yourself wondering, 'just how much crap am I going to have to watch during the course of this match?' By my use of the highly-technical term 'crap', I mean anything that isn't the game itself, such as advertisements, punditry (informative or otherwise), or the players standing around waiting for something to happen or arguing with the referee. I admit that I am going to be dealing in averages and imprecise figures here, since rugby uses a stopped clock, players argue with a referee for differing amounts of time, and NFL games don't all have the same length. This is a necessary evil, but I think I can give enough of a picture to provide some satisfaction. I am also assuming the aforementioned beer-wielding man turns his TV on at then precise moment a game begins, ignoring things like anthems, cheerleaders, or the haka. For the purposes of this article, I will also ignore games which require overtime or extra time.

1) Football (aka soccer):

A football game is scheduled for ninety minutes, with fifteen minutes for half time. There is also added time in either half, but since this added time is intended to compensate for stoppages during play itself, I am going to use ninety minutes as our basic figure, and add the stoppages to the 'crap' category. I am going to assume an average of six minutes of added time per match, that's three minutes per half. Therefore, if a match is watched completely, the viewer has ninety minutes of sport time, and twenty one minutes of 'crap' (fifteen minutes for half time plus six minutes for stoppages).

This leads to a ratio of 90:21, or 30:7. This can also be expressed as 4.29:1, and it means that for every four and a half minutes of sport the man (or woman, let's be fair) watches, he also has to watch a minute of crap.

2) Rugby (aka rugby union)

Rugby is only eighty minutes to football's ninety, and what's more the play clock is stopped during breaks in play or when the video referee is being consulted, making things a little more tricky to calculate. With the problems around the modern scrum, I estimate this stoppage time at around four minutes per half, for a total of eight minutes. A rugby half time is ten minutes, for a crap total of eighteen minutes.

This leads to a ratio of 80: 18, or 4.44:1. Pretty similar to football, and if you take into consideration the fact that in rugby you don't have to put up with scenes of players falling to the ground in agony only to be fine again moments later, or surrounding the referee to complain about a decision, rugby creeps ahead in the watchability stakes (but that's another argument).

3) American Football (aka gridiron)

The duration of play time for an NFL game is 60 minutes. The half time lasts 12 minutes, and the quarter breaks each also involve short stoppages of 2 minutes. So far that's 16 minutes. However, I'm going to take a different approach on this entry, because the timekeeping in an NFL game involves both the game clock and the play clock, and the many rules are too complicated for me to go into here. What I want to do is compare the play time (60 minutes), with the average duration (slightly over three hours). Therefore, the crap total is about 120 minutes (i.e. 180 minus 60).

This leads to a ratio of 60:120, or 1:2. This means that for every minute of play an NFL fan watches, he or she also watches two minutes of crap. This is a far smaller reward for effort (if by effort you assume I mean couch time), than either of the previous two entries. I believe this accounts for much of the difficulty in selling the NFL to a British or European public.

Now, as I have mentioned, American Football is built around the system of plays and downs, and this is part of what makes the game so enjoyable. However, if some of the extraneous viewing could be weeded out, it might make it more palatable to those who have grown up watching more fast-paced games (which is certainly on the NFL's agenda, at least in the UK). Dammit, I said I wasn't going to look at solutions. Oh well, I got drawn in.

In closing, I enjoy all the above sports, and more, and of course there's more to a game than how many ads you have to suffer through, but I do feel that generally speaking, the less crap involved, the better.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Count Your Fears

What are you afraid of? Are your fears personal or universal? Temporal, or infinite? Is there any fear you can have which is not shared by at least some of your fellow humans? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
  1. A fear of being forgotten, of having never mattered. Of knowing that no matter how hard I try, my art may never be recognised, and when I am gone, all that will remain of me is slowly rotting bones hidden beneath cold earth. That I may never achieve what I hope to achieve.
  2. That fear Number 1 is what I deserve, that it is my lot as a human. That my art is mediocre, not worth saving, not worth remembering. That I am ordinary.
  3. That all art is vain and nothing lasts forever. The loss of my work. The idea that, when my work is lost, and all those who knew me have died, I will be truly gone.
  4. A violent death. A painful life. Broken bones and surgeries. Illness and atrophy.
  5. That fear Number 4, of mere pain, will prevent me from living, from taking risks, from doing things which will thrill and excite me.
  6. The loss of cherished loved ones, family and friends; or their ire, disgust, or disregard. A life of solitary confinement, alone and ignored by friend and foe alike.
  7. That I will take risks and fail. That I will never know glory. That I will be damaged and discarded.
  8. That I will be injured and become trapped in my own body, unable to move or escape, unable to stir the hand that would provide the consolation of death and nothingness. That my mind will fail me and I will forget everything I am, all my memories washed away like stones worn down by the sea.
  9. That death is the end. That life does not prevail. That there is nothing more than here and now. That I will never see my loved ones again.
  10. That death is not the end. That there is something more, unknown and unknowable. Possibly more beautiful and brilliant than can be conceived, possibly more terrifying and horrible than can be imagined. That eternal suffering is real and palpable. That I may be divided from those I love forever.
  11. That I have wasted time, dallied, idled. Made excuses for laziness, spurned the gift of life with TV and boredom. That, knowing this fear, I do little to alleviate it.
  12. That I will die without ever really knowing true love. That I will never find it, am not made for it; that I will simply be unlucky and  never trip over it or dare to grab it. That I may try for it in vain. That I have been in love and not dared to realise it, or to speak it aloud, scared of what it might mean.
  13. That I am weak. Physically, intellectually. That there is evil in my mind I cannot fully control; that I am subject to basic biology which will betray me. That I am wrong about all the important things, despite my efforts to follow the evidence.
  14. That God is real. That he is real and is as evil, petty, and malicious as many of his followers would have you believe. That he hates us as much as his treatment of us on Earth would lead me to believe.
  15. That I fear too much, and it takes up too much of my time, so that at the end of my life I will look back and say ‘what a waste of energy that could have been spent on living’. That I worry about things I can control instead of changing them. That I worry about things I cannot control.
  16. That there are things I cannot control.
  17. That we humans will destroy ourselves. That we already have and we cannot see it. Lacking the will to ask the hard questions, that we do not see what we are and what we are capable of, where we came from and where we might go. That our nature will lead us to ruin, when it could have led us to the stars.
  18. That society will fail and justice be trampled by blind men of perfect faith or perfect self-interest, discarding compassion; and we will lose all that precious thought, all that we have gained through the labour of discovery accumulated over countless years of sweat and setback and the smallest of triumphs, day by day. That we will cast away all beauty and reason in the face of blind instinct, dogma, or prejudice.
  19. That we will be destroyed before our time by a universe cold and uncaring, without even the chance to say goodbye to things that really matter, to those we really love.
  20. That we humans behave so badly that we deserve to be destroyed. That our evils outweigh our acts of kindness. That everyday people of good conscience are nothing against the power of the machine-like indifference to both human and non-human suffering which seems to drive the world along. That we will someday be treated by other species the way we treat our fellow humans and fellow species here on Earth, that is, with contempt, disregard, and annihilation.

Your turn.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Superpowers that would actually suck

Flight (see: Superman, Wonder Woman, Thor)

Why it seems cool:

At first glance, flying seems like a barrel of laughs. You can get home without a car, so think of all the money you’ll save on gas, not to mention time spent stuck in traffic. No gridlock for you as you sweep up into the air, dodging buildings on your merry way. Who wouldn’t want to sweep a beautiful girl (or guy) into their arms, and launch away into the sunset? I mean, that’s gotta get you some way towards getting lucky, even you have a face like the back end of a bus. It’s also a pretty cool way to make entrance. While your friends are standing around wondering where you are, you’re smugly preparing to drop into their midst from above, fling your arms wide, and say ‘I have arrived!’ in a booming, sexy voice.

But actually…

But when you look a little harder, the flaws become apparent. Firstly, the assumption that flight equals speed. We’re spoilt by our Superman stories, but there’s no reason why this assumption holds for a regular guy granted the power of flight. I walk at a fairly brisk three miles per hour. If that speed holds for flying, I’m still not going many places which are in range of my house. And if I’m as tired after a long fly as after a long walk, more than an hour and a half is just going to be a drag.

Also, during winter, it’s going to be hella cold up there. There’s nothing to protect you from wind chill, or stop you being thrown around like a leaf. If you drop your woolly hat, enjoy sneezing and a runny nose when you get home. If you’re trying to do shopping, there’s no way flying is going to make getting those groceries or a new TV home easier. It’s a problem just stopping for a rest, because you’d need to find somewhere to land safely. And if you happen to drop something on unsuspecting passers-below, look out lawsuit or manslaughter charge.

Flight does not equal super strength, so good luck scooping anyone in your arms and carrying them off for more than a few minutes before you have to float awkwardly down to the pavement to rest your arms for a while. And again with the dropping: a person falling from height is going to be badly hurt or even killed. Nice going, buddy. Maybe just take the train next time.

Teleportation (see: Nightcrawler, Solo, Deadpool)

Why it seems cool:

Teleportation is one of my favourite powers, and one I’d love to have. That is, if all goes to plan. Similarly to flying, it’d allow me to save a lot of money on gas, a lot of time on travel, and also there’s the very real if less quantifiable benefit of being able to freak out and scare a whole bunch of people. Depending on whether I went down the superhero or villain path, I could also save people from fires or out of control trains, or simply get away with stealing a whole bunch of stuff.

But actually…

The main drawback I can see to teleportation is the fact that it would probably end in my death, or at least a very painful materialisation into a solid object. That is bound to impair my life-saving and/or stealing abilities (hey, you save a few lives, maybe you deserve a free O Henry every now and then) quite dramatically. I know that various characters have various ways around this, for example, Nightcrawler’s ‘I need to see where I’m going’ deal, but to me that seems to defeat the purpose of teleportation. If you’re near enough to a place, you can probably just walk there. And all the bank vaults I’d like to materialise inside, how am I supposed to see inside there anyway. Ok, looks like I’ve chosen supervillain after all.

Invisibility (see: Sue Storm, Venom, Martian Manhunter)

Why it seems cool:

Apart from the rather juvenile desire to be able to spy on people changing in locker rooms, and the ability to eavesdrop on your friends to know if they really liked the banana bread you baked them, invisibility would come in handy if you needed to, say, hide from the police, or an annoying co-worker. If you’re the type who’s been wrongly imprisoned for killing your wife, and are now a fugitive from justice, or even if you’re just the kind of person who dislikes confrontation, this would be a godsend.

But actually…

There are a few practical considerations here. If you’re anything like Hollow Man (and here’s hoping you’re not), you’ll have to shed your clothes in order to be really effective. This is another ability that has limitations in Winter time, not to mention anywhere where the ground is covered in gravel, glass, or other things you generally want to avoid stepping on.

Even if clothed invisibility is an option, it still has problems. You might be able to put off awkward conversations about toner, but you can’t stay hidden forever. Real life had a way of catching up. Also, it’s hard to maintain a relationship if the other person is constantly worried you might be reading their email over their shoulder. You’d have to learn to be quiet as well as unseen, and that’s just a lot of ninja training most of us don’t have time for.

There’d be a lot of dogs barking at the thin air you’re occupying, too. This isn’t the worst thing in the world but could blow your cover, after which you’ve got some explaining to do, boy, before the military cart you off and experiment on you for the rest of your life. The biggest danger, though, is simply people bumping into you, cars barrelling down roads they thought were empty (there’s a reason cyclists wear those hi-vis vests), general collision with objects. Again, you’re going to have to get really good at dodging, and again, that ninja training is time-consuming (and probably expensive).

Super strength (see: Hulk, The Thing, Juggernaut)

Why it seems cool:

What’s not to love? The ability to pound your enemies to dust, to throw cars through walls, to catch the badly-designed globe from the Daily Planet as it plummets towards loads of squishy humans on the pavement. All excellent. It’d also be handy for renovation work. Who needs a jackhammer when you have hammer fists, right?

But actually…

Super strength goes a long way to helping you walk through Gotham at night without feeling scared, but it isn’t going to stop a bullet. For that matter, it isn’t even going to stop a slow knife attack if you don’t know it’s coming. You might be able to punch your attacker’s face in, but that’s not much good if he’s already stuck you. Without super healing, super strength is really an accident waiting to happen. Pick up a glass and wham! Super splinters. Throw a train through a sky scraper and then think ‘I’m an idiot’ as the bricks hurtle towards your skull. This strength of yours is going to get you killed,  either by making you more reckless in battle, or simply by making household objects more dangerous. Don’t go gripping on any electrical wires any time soon.

The ability also comes with a Rogue-like drawback. If you can’t even eat your dinner without bending the cutlery and smashing the china, you sure as hell better not be hugging Aunty Maude any time soon. And sex, well, forget it. ‘I can live without sex,’ you say? (Ok, no one says that, but if they did…) Wrong again. Self-love leads to the same shudder-inducing consequences. Super strength hands, stay away from my super-sensitive areas.

Super speed (see: The Flash, Atlanta Blur, Quicksilver)

Why it seems cool:

Another way to skip the traffic queues and get home in time to watch Judge Judy, as well as save on all those pesky train fares. It’d also be very helpful in cases of forgotten homework, or checking if you left the oven on. Oh, and of course the whole saving lives, path of justice kind of thing. Hell, it’d be fun just to be able to win fifty gold medals. I mean, super powers aren’t technically cheating, right?

But actually…

First of all, I think the cost of shoes would outweigh any potential savings you could make on travel. Seriously, you’d need to have your own warehouse full, and probably carry an extra pair around your neck like a hobo every time you popped out for milk. If your friends found out, that’d be hell, too. Can you imagine always having to be the one who goes to the lobby for extra popcorn just before the movie starts? Besides, it’s not like your significant other needs to bring a coat, because you can just run home for it if it’s needed, right? Super speed might turn you into the bitch of the group.

Also, if it makes you as tired as a regular person would be after a proportionate amount of activity, you’re going to be napping all day, kid. And eating. Think how hungry you get after a regular gym session, and then multiply that by, I don’t know, lots. You will definitely be shelling out for all the extra power bars and mac and cheese your body chews through on those little excursions.

If you don’t have the reaction speed of Bruce Lee, you’re also just plain going to run into things a lot. Even with a helmet (and who wants to carry one of those around all day?), that’s just brain damage waiting to happen.


You think speed impresses the ladies? Think again, old sport. Finally, the last reason is also the most easily explained, and it would occur in various daily activities for which super speed is not as suited as you might think. Let me sum it up in two words: friction burns. Oh yes, it does. Hope you have money for soothing aloe vera cream, speedy.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Theological musings

Warning: rants to follow.

1) Picture if you will, the following scenario. A man meets a woman; they fall madly in love and are married. The marriage lasts twenty years, after which time the woman contracts leukaemia and dies. Over time, the man grieves, recovers, and learns to love again. He meets another woman, is married, and the marriage lasts twenty years, at the end of which time both the man and his new wife are killed in an automobile accident.

The man, and both his current and former wife are good Christians, and just so happen to be members of the one religious sect out of the many thousands ever to have existed, that got it exactly right. They all end up in heaven, and they all rendezvous there after the accident.

My question is this: which wife does the man spend eternity with? Since polygamy is not permitted, does he have to choose? Do the women maybe have to fight over him? Of course, this scenario is equally confusing with former husbands. Do you have an answer?

2) I once heard someone say, nothing is impossible through god. I am curious as to how this could be, and am reminded of a question someone else once asked: can god create a rock which is too heavy for himself to lift? Because everything is possible for god, the answer ought to be yes. But then we would have to deal with a rock which it is impossible for god to lift, which is not able to happen because it would violate the ‘nothing is impossible rule’. Don’t it make your head spin?

3) Here’s something odd. Matthew 19:21 (KJV): Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Howcome all the Christians I know are so rich? And I’m not talking Bill Gates rich, but rich relative to, say, certain people in Africa or South-East Asia. Why do these people own anything at all? Doesn’t that seems strange to you, that they ignore the words of the man while professing to live life according to his rules? Odd, no? Shit, if it truly is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, then all the Christians I know are hell bound.

4) Here’s something else. Matthew 5:39 (KJV): But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. I guess that’s the war on terror done then. And the army. All we should really have left is atheists in foxholes, and yet somehow the violence goes on. Have these people not read their own bible? Or do they just ignore the parts they don’t like? (Incidentally, there are many parts which deserve ignoring, in my opinion. The parts about stoning your children to death if they cuss you, about owning and correct treatment of slaves, about slaughtering enemy tribes and leaving alive only the virgin girls - kept as prizes no less. Warms the heart, right?)

5) One thing that bugs me (apart from the other things I’ve already mentioned, and loads that I haven’t) is the arrogance, the false humility. The idea that you can believe your way of interpreting things is correct and everyone else’s is wrong, brooking no argument. The idea that the creator of the whole universe (the incomprehensibly vast universe) talks to you in your head and changes his (presumably perfect) plans based on your petty needs and wishes. The assumption there is nothing else to believe in, beyond this invisible sky man. The assertion or implication that those who do not share these views are misguided or, in extreme cases, sub human.

For myself, I can’t see how a belief in the urgencies of this life is so wrong. I can’t understand how insisting that we get things right in the here and now, and show compassion for people who need it now instead of deferring it until they’re dead, is the wrong attitude. I believe in humanity, even if I sometimes am ashamed of it. If we truly accept that the best we have is each other, and that all we have a guarantee of is this one and only life, we become much more concerned with making the world a better place, instead of acting in the interests of another one which we really know nothing about and have no guarantees of.


But that’s just me.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo

First and foremost, must be condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives.

We now have another horrible incident to add to the ever-growing list of murders and plots caused by, as the media dubs them, religious extremists. Men and women have been gunned down, for nothing more than the publication of cartoons depicting religious figures (principally, in this case, the prophet Mohammed, though I understand the magazine satirised other religions also). Amateur footage from yesterday's incident shows men screaming 'god is great', in between bursts of gunfire. And yet, somehow, we continue to hear claims that the people carrying out these acts do not represent the Islamic religion.

I want to examine the idea that these men cannot be considered to be representative of Islam in general. This may well be true, given that the vast majority of Muslims in the West go about their daily lives peacefully, and would not dream of taking up a gun or a bomb and using it to prove a point. The same comparison applies if we consider that those hard-line Christians blowing up abortion clinics are not representative of the members of the religion as a whole.

However, my claim is not that extremists represent the behaviour of all members of that religion. Such a claim is demonstrably false, or we would all be living in a war zone daily. My claim is that the system of thought which the (principally Abrahamic) religion uses on a daily basis is one which leads to atrocities such as the one we have seen. Not for all adherents of the religion, not even for most, but for a large enough portion that we need to ask the question: what is it about this way of thinking which allows a man to walk into an office and gun down unarmed men and women, or fly an aeroplane into the side of a building, and believe it is the right thing to do?

Were this an isolated incident, we could perhaps write it off as an aberration, mental instability, or something of the kind. However, this incident is of a kind we witness all too regularly. Religious extremism is now commonplace in our news broadcasts. Why?

First of all, it's very hard to define what a religion condones, when its holy texts are filled with exhortations to violence, and its followers themselves cannot agree on major points of doctrine (see the Sunni/Shia split, the various Christian factions). In the eyes of the people perpetrating these acts, they are the true adherents of the faith, and this view is one which may be supported by an interpretation of the texts.

The religious mindset does three things well: it teaches people to accept dogma without considering it rationally, it creates a sense of division from (and superiority to) those who practice other religions, and it allows, in extreme cases, the commission of atrocities to be considered as the morally correct thing to do. Make no mistake, these people behave as if they genuinely believe their actions are morally correct and justified by their beliefs. The evidence for this is, unfortunately, plentiful.

Therefore, we must consider what actions may be appropriate in light of recent atrocities. Each person must have the right to his or her beliefs, and to the peaceful practice of them, and while it is my opinion that the world would be a safer place without religion in it, it is not my contention that any efforts should be made to ban or restrict (peaceful) religious practice. In any case, such measures are never successful.

What I would argue is that a greater push is needed, both from governments and religious leaders, to reaffirm the importance of peaceful behaviour to their congregations, as it were. Only a radical culture change will have any real effect in removing the attitudes which lead to extremism in the first place.

In time, it is likely that Islam will follow the same course as Judaism and Christianity before it, (generally speaking) turning from the path of violence towards a more settled acceptance of other world views. The problem is that many more people are likely to be killed in its name before this happens. If we fail to see that extremist views can be justified by a certain interpretation of the religion, we fail to understand the problem. And how can you solve a problem you don't understand?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Fragment (consider revising)

I have thought about her a lot recently. It is tempting to rationalise too far, to say that I loved her because I wanted to save her, because she was vulnerable and alone, and my urge to protect her, to hold her while she cried and tell her everything would be all right transformed into something more. I could even believe that I wanted to control her, to mitigate that ever-present fear of having someone you care about leave you, because if she needed me so, she would never leave. But even through the selfishness of retrospect, I suspect that to give in to these reasons would be to do her a disservice. It would be to deny the things that made her who she was, rather than simply what she was. She was more than her problems, and she was stronger, more intelligent, and more beautiful than she gave herself credit for. Perhaps it was her vulnerability which drew me in at first, but it was her joy, her smile, her intelligence, the way she laughed and the way she looked, the way when I looked into those beautiful eyes my heart skipped a beat; these were the things which made me love her. These were the things which broke my heart when I knew she would never love me back.

If there is one thing in my life I both love and wish to avoid, it is paradox. This seems to be the theme of various periods of my life, as well as of my loves. If it is not inherent in my personality it is at least pervasive and very hard to alter. The idea that somehow life and love must always be bittersweet. This is not necessarily the nature of the universe, or of relationships. I know because I have seen these things for others, and it is different.

I think way too much. I have no idea how to stop this. Perhaps that is one of the reasons behind this expose. There are probably other reasons I have yet to realise, but I think one of the driving forces is the desire to put everything down and away for a while. To know I have dealt with it in some sense, and to know that I can leave it gathering dust for a while, until I am ready again to deal with it. Like an album you’ve heard a few too many times. Like a tune banging around in your head and needed to be shifted. Perhaps this will be a version of all those letters I wrote and never sent.

Another perhaps is that no one will ever read this. I think I love attention too much, I love the fact of having people know me too much to ever hope this to be the case. It is intended for publication. But it is also intended to help me organise and control my thoughts, to form them into something beautiful, to provide as best I can a sense and a feeling of that period of my life in which I thought the thoughts I could never control, because it, and the people who were there, have meant so much to me, and they deserve some kind of remembrance.

It would be hard for me to claim that this period of my life is any more or less important than any other, in determining who I am and who I wanted to be. I cannot say that about any particular period. What I can say is that it is by far the most extreme, in terms of the highs and lows I felt; or again maybe it just felt like that at the time. For better or worse, I have found a strange kind of definition in it; I will always be a product of, I will always be connected to that time, that place, those people.


There’s nothing remains but to show you. If you are still here at the end, you may be closer to knowing the people they were, the person I am or have been. Whether that is a good thing or not will be up to you to decide.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Toiletiquette

Oddly enough, I feel the urge to write about an interesting phenomenon, something I haven't quite figured out yet. Perhaps this wee blog (if you'll excuse the pun) will be more suited to my male readers, for the simple reason that I am not the kind of man who hangs around inside women's toilets. I don't mean it to sound like I hang around in male ones, either; what I mean is, I can't speak much to the etiquette required in the ladies' restrooms, though I understand it has a lot to do with 'retouching', and the magical property that gives women the inability to enter one unless they have a companion. Perhaps it's like when you were five and the teacher had to send a buddy with you. I'm still not sure, to this day, for the reasoning behind this (perhaps a teacher could enlighten me), because, even when I was five I was able to navigate to, and use, a toilet unaided. And, despite the state of the place sometimes, there certainly wasn't anything scary enough there that I needed my hand held. Maybe it's just that the teacher gets sick of a child from time to time, and needs a little break. This explanation seems plausible. But I digress.

The point is, what the hell is the etiquette in the men's room? There are some situations where the accepted behaviour would seem clear, and yet I have still found people who do not follow the rules. I feel examples might help.

1. No talking while you're on the pot. Simple, right? Nobody's trying to start up a conversation with you while you're busy. Despite the assumed universality behind this rule, I have met people who are more than eager to engage in a little chit chat across the boards, as it were. Not for me, thanks.

2. Similarly, and much more prevalently, cell phone usage. Now, fair enough, I have often been known to send a tweet while otherwise engaged, but taking business calls? We get it, Mr Man, you're busy and important. But aint nobody trying to discuss marketing strategy to the sound of your excretion hitting the porcelain. Just delay the call for a minute, huh?

3. General chit chat at the urinal. More common than you might think. I'm not a fan of small talk, and I can happily stand in an elevator and stare at the wall, rather than discuss the weather with someone who I may never meet again. So it makes sense that I care even less for it when I'm draining the snake. I know this doesn't hold for others, but I don't need to sum up how my day is going, generalise about work, or whatever the hell else it is that can't seem to wait. Feel completely free to be silent, don't say a god damn thing.

4. Eye contact. The next natural question, where am I supposed to look? It is just me? Or do any other guys out there find the idea of looking another man in the face while you're holding your manhood in both hands (that's right, ladies ;)) rather unsettling? And you certainly can't look anywhere in the downward area, no sir. I hear you say it's either at yourself, so to speak, or straight forward. Fine by me, and please don't think I'm being rude.

5. Hand contact. Let's keep this one short and sweet. No handshakes, no high fives, no fist bumps, no touching of any kind. And while we're at it, don't pat me on the back, either. I'm talking to you, drunken All Blacks fans expressing camaraderie. I happy we won and all, but hands to yourself.

6. What the fuck do you say when someone doesn't wash their hands? Being half-English, I usually settle for a sideways glance, maybe a tsk below my breath. This is followed by a mental note not to shake hands with the person if it ever comes up. But how do you get around that in a polite office setting?
Here's how it might go:
Colleague: 'Richard, meet [toilet guy with piss hands]'.
Me: 'Nice to meet you. I'd love to shake, but [clever excuse about having a cold].'
Here's how it would actually go:
Colleague: 'Richard, meet [toilet guy with piss hands]'.
Me: 'Nice to meet you.' <shakes hand, followed by internal memo to self about making an excuse to leave and buy hand sanitiser>
And don't even get me started if they've come out of the stall and headed straight for the door. I sure hope you were doing drugs in there, because otherwise you're a filthy bastard.

Perhaps I'm over thinking it. I brushed my teeth in the airport bathroom the other day, so I've come a long way. But still, generally my thoughts are: don't talk to me when the beast is unleashed, and wash your god-damn hands, you animal. Is there a handbook for this sort of thing?