2008 — 9 Mar: Sunday, and fingers crossed!

With luck1 the data from my hard drive on my primary PC is now safely nestling in two more places, from one of which I can set about restoring it to its accustomed home. Looking hopeful. Brian has just emailed me: "Data finished copying onto net drive. Looks OK. Am about to go out now but will inventory and then copy to USB [drive] this pm. Everything should be in place for a Windows repair tomorrow eve." I think, therefore, I can safely predict what I'll be doing in about 36 hours from now. Meanwhile:

A reminder:

In the wake of my PC crash...
No email from me in the last four days? Want to hear from me again? Then please send me an email (by clicking on my name here) so I can add you back into my Address Book. Thanks!

David Mounce

I have now emailed everybody for whom I still have an email address. So if you haven't heard from me, and you'd like to stay in touch, you know what to do. Unless and until you send me an email, I am currently unable to send you email because I simply no longer have access to your address.

Sunday papers... dept.

For about 20 years, Christa and I would read the Observer and the Sunday Times together. In the 1970s, we'd walk along the river Thames to buy our copies from the little newsagent near the pub (The Bells of Ouseley) mentioned in Jerome K Jerome's lovely book "Three Men in a Boat". After Peter was born in 1980, we'd wheel him along with us in his pushchair. We eventually stopped buying the papers sometime in the mid-1990s. Today, of course, the web is a more than satisfactory substitute bringing me (for example) the story of Boris Johnson claiming direct descent from slaves while on the same web page continuing to offer self-certifying mortgages2 to people who have a "poor credit history". Wait! Perhaps that's why we stopped paying for this nonsense?

The perfect place for this comparison (new to me) between Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World"...
Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture... As Huxley remarked in "Brave New World Revisited", the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In "1984", Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In "Brave New World", they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Neil Postman

I found this, and plenty more wonderful quotes (fairly well hidden) at Sam Smith's excellent Progressive Review.

It's now 08:54 and definitely time for a cuppa.

Lord of the Rings... dept.

Wishing my friend Gill a happy birthday this morning set me thinking. In an attempt to stop thinking last night, I'd numbed my bum for two hours watching the first half of the 2001 film "LOTR: the Fellowship of the Ring". And it occurred to me that it's just about 40 years since I read the trilogy3 for the first time. More or less exactly when I should have been revising for my Chemistry "A"-level (of course). And Big Bro actually bought me the one-volume paperback edition for my birthday when it came out in 1968 — his daughter (niece #3) now has custody of that. I have to make do with the Folio Society edition these days.

Time to hit the road...

Terror bites again...

Goodness me. I've just whizzed out, selected, paid for, and toted safely back home, a faintly boggling Terabyte of disk storage. "When I were a lad..." such an amount would have been beyond belief. The 20MB drive I added to my Amstrad PCW (CP/M) system in 1986 cost as much as that 8-bit 64KB computer itself. It also seemed so capacious that I carved it up into four separate 5MB partitions. Unbelievabubble to the youngsters these days, I suspect. I haven't finished working out quite what I'm going to do with the new pair of drives. But I foresee a more disciplined approach to systematic data backups in my future.

And a spot of lunch...


Just had a call from a chum checking up on my well-being — thanks, Mike. During our chat he coined a lovely new portmanteau word: "chastigate". Perhaps that's the word I should start using for people who don't email me? (Thanks, Jane; were you just listening somehow?)

My word, the weather is looking most peculiar. There's been a lovely rainbow at the side of the house, brilliant sunshine on the front, and a cloud as dark as those of Mordor at the back. Now there's another rainbow out there. (I love rainbows; as a child, I liked to imagine they were the outline of a large local planet and that I was standing on a moon, looking up at it.) Other things that cheer me up include today's photo of Big Bro and his granddaughter, from Lis:

Bro and Miki

Hot stuff

Now suffering the torments of Gas Mark 6 is tonight's potentially burnt offering: Chicken en croûte with a creamy bacon, cheese & leek sauce. The "serving suggestion" is a medley of stir-fried courgettes, sugar snap peas and asparagus tips, tossed in a balsamic glaze. Since I don't have any of those and my eyes glazed over, I'm settling for a couple of carrots, a couple of spuds, and a handful of sprouts. And I shall substitute either a low-alcohol shandy, or a cuppa tea, for the "unoaked white burgundy". I can be such a Philistine at times. If, as the man says, you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live then I'm doing OK at the moment. Time to turn off the gas...

Thanks, cousin Leigh, for your kindly call, too. And your slow cooking tips! I can now (19:25 or so) report tonight's meal was better than OK but not completely brilliant. I think the black pepper they'd embedded into the pastry was a bit OTT for my taste. But the 250ml of 0.5% shandy offset things nicely. And it all slipped down to the accompaniment of Alan Titchmarsh and his "melodies for you" — last time I looked, Mr Titchmarsh was doing gardening programmes on the idiot box, but what do I know?

I'd prefer to fill the house with the sounds of BBC 6Music — Ornette Coleman and co were playing nicely but now I'm suffering the strange selection of stories they choose to describe as "news" — but every receiver I have takes a slightly different amount of time4 to decode and output the terrestrial digital signal (whereas all the analogue FM radios up and downstairs basically sing along in perfect time with one another).

But, speaking of time, I need to do the dishes before settling down with a clear conscience to the second half of the first third of Lord of the Rings. Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. Allegedly!

Read all about it

A lovely demolition job on the nonsense that is the UK government's insane plans for ID cards. And some worthwhile summaries of the upcoming financial woes of the world's largest if not best-loved software company.



1  And Brian's help.
2  "With a true self cert mortgage, you make a declaration as to what your income is, but you do not need to provide any proof. You simply state what your likely income will be, rather than providing documentary evidence such as accounts, P60s or payslips." How jolly convenient! Can we say "sub-prime loans right here in the UK", anyone?
3  Yes, I know I was a bit rude about heavy fantasy trilogies as recently as yesterday, but I did say "most of them" and not "all of them"!
4  Thus making the house sound like a poor sound system at a cheapskate rock festival with "echoing tannoys". You should hear the number of distinct pips I can get from the Greenwich time signal!