2008 — 9 April: Wednesday

In the context of my recent admission that the word "tontine" was new to me, one of my erudite readers asked me recently if I'd seen The Wrong Box1 as a tontine is a crucial feature of the plot of Stevenson's story. (Allegedly.) Anyhowsoever, having recently dispensed with my daily printed Guardian after 30 years, which would surprise Christa, I now cast my occasional news-gathering net slightly wider these days. But, it seems, I have to go over to New York to find out the latest daft thing to emanate from our own Arts Council (which these days is presumably funded more by the National Lottery than by my taxes). Note the title of the article:

Now, this seemingly befuddled institution has included a "sexual orientation" box on the forms filled out by the organizations applying for funding. Basically, it demands to know the bedroom preferences of every board member on the application form.

Zoe Strimpel in "The Wrong Box" in The New York Sun

I certainly won't be making any cheap cracks about the word "member", or being bored stiff, so that's a couple of things not to worry about.

Yawn (it's 00:16). I have a choice: clear the chaos in the kitchen now (although I'm very tired) or, just for a change, try a slightly earlier night. Thinks... G'night.

The road to sleep...

... is, as usual, paved with good intentions. It's now 02:00 and lovely Mozart on the radio. Plus three PCs to update, critically, courtesy of that little software house over in Redmond. Then, finally, thwarted in the attempt to do a spot of 24x7 banking:

Not 24 by 7

I suppose they have to stop and count their riches2 from time to time, but why do they seem to do it whenever I want to pay a bill?

Mudslingers ahoy!

I'd been going to link to a piece by Robert Kagan (here) but opted instead for a choice insult from the companion piece (here) by Jacob Heilbrunn:

George Galloway, on a visit to the U.S. to defend himself before Congress on charges of illegal financial dealings with Saddam Hussein, referred to Hitchens as a "sodden Trotskyist popinjay." But it is precisely this sort of enmity that energizes Hitchens, Paul Berman, and others in the first place. Attacks from their former brethren confirm their own view of themselves as lonely martyrs speaking the truth — the classic stance of the intellectual since Socrates downed the hemlock.

Jacob Heilbrunn in "Rank-breakers" in World Affairs Journal

Is a popinjay a real bird, do you think? Time (09:57) for breakfast and a cuppa... Lovely blazing sunshine, by the way.

Penetrating insights?

I wonder if Jeff Bezos knows how naughty some of his customer reviews are? Monitus es. (Should I name my informant?)

Peacock picture

Back in the 1960s, dear Mama (who is, I'm sure, every bit as strange as me) spent many months working on a sort of "paint by numbers" embroidery of a peacock. The result was promised to whichever of her "two boys" married first, and I had to point out that the six-year age difference between us meant the need for an appropriate adjustment before assigning the peacock to its new owner. Here's the bird when he was on display in our Old Windsor house:

Embroidered peacock

Big Bro married Lis in January 1972, and I married Christa in September 1974.

Lunch — after a quick sortie to raid the veggie section at Waitrose — is, basically, a roast of lamb and assorted stuff. Terribly nutritious, but far too much for one chap at one sitting. Then we shall have to see what the rest of the afternoon brings. (It's 13:21 already.) Reading through the Your pocket plan for a healthy diet booklet I picked up suggests, over a 10-day period, six items of chicken, rather a lot of yoghurt, and only three eggs. No trace of bacon, plenty of fresh fruit and noisome veg, but I shall veto the tofu and Falafel Bites. Thinks: I may have to cut down on the chocolate.

Thanks, Ms Postie... dept.

More for the mind, rather than the tum:

Taking Christa's advice... dept.

She could always cheer herself up by going out for a little trip in her car. And it works for me, too, so I've recently returned from a leisurely inspection of the goodies on show at the Millbrook Comet. The inspection was certainly leisurely — I'm retired, you know — but there was a fair bit of slowish traffic too. They have an obsolete Toshiba HD-DVD player reduced to £59-99 but a) it only upscales standard DVDs via the hdmi output, not the component, (doubtless attaching the dreaded hdcp flags to the bitstream as a toady little extra) and b) there's not much chance of being able to hack it to play Region 1 DVDs. Also an HP quad core Media PC desktop, and an interesting array of large flat screen TVs. And some outrageously expensive cables. No sign of anything relating to FreeSat, however, which was one of my other motivations for the trip.

There's also a world of innocent entertainment to be had by eavesdropping on elderly sales chappies trying to extol the virtues of dual core processor chips when they all too clearly don't have any more clue than (apparently) their intended victim esteemed customer. Not me, I should add.



1  Which has just reminded me that I'd meant to record last night's "University Challenge" since he was due to appear on it — bother! Luckily, my walking companion is a great deal better organised than I am, and I now have the offer of a recording to pick up at my convenience. Thanks, Mike!
2  "The king was in his counting house, counting all his money..."
3  A policy that has worked best (so far) with the ridiculously good Carnivàle, by the way. Check out the voting.