2007 — 16 May: Swarfega, and ready to go!

I spent some time (and lost a few bits of finger skin) yesterday repeating the process of pre-emptively repairing1 the oil pipes (and, this time, also replacing the oil cooler, despite the worst efforts of the annoyingly-in-the-way alternator) on my friend Charlee. After our initial practice run on Bluebelle a couple of weeks ago.

It rained, I seem to remember. We were visited half way through by a Jobsworth from the local DVLA insistent on finding or establishing a proper paper trail for Bluebelle (who could otherwise, if they please, be taken from this drive to a place of execution and crushed like a beetle at the owner's expense rather like fake hallmarked material can be). A hasty, and only slightly oil-smeared sandwich was brought over to us, and consumed at some point. Thanks, Christa! And today, if we spot a sunny interval, we hope to nip out for what could be called an extensive oil leak pressure test2 (or maybe just an adventure). Skinned fingers crossed, and spanners packed.

The last time I conducted such a fluid pressure test after some rather grander-scale metal working was back in 1970 at the Hatfield aircraft works of what was then Hawker Siddeley (Aviation) Ltd. I had spent several mind-numbing weeks dollying many many hundreds of rivets3 inside the fuel pod tank of a Nimrod.4 The tank was then taken away and filled with fuel (naturally!), drained, and brought back for all leaks to be fixed. At the end of this extremely wearisome and smelly process — why smelly? well a) the inside of the tank was lined with a charming (and, for all I know, carcinogenic) sealant called Thiokol [which stinks to high heaven], and b) the tank inevitably always contained a few dribbles of aviation fuel after each pressure test [and this fuel also stinks to at least limbo] — one's overalls are not so much removed as stepped out of, and I was almost sure they would have walked over to me if I'd whistled, just like Wallace and Gromit's The Wrong Trousers.

What larks, Pip ol' chum!

Even on a dull(ish) day... department

In thumbnail form...

Small ducks

And if you'd like the bigger picture.

The haves and the have-yachts

Line from a BBC World Service programme ("For richer for poorer") about the divide between the 200 richest people (who own more than the poorest 4 billion) and the rest of us. "It's not about the money", they assert.
"No guilt?"
"About what?"

There's a surprise. But they don't pay back their huge salaries when they (often) get it wrong, do they? Remind yourself of what Barack Obama said. Getting power (or money) apparently causes you to focus on getting more power (or money) and makes you "stupid and insensitive" or [as the experimenters who demonstrate this effect termed it] "disinhibited"! "To expect inequality to be taken care of by philanthropists is barking up the wrong tree", according to George Soros.

Oodles more here.

It's not a firing offence... department

Run the World Bank. Get a promotion and hefty pay raise for your girlfriend. "A mistake, but not a firing offence" says the White House. Indeed, Condy Rice (for whom my respect and admiration is [naturally] completely indescribable) is reported as saying: "It doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that you would want to see the dismissal of the World Bank president over." One idly wonders what would be "the kind of thing" to constitute a sacking offence. Architecting an illegal and immoral war? No. How about not paying a parking ticket? Yes, that would probably do the trick.

What I love about the web... department

... is its incredible diversity. Here's an extract from a particularly robust opinion piece about what the West should do about the Middle East (in essence, ignore it):

We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts — excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world's population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all.

The middle east was once the world's most advanced region, but these days its biggest industries are extravagant consumption and the venting of resentment... Unless compelled by immediate danger, we should therefore focus on the old and new lands of creation in Europe and America, in India and east Asia — places where hard-working populations are looking ahead instead of dreaming of the past.

Edward Luttwak, writing The middle of nowhere

Well, it's certainly one point of view. Or, as Louis Armstrong put it: "What a wonderful world".

Shame on me! I've only seen 37 of the 50 most influential visual effects films of all time. What have I been doing with my life?5

Day 194  


1  Everyone needs a hobby!
2  The initial report — "Drier than a witch's tit. Brilliant job!" — sounds encouraging.
3  I sometimes wonder how, after my time at Hatfield, my sense of hearing remained acute enough for a later period in the mid-1970s as a freelance hi-fi and record reviewer, but that's another story. I did wear earplugs, of course... None of the other chaps did, which may be why many of our conversations were a bit on the shouty side, I guess. Pardon? I heard that!
4  Not so much a variation by Elgar as a British attempt to turn a late 1940s jet airliner (the Comet) into an early 1970s AWACS machine. The necessary avionics never really got its act together, of course, so Boeing got the lion's share of this market segment. And I fled the aircraft industry for the safer haven of computing.
5  I refer my reader to the answer given by the Hugh Grant character in Four weddings and a funeral when comparing his lifetime total of romantic dalliances with his American chum. I have watched this film more often than any other in my little collection. Odd, isn't it?