Friday, May 15, 2009

Question & Answer Time

Forgive me bloggers for I have sinned, it has been 4 months since my last confession.. I mean blog.

Time to open the mailbag, and boy is it bursting.

PacMan34 writes: "You seem to clean up a lot of ektoplasm (sic) at your job. Do you know what the long term effects are of being exposed to that substance?"

Answer: I wear protective gloves when cleaning it up or if it's a really big mess, I'll go put on a hazmat suit. Scares the bejeezus out of my co-workers too. So I don't really get it on my skin at all which is nice because it smells funny. In terms of long term effects, there are none that I'm aware of but some say repeated exposure leads to being able to walk through walls.

_mugwump_ writes: "I'm interested in a career in kicking the ass of hostile aliens and supernatural beings. The Agency looks like the best place to do that. How do I get a job there?"

Answer: Yes, you are right. The Agency is by far the most superior organisation to work for in this industry. Whatever you do, don't get a job with the National Integrated Terrestrial Society or the Alien Operations Groundforce. I hear stories of volunteers being sent to singlehandedly deal with multiple rift ruptures across entire suburbs and we have to go in and clean up the mess. As for working at The Agency, I would suggest you start with volunteer work at HQ - that's how I got started.

HurtnConfused writes: "My boyfriend is an Agent at one of your European Branches. I recently discovered that he has been having with affair with an alternate universe me. When I asked him why, he said that the alternate universe me doesn't nag him as much and has a cute tattoo. What should I do?

Answer: Stop nagging him and get a cute tattoo.

That's all for now. Stay safe in the 'verse.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life After Conference

Well this week has been interesting..

We played host to the Agency's National Conference. It's held annually at our top secret locale, and this year we had some high-calibre guest speakers including Victorius Vandermink and Ferguson Feckworthy.

Both were absolutely outstanding, but a special mention to Ms Vandermink on her session covering the all important topic of Interdimensional Immigration. I now feel a greater mercy for the displaced and I'll be more understanding the next time the rift opens up and some poor gelatinous life-form plops out claiming refugee status under freedom proclamation #742.

I am extremely exhausted however. I spent most of the conference ensuring proton packs were charged and ready for demonstrations, that the rift was holding and that the auditorium was free from ectoplasm at all times. That kind of diligence takes it's toll after 7 back-to-back sessions of paranormal madness.

My claim to fame though is that I got to fix Ferguson Feckworthy's laptop. Go geek power! It's a Macbook Air and very thin, unlike Mr Feckworthy.

In case you're interested, the sessions were as follows;
Session 1 - Harnessing the Power of the Rift (Ferguson Feckworthy)
Session 2 - Interdimensional Immigration (Victorius Vandermink)
Session 3 - Eliminating Harmful Supernatural Beings (The Director - My Boss!)
Session 4 - Emerging Technology (including a demonstration of the new 7000-series Proton Packs!) (Ferguson Feckworthy)
Session 5 - Taming your Poltergeist (Ferguson Feckworthy)
Session 6 - Field Agent Care (Victorius Vandermink)
Session 7 - The Importance of Surviellance (Ferguson Feckworthy)

That's all from me for now - goodnight!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

Well here we are on the eve of what is possibly my favourite day of the year - Christmas!

Just a quick note to wish every one of you, whether you are from this dimension or another, a very Merry Christmas. Be safe over this holiday season, whether you travel 20 kilometres or 20 light years to be at your family home, orbital platform, nest, hive or interstellar transport.

Enjoy all the food you want, or light as the case may be if you are photosynthetic. Make peace with everyone, even if they borrowed your sonic screwdriver last year to fix the plumbing and didn't return it.

And may the rift in time and space be forever stable.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Muse Checks In


I hear one of your agents had a run-in with some weird kind of South African Gremlin! Is the whole of South Africa moving to Wimbledon? hehehe....Joe Dante would be proud.




Yeah, he did – well, not a Gremlin, precisely. It's this creepy little thing called a “Tokoloshe”. They usually stick to the Durban area – goodness knows how this one got all the way to London – although, they are related to the water sprite, so I guess oceans shouldn't really be a problem. If you're interested, I've pasted a section from my personal log below, about my first encounter with one of them (entirely off the record, of course).

Oh, by the way: I ran into Jim Cameron the other day, and he said to say “Hi”. Apparently, Sigourney is still trying to convince him to get involved with the next Alien movie, but he says he just can't face a shoot like that again – those things are so difficult to train, and you can still see the scar where that one went for his hand. Little bugger.

Yours, as always,



Durbs, Sarth Efreeka - “Ja, my boet!"
14 August

I've just landed at Durban International for the Agency's annual “Hypertension Prevention Convention” – props to whatever genius came up with that name – a week-long conference, purportedly held to focus on ways to prevent field exhaustion, but, in reality, just a damn good excuse to go surfing at Umhlanga Rocks.

I love coming back here. It's almost like going home, but with more crime. The food is great (I went straight to Gloria Jeans at Gateway – why, oh WHY doesn't someone open one up in London?! Starbucks is good, but, really, there's no comparison), I can drive an actual CAR instead of having to use London transport, see movies for about £1.50...and the men are so much more polite than Aussie blokes.....hhmmmmmmssssigghh.....


Anyway, getting back to my main point: this is one of my favourite Agency events of the year.

16 August

What an eventful night!

The plan was fairly simple: have a bunny chow for dinner; enjoy a night out at Eighties with some old friends; spend the early morning hours attempting to keep said bunny chow down; sleep until awoken by the arrival of room service with a huge breakfast.

No such luck.

Firstly, our night at Eighties was rudely interrupted by crap music. I won't stand for that, so I ended up leaving early and going back to our hotel. My roomie had obviously had similar misfortunes, because she was already in bed, although she stirred when I cried out in pain as I tried to put on my slippers and found them stuffed with pebbles.

“What the freak?! Is this some kind of joke?”

“No,” she mumbled sleepily, “It's probably just the Tokoloshe. They eat pebbles to make themselves invisible, and I think one followed me home.”

“WHAT?!” I screeched, too stunned to do anything but stand there, gaping at her.

“Don't worry about it – our beds are raised off the floor. The Zulus reckon they can't get to you if your bed's off the floor. Anyway, I can't find the damn thing, so it's probably gone.”

Now, don't get me wrong – I've run into some pretty strange things in my time, but the idea of having one of these creatures in the room with me at night was not comforting. I mean, seriously, who says the damn things can't jump? Or use tiny little ladders? I heard of this one time where a bunch of tourists decided to camp down on the beach. It was so hot, they thought it would be a good idea to leave the tent flap open for air. A Tokoloshe got in and wreaked havoc. Two of the tourists had broken bones where the thing had rammed them with the bony ridge on top of its head, and one poor little girl was left with some severe psychological scarring after waking in the middle of the night to see what appeared to be a large teddy-bear attacking her parents. Our South African branch had an interesting time trying to cover that one up.

Nevertheless, I think all would have been well, except for the fact that when I sleep, my left leg has an unfortunate habit of slinging itself off the side of the bed...

I don't know why it does this. All I know is, since I was a little girl, I have always woken up at about 0400 with one freezing cold tootsie. I never thought I'd wake up to find my toes being gnawed at by a dirty little sprite...a dirty little sprite with teddy-bear ears, a hole in its skull (it is apparently common practice among the Tokoloshe to pierce their skulls with a hot metal rod – this is usually self-inflicted, as a rite of adulthood) and incredibly sharp teeth. What...the hell...

My revenge was swift and heavy-handed – heavy-footed, actually – as I brought my other leg around and kicked it solidly in the head. The disgusting little thing gave an unearthly shriek (which was echoed shortly thereafter by my startled roomie) and raced, rather unsteadily, for the balcony door, which I hastened to open to let my unwelcome guest escape into the night.

Apparently, they're not used to people fighting back.

My roomie informs me that I was lucky – the Tokoloshe usually have much more, um, amorous intentions (*shudder*), and I should be grateful this one only fancied my toes.

I have since washed my feet about ten times, but I still don't feel wholly clean....


P.S.: There's also some really interesting information about the Tokoloshe, including what's claimed to be actual footage of one, at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Marmalade Lives


It's been nearly a month without a post. Dear reader, I am heartily ashamed. I feel that I owe you a bit of an explanation.

Firstly though, a big thank you to all my fans out there in interweb-land who have emailed many touching expressions of concern during my absence. I had no idea people actually read this blog let alone cared if I went AWOL.

My absence can be blamed entirely on the Large Hadron Collider; the great multi-billion dollar scape goat. It's been a bit of a running gag in the office this week actually that every accident, inconvenience and world disaster is the fault of the LHC.

Earthquakes in Asia - "Must be the collider!

Papercut - "Damn that collider!"

Tea's gone cold - "Bloody hell, it's all the Large Hadron Collider's fault!"

But seriously, my absence is really due to the collider. We have been very busy here in the office and I've been working a lot of overtime. As you well know, The Agency exists to keep the paranormal as far away from the general public as possible. And with the boffins at CERN about the rip the arse out of the universe, it would be remiss of us to not be prepared for every eventuality.

So a couple of weeks ago the Directors of every Agency Branch met at a secret island retreat to formulate a game plan. In between sipping mojitos, they were hard at work thinking up every possible thing that could go wrong when those pesky particles start bumping into each other.

I got several strange emails via the Director's blackberry while they were in session. One of them was asking me to put Agent Bayne on a plane to Geneva - gladly! The other was to send our resident Time Agent Mr Mace back two weeks previous to sort out the collider's cooling issues.

Later when I picked the Director up from the airport, he looked more tanned than usual but there was something slightly amiss. He didn't really talk at all in the car, as though there was something weighing heavily on him.

Anyway, all seems to be going well so far with the experiments. The earth hasn't turned itself inside out, the cooling systems are holding up and there's been no report of the guts of the universe spilling out through a rift in space/time.

I'll keep you posted though. I promise..

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beware the Kraken

It is truly wonderful to live by the sea; warm sunshine, clear winter skies, and 'the big blue' littered with the assorted debris from a smashed up fishing vessel.

Yes, debris.

This morning I was given the task of sorting through the soggy mess with a pair of lurid yellow protective gloves. I don't know the first thing about boats but somehow I was supposed to keep a weather eye out for anything un-boat-y.

Now normally The Agency wouldn't have anything to do with boating accidents, but one of the rescued sailors, in his delusional hypothermic state, apparently started blubbing on about a giant octopus.

Yeah, we deal with weirder shit than that. Giant octopus, no problems. We'll be back to the office in time for smoko.

So there I was stuck on the shore with my ridiculous gloves while the boys got to take out our boat to do some serious sonar. If anyone gets eaten by the giant squid, please let it be Agent Bayne, I thought.

I got busy and divided the pile of debris up into categories;
  • Splintered Wood, Fibreglass & Plastic
  • Twisted Metal
  • Tech (radio equipment, GPS etc)
  • Fishing Gear
  • Biological Material
  • Miscellaneous
A while later, the boys came back with a big fat pile of nothing from the sonar readings. I, on the other hand had a very interesting collection of biological material; a large tooth that looked a little like the tusk of an elephant, and the end of a bloody big tentacle. It totally reeked, and I don't think I'll be able to hit the seafood buffet for a while. One thing's for sure though, that's no giant squid - it's a Kraken.

10:43AM - Just in time for Smoko
The Desk of Marmalade McWraith

I pulled up the file (G:\Research & Surveillance\Mythical Creatures\Kraken) and passed what little info we had to the Director who will decide on what is to be done next. Not a lot can be done though until we get another sighting. If we get another sighting.

Interestingly though, I found a recent article in Mythical Creatures Magazine where the Kraken had made it to the Pet of the Month Column. An amusing read. Enjoy.


EDIT: Apologies - Had to delete the article due to copyright violation. Oops..

Picture: A young Kraken playing with a 19th century sailing ship.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Great Tea Spree

You might say that tea is my new obsession..

It all started at a staff meeting a few weeks ago. The boardroom was full, save for one empty chair across the table from me.

About five minutes into the meeting, one of our Time Agents sauntered in with a cup of tea and offered some lame excuse to the Director, who had temporarily ceased his monologue about occupational health and safety.

"Sorry Sir, just got back from France, 1791. Some fool just tried to save Marie Antoinnette and made a hell of a mess of it."

He sat down opposite me and the Director picked up his speech where he left off. But it got me pondering a paradox; why are Time Agents always late for staff meetings? They're Time Agents and shouldn't be late for anything!

And why are they allowed to get away with it? If I strolled into a staff meeting five minutes late, I'd be sent to clean out the containment unit with a toothbrush.

The truth is though, Time Agents are part of the elite few. They are above the rules and they just have to be different to everyone else. They dress differently, they act differently and they have a high falutin attitude towards food and drink. For example, they always drink tea. Never once have I ever seen one drink anything else. It's like they consider coffee to be the drug of the uncivilised plebian masses.

Our tardy Time Agent must have seen me staring at his cup of tea during the meeting, because afterwards when I headed back to my desk, there was a little box there with a note. The writing was quite fancy for a bloke and the ink was still slightly wet. Time Agents are obviously too cool to use a ballpoint.

Rules is rules though. Time Agents just can't go bringing stuff back or else things could get very complicated. I should have reported it, or at least destroyed it. But it's funny how contraband is so delightfully attractive. Maybe just for once I'll break a rule, I thought slyly. What's the worst that could happen?

So I made a cup of tea, and I liked it. I liked it so much I drank the whole box of tea in 3 days. I haven't seen Mr Mace around to ask him for more, as he's probably off saving the world somewhere, but I did go down to the local supermarket to get some of the ordinary variety.

The entire Twinings range is now in my possession and it's my plan over the next week or so to try all of them and give them a rank of 1 to 12 depending on how much I like them.

Today I started with 3 and ranked them in this order;
  1. Irish Breakfast - A warm, full-bodied tea to be sure, to be sure
  2. Russian Caravan - Quite strong, with a slightly nutty flavour
  3. Prince of Wales - Not as strong as the top two but has more of an Asian influence
I now have an awful lot of tea. Perhaps I should have a competition and give some of it away. So if you want some tea you must comment on this post with a description of your favourite hot beverage. The winner will be randomly selected and will recieve a selection of tea, personally blessed by me and sent to you, wherever you might be in the world. Note that due to the high postage costs, unfortunately interdimensional aliens and those from parallel realities cannot be part of this competition.

So get posting! You could be a winner!

EDIT 13/8: Seriously, no one wants the tea?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ok (for a Noob)

Hi Muse,

Thanks for the info on Creature #I859623-42. You wouldn't believe what happened last Friday night! Well actually you're one of the few people who WOULD believe it..

Have attached my spiel on the caper.


Friday July 18, 2008
The Agency
Staff Kitchen #2 (the one with the seemingly unlimited cache of M&Ms)

First tea for the day; strong, one sugar and a dash of soy milk. As I stirred my tea into a milky vortex, a colleague called from the hallway, "McWraaaaiiiith, the Director is looking for yoouuuuu."

That usually means one of a few things;
  • His wireless has dropped out
  • His Blackberry refuses to sync with Exchange
  • Or there's ectoplasmic residue that wants cleaning up

So you can imagine my surprise when I was told that he needed the file on dragons, and he needed it yesterday. Unfortunately I'm not a Time Agent so yesterday was out of the question.

I returned to my desk, tea in hand, and quickly browsed to "G:\Research & Surveillance\Mythical Creatures\Dragons", printed the contents and left it with the Director to peruse. Damn lucky I updated that file last week, I thought.

Apparently the radar boffins had picked up a dragon-shaped blob in our airspace. So over the course of the day, I monitored the emergency services dispatches, trawled news articles and filtered through mountains of internet traffic to see if we could get a lead on the creature's whereabouts. Then, at about 15:00 I found something solid. A local pilot had been coming in to land his Cessna when he noticed he was being tailed by what appeared to be a flying reptile.

Upon hearing the news, the office exploded into action and the Director sent a couple of Agents to check it out. I remained at my desk, listening in for more frantic calls to Triple-0.

At 16:13 I eavesdroped on a call to the Fire Department. A very confused woman was calling because the roof of her house had erupted into flames for no apparent reason. Sounded a bit dragon-y to me..

SUV #4 (The one with the new prototype heat-seeking missiles)

I hope I'm getting overtime for this, I thought. Driving into the mountains on a freezing Friday night to investigate a possible dragon sighting deserves some form of compensation.

Now the Agency wouldn't normally let me off my chain without someone accompanying, but an exception was made on account of us being short-staffed. Apparently there was a workshop on that evening for the new 500-Series Proton Packs, and all Field Agents had to attend.

My instructions were simple however;
  • Find the house
  • Take some readings
  • Bag any evidence
How hard could it be? Dragons don't stick around long so I was assured with reasonable certainty that I would not be meeting one.


Standing on the scorched roof of the house, I took a moment to admire the view. Thousands of tiny lights hugged the coastline below and twinkled in the clear winter night. Frak, it's beautiful up here. I rubbed my gloved hands together trying to keep the cold away, then I remembered what I had come here for.

Pulling off my backpack, I grabbed my torch and scanned the tiles around me. They were utterly blackened by the fire, some broken and a few missing altogether. How on earth are they going to explain this mess to the insurance company?

I scanned a little further down near the gutter and saw something interesting. Carefully sliding down the apex of the roof, I came to a stop right near the object. It was about 10cm in diameter and looked remarkably like the scales that young dragons periodically shed during a growth spurt.

I quickly slipped it into a plastic evidence bag and marked the outside with the date, time, locale and in very large letters underneath, "FOUND BY MARMALADE MCWRAITH (ALL BY HERSELF)."

Suddenly there was a loud crash behind me. I was knocked onto my arse and had I not found a handhold where a tile had once been, I'm sure I would have fallen completely off the roof. Bits of scorched tile rained down and I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew I should have worn my steampunk goggles..

When the tile and ash stopped falling, looked up to see a dragon a few feet away, staring intently at the torch I was miraculously still holding with my free hand. I felt suddenly very ill-prepared. The files Muse sent said 'approach with extreme caution' but what if the dragon approached you? How the frak was I supposed to avoid becoming barbequed when I had nowhere to go but 2 storeys down to my death?

I weighed up the options; death by fire or death by fall? They both sucked..
How about Option 3: kick arse and live. Sounded good to me.

I let the torch slide off the roof and into the darkness below. My cunning plan worked and the dragon leapt off to follow it, showering me in bits of broken tile again. Oh hell, my new trench coat, ruined. I heard the dragon hit the ground and I looked down to see it pushing the torch around, a bit like a dog with a chew toy.

With not a moment to lose, I scrambled for my pack and extracted a NFDDD (Noise Flash Dragon Diversionary Device), pulled the pin and dropped it over the edge. I hit the deck and shielded my eyes from the flash but my ears weren't so lucky. The bang sounded like thor the god of thunder had just used his hammer on my head.

The smoke cleared below and I could see the dragon laying there completely stunned out of its scaley little skull. It probably wouldn't be getting up for a bit and the chemicals in the NFDDD would render it completely unable to spit fire for a few hours at least.

Time to call it in. Just as I hit speed dial on my phone, the driveway to the property lit up with the headlights of two SUVs and a truck that I hadn't even noticed was there.

A suited figure got out of one of the SUVs and came towards the building.
"For God's sake McWraith, get off the roof." It was Agent Bayne and he was his usual pissy self. What the hell was he doing here?

I slung my backpack over my shoulder, and took my time getting down on account of my shaking hands. If they saw at least I could put it down to the cold. Of course they had everything under control when I hit terra firma. The dragon was in some kind of net and was being hauled into the back of a truck. No doubt he'd be released in a more unpopulated realm.

"I thought you guys had a workshop? The 500-Series?" I asked Bayne incredulously.

"Nope, just a ruse," he said with that stupid smirk he always wears when he knows you've been pwned. "The boss wanted to see how you'd do."

"Good God, I could have been fried!"

"Relax McWraith, it was perfectly safe." He was enjoying this, the sick son of a ...
"We had a bazooka on him the whole time."

I was not reassured by that statement and I shot him a death glare.

He chuckled and gave me an encouraging slap on the shoulder before sauntering off, but I waited for the parting shot. "You did ok.. for a Noob."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just Another Day In Camden Town


Here is the background information you requested on Creature #I859623-42.

Have you reason to believe it is headed in your direction?

Your friend, as always,

CREATURE #I859623-42

Appearance: Difficult to determine colouring - highly adaptable camouflage abilities. Reptilian in nature; most likely some type of dragon (probably Class D). Quite small, possibly a fledgling, however has at least partially-developed pyro-control. (NB: Approach with extreme caution.)

Origin: We believe it may have entered via the same interdimensional portal used by #I814673-42 - the parasitic creature currently resident in the hair of Ms A. Winehouse of North London.


Our radar team had been tracking the creature for several hours, however, it was proving to be quite elusive. My belief is that it was initially attracted by the high concentration of animal flesh at London Zoo, or perhaps it had somehow gotten wind of the combined celebrity wealth concealed within nearby Primrose Hill. Fortunately for the future of B-grade British films and irritating pop music everywhere, #I859623-42 (affectionately nicknamed 'Pete' by the head of my Tabloid Relations Department) was distracted en route by the cacophony of smells which emanates from Camden Market on a Saturday afternoon.

Paranormal activity in and around Camden is difficult to detect at the best of times. The signs are usually quite subtle - goths begin to shift uneasily on their 10-inch soles, mohawks stand a little more on end, someone orders a caramel mochaccino and winds up with a cafe latte....However, there was no mistaking this event for the aftermath of somebody's bad trip.

I was sitting in my favourite spot, watching an oddly-matched couple across the lock try to swallow one another's lips. The first two gusts of wind were barely noticeable; the third was so strong it blew me back into my chair, stirring the water below into small white caps and blowing Kissing Man's toupee IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. So.....not a naturally-forming air current. My eyes were automatically tracking one possible flight path and I soon saw it against the darkening sky - a patch of cloud that wasn't moving the way Nature intended.

I must admit that part of me was very excited. Dragon lore is something of a hobby of mine, although previous encounters have proven a headache to explain and have often left me wishing for one of Will Smith's flashy-thingys.

I watched the dragon alight on top of a nearby building and disappear again into the background as it folded its wings. It occurred to me at this point that I was ill-equipped to deal with a dragon on my own, comparatively small though it may be.

As it turned out, I was spared the need. Before I had time to scramble for my phone, the Hawley Arms pub and several of the surrounding market stalls were ablaze. Shortly thereafter, the creature took wing again, heading north at top speed.

As I sit now and analyse events, its behaviour seems strange. Dragons do not usually throw fire unless hunting. This being the case, I am forced to wonder why it didn't stay around to finish its meal. I have concluded that the creature was frightened off by something, which strengthens my latest theory - my studies have led me to believe that different dragons (or, at least, different dragon families) use slightly varying chemical combinations to produce their flames. I hypothesise that the smell of burning alcohol within the pub produced the scent of another dragon or dragons, confusing 'Pete' and, accordingly, he retreated.

Due to the pub's location, it has been relatively easy to explain away the blaze by starting the usual half-baked rumours and conspiracy theories about secret gangs and shadowy figures in the dusk. However, we have been unable to locate #I859623-42 or track its flight path out of London and there have been no reported UFO sightings which might give us an indication as to its whereabouts. All appropriate international agencies have been alerted.

Special Agent Muse de Mented
Camden Town, London, United Kingdom
9 February 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flatmates: Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Kill 'Em

I live in a huge, dilapidated house with a bunch of flatmates..

They think I live here just for the cheap rent but actually I was put here to monitor the active rift that sits just under the thin bitumen crust on the road outside. They also think I like taking out the bins every night but I've found it's the only discreet way of taking daily readings.

I usually creep out quite late with a PKE Meter hidden in my dressing gown. Most nights the readings are next to nothing and I find myself wishing for a bit of action, or even a faint ectoplasmic trail. There's been nothing for a while which makes me think we're overdue for something really diabolical.

My flatties however are completely oblivious. They drive over the rift when they back out of the driveway every morning and barely register that we have more road works in our street than the whole state combined.

They have their own disasters to cope with inside the house though. Steaks are sometimes left on the stove until they catch on fire, ancient electrical wiring tries to burn us to death in our sleep and my personal favourite, the bath that overflows through the floor and into the bottom storey apartment (thankfully not mine!).

The latest trouble however has to do with a plant.. and it's all their fault.

A couple of months ago I picked up a plant from a market stall thinking it was just a regular Dionaea Muscipula (Venus Fly Trap). I should have known however not to buy anything from a market situated near an area of high paranormal activity.

I came home from a late night meeting to discover that my flatmates had thought it funny to feed my plant pieces of marinated lamb kebab. What the frak? I was sure it was going to die. It's supposed to eat fat juicy flys not marinated lamb.

So the following day I took it into the office to keep it away from my silly flatmates and feed it some proper food. I grabbed a freshly swatted fly with tweasers and gently pushed it into one of its traps when suddenly it did something strange. It spat it out.

A faulty reflex I thought. I tried another. It spat it out again. I started to get seriously weirded out. I picked up the fly with tweasers and began to approach the plant again when I heard a tiny squeeky voice. "We like the lamb."

I looked around the office to see if I was alone. "Helloooo?", I called gingerly. It wouldn't be the first time a practical joke was played but how would any of my colleagues know about the lamb? Joke or not, I also couldn't have anyone seeing me talking to a plant.

I bent down closer to the plant to study it. Nothing abnormal that I could see. Then one of the traps began to move and the squeeky little voice was there again, but impatient this time. "Yesssssss?"

Frak. I own a talking plant.. with attitude.

"Ugh.. you.... talk?", I whispered in amazement.

The talking trap twisted a little, as if smiling wryly. "Hey, we've got a genius here guys." All the other traps laughed in unison sounding like a crowd of kids on helium.

I leaned back in my chair in stunned silence for a moment as the cackling died down.

Another of the traps spoke up, "You got any more of that lamb? Tastes way better than flys."

Smart-Arse Trap spoke up again, "Yeah I'll have mine medium rare!" Another piped up over the fresh eruption of laughter, "And I'll have a Jacob's Creek Merlot. Vintage 1999!"

And so the heckling continues each morning, as does the cooking of lamb kebabs. Despite the jibes, we (the traps and me) have some good witty banter and I've come to know each of them for their quirks. One likes to quote Space Core Directives out of context, one likes Shakespeare and the three traps at the back can sing some wicked harmonies.

Even the Smart-Arse has toned down his routine a little, at least until after I feed him..

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Everyone Freaks Out The First Time

Time to introduce another character to this circus..

After some persuasion, my dear friend Muse will be contributing to this blog when her busy schedule allows. We've practically been best buddies since we were 12 and spent most of our teenage years watching the X-Files and dreaming of saving humanity from extraterrestrial threats.

So we felt it was fate when we both scored jobs here at the Agency. However, two years ago, Muse got a lucky break and transferred to London where she has studied hard and risen in the ranks to become a full agent. This year she has been assigned to patrol the London Borough of Camden, but more on that in a later post.

First though is an account of our first mission together.
(Muse - Thanks for your input with this. The details are a little fuzzy after 9 months!)

Saturday September 29, 2007
55° 56′ 58.4″ N, 3° 9′ 37.04″ W
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

"Are you sure he's going to come down here?", I asked while nervously clutching a steel bar with sweaty hands. There was no answer from the agent beside me, just a look of steely concentration in the direction of the alley's entrance that sloped up the cold stone steps above us. We crouched down in the shadows and waited.

I silently chanted a mantra in my head as I was terrified that, when the moment came, I would forget what I was supposed to do. Remove the head. Destroy the brain. Remove the head. Destroy the brain.

I felt an unnaturally cold breeze on my face as if Death himself had walked past and, when I looked up, I saw a silhouette against the late afternoon sun at the top of the steps. It appeared to be a tall, slim man but something was odd about the way he was standing. It was an awkward pose, head cocked to one side and arms suspended stiffly away from his torso.

Suddenly breaking the silence, Agent de Mented called in a low, taunting voice: "Cmon, Haggis Head...or are we too much for you? Hey - did anyone ever tell you that your mother was an English spy?"

The tall, slim gentleman turned and lurched forward down the alley at an angle I was sure would send him tumbling toward us. But he managed to keep his footing despite the rigor mortis giving him obvious trouble in the knees.

More of his features came into view as he slowly staggered down the stairs and I was struck by a sudden thought. This man was somebody's son, brother, lover.. and now I was going to crack him over the head with a steel bar. I consoled myself that his spirit had long departed, and what we saw before us now was just a decomposing husk. Better he was dead (properly dead this time), than let him continue his all-you-can-eat brain buffet.

When he came into range I quickly sent a sharp side kick into his knee. To my horror I heard the crunch of bone and saw that his knee was now bent in a way that God had not intended. He quickly lost his balance, face-planted into the stone steps and tumbled a few feet past us.

Now, I don't mean to be graphic here but I feel the need to point out that with zombies, parts just fall off. They are, after all, decomposing bodies. And the trail of mess this guy left made me feel physically ill. I must have visibly paled, or perhaps it was due to the fact that I dropped the steel bar of death, but my dear friend stepped in and finished the job.

An elegant silver blade was suddenly in her left hand, slid out from some hidden pocket of her backpack (I still don't know how she smuggled it through airport security). The blade was an unusual shape, two-edged at the hilt, like a dagger, but narrowing into a long, thin spike at the tip - and it was SHARP. It was polished so brightly that I could almost do my makeup in it and, even in the dim light of the alley, it had an otherworldly shine.

Stepping over the zombie's....unmentionables....Muse made quick work with the blade, using it as a small sword to cut off the head, then like a poker to....well, I won't go there, but let's just say I have a good story to discourage any future child of mine from picking its nose.

I picked up my steel bar - not that I would need it now, but it made me feel a little more safe to hold it again. "Sorry.. I was lame".

My friend just grinned up at me. "You brought him down, and that's all I needed," she said. "Don't worry about it - everybody panics on their first go." She wiped the blade clean and held it up for me to see. "A handy little gift from Gazza. Real, hardened silver." (Gareth "Gazza" Van Helsing is Agent de Mented's mentor. I've always found him a bit odd, but maybe that's just because he's about ten years older than God but still running around after the undead.) "It's more effective on vampires and warewolves, of course, but it does the job with zombies."

Before long the cleanup crew from the Edinburgh Office arrived in Hazmat suits, and what was left of Mr Tall Slim Gentleman was scooped into a bodybag and taken away. As we were ushered away from the scene, the Tabloid Relations Crew went into gear and quickly spun a story about a chemical leak from a nearby shop to the local media.

After we'd cleaned ourselves up, we headed down to The Last Drop Tavern for a well deserved glass of wine but for some reason the chunky steak & guinness pie didn't seem all that appealing..

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Almost Deadly

On Saturday I had a Martial Arts Grading..

The Agency has been paying for me to do classes for quite a while now. They say if I ever want to be a fully fledged Agent I have to know how to defend myself without relying on gadgets and conveniently placed blunt objects.

I heartily agree and so every Monday and Wednesday night I diligently attend class so that one day I will be a killing machine. It's pretty hard work. Most nights I come home completely stuffed and covered in bruises from being kicked, punched and thrown across the room.

The programme is a diverse mix of Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Judo, self-defense techniques, fitness drills and Ecky-Thump (pending the availability of Black Pudding).

It's quite difficult sometimes. I've never been a sporty spice. I will admit that I did Tenpin Bowling as my high school sport for as many terms as I could get away with. But it seems that on Saturday, all my hard work paid off. Sir has finally recognised my potential and asked me to join an advanced class on Sundays that will help me with technique and introduce me to some weapons.

And so last Sunday, I held Nunchucks for the first time. They are a lot of fun but I'm not sure of the practical application seeing as they are too big to fit into my handbag.

And I was a little disturbed to find that the entire Nunchuck routine has to be done right-handed.

"Sir, this is discrimination against left-handed persons", I complained while swinging my Nunchucks awkwardly.

"Suck it up, Grasshopper", Sir said with a stern look. "Maybe you could invent a Martial Arts for left handers".

A mind like mine doesn't need much encouragement.

I hereby give you the Martial Art of Kitt-Oog-Jitsu! The word Kitt-Oog originates from the Irish word for left-handed - Ciotógach.
  • Disciples of Kitt-Oog-Jitsu must be left-handed or ambidexterous.
  • They must observe the sacred day of August 13 (Left Handers Day) and keep it Holy
  • Upon entering or leaving the training area, disciples must bow with their left fist touching their right collarbone
  • All drills must start with the left hand or leg
  • During free spar, double points are awarded for left hand kicks or hand strikes
  • Disciples will attend any Equal Rights for Lefties Rallies in their local area.
Any takers?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cheer Up Emo Kid Or I'll Give You Something To Cry About

I was with a crew on Sunday night and we were discussing the influence of emo culture.

"I wish my lawn was emo, then it would cut itself", I said in my usual deadpan delivery.

One of my friends nearly inhaled his drink. "Dude, you're sick."

"Hey don't blame me!", I said though a mouthful of gourmet pizza. "I didn't print the t-shirt."

Seriously though, there is going to come a time when all the emo kids are going to grow up, grow out of their skinny jeans and their deep introspection. What kind of support is going to be available for them? That's why we came up with the idea of Emo Rehab.

Successful applicants will be taken through the following comprehensive programme, which aims to turn Emo Kids into happy, emotionally stable citizens.
  • Emo kids will be taken to an exclusive secluded resort close to the equator where it will be impossible to wear black skinny jeans due to the excessive heat
  • Fringes/Bangs will be trimmed and hair dyed anything other than black
  • Bright coloured clothing will be imported from JayJays, Lorna Jane and GAP
  • The kids will spend at least 2hrs per day in direct sunlight. That'll get rid of the pasty look
  • Diaries are banned but kids may make sandcastles as a form of self-expression (no skull-castles please)
  • Musical expression is encouraged during the rehabilitation process and a variety of musical instruments will be provided such as the tin whistle, harp and kazoo
  • Emo Kids will eat with plastic cutlery to avoid any.. unpleasantness
  • Classes will be conducted each day such as Smiling 101, How To Make Eye Contact and Finding Your Inner Happy Person
  • Entertainment is important in the rehabilitation process so students are encouraged to watch educational documentaries like "Third World Living" and "Wars, Coups & Genocide". These videos aim to show that we have many reasons to be happy in the developed world
I think it'll be a hit. But what to do with all the black skinny jeans..

Monday, June 16, 2008

Geek Credibility Restored

On Friday I went to the city and sat for the MCDST Exam 70-271..

It's one of the IT exams needed for folks wanting to gain the credential of Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician. It's a good entry-level credential for people who are starting out in IT, or in my case, to kick start training to gain a higher qualification.

I figure you've got to start somewhere, and when you're as lazy as I am with study it's a goal that's perfectly do-able and gets you commited to studying regularly.

Unfortunately due to the non-disclosure agreement, I'm effectively gagged from talking about the types of questions you might encounter on the test.

Here are a few tips if you're thinking of going for this certification;
  • Get your hands on the official training kit. I recommend you buy from ebay. I scored a bargain for $40 instead of $110 retail.
  • Schedule in a regular study time and set realistic goals. The training kit is broken up into chapters and exercises and tells you how long each section will take to get through.
  • Be accountable to someone such as a co-worker or boss about your goals. Email them weekly with an update of how you are doing. Re-adjust goals if the schedule isn't working.
  • Book your exam early so you are commited to taking the exam within a certain time frame. If you don't book, you might be tempted to get lazy with your study schedule. Also these tests often need to be booked at least a month in advance so don't miss out.
  • Learn all the material in the book and read technet articles. The book covers just about everything but make sure you read supplimentary material on any areas you are weak on.
  • Photocopy the Lesson Summaries at the end of each chapter and read over them regularly. Re-read these summaries on the morning of your exam to jog your memory.
  • Take the practice tests on the CD-ROM included with the training kit. It'll let you know the areas where you need to improve. In my case, I bombed majorly on the practice tests which made me study a lot harder. As a result I did very well on the day with a score of 816 (a pass is 700) and I found the real exam to be a lot easier than the practice tests.
  • Make sure you take sufficient ID to the exam. One photo ID and one bank/credit card.
  • Have something good to eat before you exam (I recommend at least 3 weetbix) and make sure you're fully hydrated. Unfortunately they don't allow food and drink in the exam cube and you'll be in there for 2hrs.
When you finish up your exam with a stunningly awesome pass mark, you might want to celebrate at a local restaurant. I found a sweet cafe and ordered a huge stack of tempura fish, fat chips and chased it down with a huge chocolate cookie. Ah, good times..

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Note From Your Friendly Network Administrator

My job role with The Agency is quite a varied one, but one of my responsibilities is maintaining the Network and providing Technical Support to The Agency's many minions.

Generally I really like this aspect of the job, but there are times when I shake my head in wonder at the total ineptitude of some of my colleagues. Generally it's the older crew that are used to doing things "old school". The kind of guys that stand around the water cooler and say things like, "Remember that time we took down that poltergeist with nothing but a proton pack and a rolled up newspaper? Ah, those were the days.."

They're not that great with computers and now they've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 3rd millennium.

Here be the chronicles of how they annoy me..

1. Don't ask me to install a new printer cartridge, laser toner or copier toner for you.
They have instructions on the box. Some are even conveniently packaged so that you just remove all the orange tags before inserting into the printer. Really.. if you can make toast, you can change a toner.

2. Don't ask me what your password is.
I'm pretty talented but I have to draw the line at omniscience. No, I do not know your password but I can reset it for you.

3. Don't neglect to tell me about a computer problem in the hope that it'll go away.
It won't, believe me. Don't get pissy when I tell you I have to order in parts. You could have told me about it last week.

4. Don't tell me how to fix a problem, tell me what the problem is.
Just because you couldn't get that spreadsheet to work the way you wanted, doesn't mean you need to upgrade to the latest version of office. I refuse to install that overpriced abomination on any PC on my network. The problem is that you don't know how to use Excel.

5. Don't phone me demanding that I instantaneously materialise in your cube to fix your problem.
Most days I have a lot of things going on. Let me prioritise my own workload.

6. Don't ask me to restore data that hasn't been backed up.
If you made a document an hour ago and then deleted it, it's not on backup. Get a TARDIS or learn your lesson and get used to hitting Ctrl-S regularly.

7. Don't you dare walk away from your PC without locking it.
Do you really want other people reading your email? Do you want the Director to see that you're reading LOLCATs again?

8. Don't phone me repeatedly when I have PMT.
Approach my desk slowly, with palms up and preferably with at least 100 grams of good quality dairy milk chocolate. Not white, not dark but dairy milk.

9. Don't take it as a personal insult if you don't have access to a Network Folder.
There could be a very good reason why you don't have clearance. If not, it only takes a couple of minutes to fix. Chill out.

10. Don't ask me to install meaningless third party software that is going to take up system resources just so you can have some trinket for your desktop.
What's on your PC is all you need for work. If it was really that necessary, don't you think I would have rolled it out to everyone?

If only I could post this at work..

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everyone Loves A Wedding

My friend's getting married on Saturday..

And I have the honour of being second bridesmaid. For some reason though, second bridesmaid has to go first down the aisle, and it's making me nervous.

Me: "I'd feel better if I had a sidearm.."

Bride: "No sidearms"

Me: "Nunchucks? Quarterstaff? Brass knuckles in the bouquet?"

Bride: "No weapons.. of any kind"


Seriously though, weddings are a dangerous business. They are a magnet for paranormal activity and a veritable buffet for the dreaded Polymorph.

As you well know, the shapeshifting alien known as the Polymorph feeds on the extremes of human emotion. And there's no better place for that than a wedding - fear, anxiety, joy, desire - they're all there in good supply.

At one particular wedding I attended, a Polymorph actually posed as the groom. The vows and rings were exchanged and just as they went to kiss it morphed back into its true form - a hideous, slobberying 9 foot tall alien. Naturally the bride screamed and then splat! - its slimy tongue came out of its mouth and landed on her forehead. It sucked every last ounce of fear out of her, morphed into a large beach ball and bounced away.

Needless to say the cleanup and papertrail of that debacle was immense. It won't be happening again this weekend though. I have hatched a cunning plan. The agency is organising a faux-funeral down the road complete with distraught mourners. That should do the trick..

Monday, May 26, 2008

Again With The Rift

Tonight I decided to cook..

I don't get that urge often so I thought I'd better make the most of it and whip up something that'll last me a few nights when inevitably I'll only want to nuke. The result was a delicious potato bake with salmon. I scooped a very fat portion onto my plate and ate it right there at the kitchen counter like the slob that I am.

As I shoved the steaming thousand degree potato bake into my face, I noticed something through the front window. It was an unusual glow coming from the street level below.

A street light? Lights from a car? Someone's plasma tv?
I dropped my fork onto my plate and headed closer to the front window for a look.

Peering down I could see it clearly. A fracture in the bitumen about a foot long.. and glowing green.

Frak.. not again.

This it the third time this year that the rift has opened, spewing God knows what kind of paranormal randomness onto the inhabitants of our sleepy little street. The first time it happened this year the hole was so big I'm sure cars disappeared into it.

The next morning the council sent out a team of gormless road workers to patch it up. The noobs tried to fix it by pouring it full of concrete and bitumen and sure enough after a bit of light rain, it opened up again.

Second time around they ripped up a good stretch of the road and resurfaced it. A better job that time around but we all know that rifts in time/space are unpredictable, difficult to close and highly dangerous. Time to call in the professionals.

Hopefully they'll fix it overnight and not bother me - since I'm on holidays and all. And I refuse to write another mindnumbing incident report. It's only a foot long and I'm sure nothing dangerous could have gotten through from the void.

Just to be sure though, I'm sleeping with a hammer..

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blog 3.0

I haven't had the best of luck with blogging..

Years ago I used to blog at a fantastic little online community known as modblog. It was by far the best blogging service going at the time. It had great features, was highly customisable and encouraged users to be actively involved in other people's blogs and share their knowledge of its workings.

Sadly though, after a long run of technical difficulties, features gradually stopped working, blog entries disappeared and the last I heard was someone took all the HDs out of the host server and forgot what order to put them back in. Modblog flatlined and was never seen again.

I heard whispers that many users migrated elsewhere, but I unfortunately didn't follow. It was probably a combination of procrastination and the busyness of life that kept me from joining them, but I did try again last year with another service. It just wasn't the same. I tired of it and that blog too is now history.

So this is attempt 3. I'll give it another shot. Why? Well I think I have more to tell, and you my friend, are not going to believe what you're reading..