2007 — 15 Mar: Everything comes to he who Waits

Tom Waits, that is. As on BBC Radio 3's "Late Junction" last night; well, until a few minutes ago, in fact. And yet more musical treats are in store, as I'm being taken to see a Genesis tribute band — correction, the Genesis tribute band, at Portsmouth Guildhall this evening. Who's a lucky lad?!

I have a new reader; now I need to teach him the difference between "prodigious" and "prolific". Ho-hum...

I'm unfamiliar with Professor Martin McKee, by the way, but I like his Guardian letter writing style:

So the government has decreed that children aged 40 months should "understand what is right, what is wrong and have a conception why this is". Perhaps this is something that cabinet ministers could one day aspire to.

Martin McKee

If this is his blog,1 I recommend it, particularly for the news that he's just returned from a conference on alcohol in Russia. I shall look out a little item from many years ago for your delectation. It will take a few minutes (hic!)

It was a piece in the Guardian (of course) back in January 1987, written by the chap (Martin Walker) who was then their Moscow correspondent. And an amusing writer, too:

40 degrees below freezing... I last came across that... temperature in central Siberia... there I heard the mystical, marvellous sound that the Russians call the "whisper of stars"... the rustling and crackling noise your breath makes as you exhale, and the water vapour instantly freezes and falls tinkling to the ground.
("Tinkling" obviously put him in mind of an open-air picnic):

I was put in charge of the Spirit, a Siberian super-vodka that is as near pure alcohol as makes no difference... Spirit explains the success of the Soviet space programme — rocket fuel cannot compete. I nursed the Spirit while my hosts built a fire, piled snow into the cauldron, and began to whittle flakes of deep-frozen fish into what became a delicious stew... we became a very merry party. Then it came time to take a pee. I trudged through the snow to a discreet distance, and began a long process of unbuttoning several layers of garments. Finally, all was ready. And I watched in disbelief as a thin but sturdy stalagmite of quick-frozen urine began to ascend towards me. At moments like this, your entire past life tends to flash before you — or at least those bits where knowledgeable people told you about frostbite, what it did to the affected part, and whether the damage was reversible. At this point memory failed me and panic ensued. I began to flounder slowly backwards, away from this growing pillar of ice. It followed me with obvious menace. I retreated further, stumbled, tripped and fell, just as Siberia's rival to the Leaning Tower of Pisa collapsed on to the snow and lay there in the shape of a large question mark... shaken by this experience, I hurried back to the camp-fire, where my friends had become so hysterical with laughter that one of them fell over and knocked down the last bottle of Spirit, which was probably just as well.

Martin Walker

Safari out to lunch department

(Supposed) nuances of web browsers. You hafta to love 'em. Safari on the Mac is the one that fails to "superscript" my first footnote callout on 13th March — the one by the link to that splendid marijuana page. I assume it never expected to encounter, and thus didn't know how to parse, two adjacent hypertext links on the trot, as it were. Or it was too stoned. Firefox, Camino, and Opera on the Mac; Firefox, IE, and Opera on Windows, all do what I hoped, he added defensively. But not Safari.
Apologetic update: I expect Safari didn't expect to contend with a mad webmaster who wrongly nested his adjacent hypertext links. "Problem" is now fixed by relocating the final "</a>" earlier in the HTML sequence. How come six browsers could arguably be said to have got it wrong? (Blushes and retires to an early supper, prior to the Genesis tribute.)

Fonts ahoy!

I can't believe I've only just run the iMac's "Font Book" application. That's a nice set of fonts they've tucked away somewhere on the mysterious filing system. Investigations will continue. I love a good font!

Ken Burns effect

NPR is talking to Ken Burns, whose name is attached to the panning and zooming effects that I had previously thought belonged in the realm of the rostrum camera. (And which I've already put to useful effect on the iMac by pointing its screensaver to a folder that contains a set of wallpaper JPEGs I scooped from those wonderful Australians who gave the world a series of delightfully brief bikinis...)

Day 132  


1  It is he; we have just exchanged emails.