2008 — 1 May: Thursday — rabbits!

Don't forget: if voting changed anything... they'd make it illegal. It's 00:30 and BBC 6Music is broadcasting (or, given its audience figures, perhaps "narrowcasting" is more accurate) some wonderful Kraftwerk music. I hope tall young Tom is listening. Great stuff, but my eyelids are slamming together.


Suddenly it's 09:29 — what happened, asked Mole, blearily? What's that bright thing up in the sky? Where's the rain? Time to jump into action. Shopping, voting, lunching, maybe even a spot of crockpotting. Doubtless a few more gerunds as the day progresses (washing and dressing, perhaps). I trust we're all clear on the difference between a gerund and a present participle.

Who remembers "power" shoulders? Here was, I think, Christa's only example of that fad / trend / whatever. We are (and were) neither of us dedicated followers of fashion:

Christa in smart suit

Still with us... dept.

I gather Hornby and Corgi are to merge. I must say, those two fine institutions between them gave me more pleasure in the 1950s than, in the looming background, did the Cold war. I've just read an interesting review of a history of the RAND Corporation. Here's a snippet:

On the one hand, the author is breathlessly captivated by RAND's fast-talking economists, mathematicians, and thinkers-about-the-unthinkable;1 on the other hand, he agrees with Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis's assessment in his book, The Cold War: A New History, that, in promoting the interests of the Air Force, RAND concocted an "unnecessary Cold War" that gave the dying Soviet empire an extra 30 years of life.

We need a study that really lives up to [Alex] Abella's subtitle and takes a more jaundiced view of RAND's geniuses, Nobel prize winners, egghead gourmands and wine connoisseurs, Laurel Canyon swimming pool parties, and self-professed saviors of the Western world.

Chalmers Johnson, quoted in TomDispatch.com

Hah! I see the rain is back just as the brekkie is finished. But there's still a bit of bright blue stuff up there if you squint at funny angles. A chap has to eat, so a chap has to don something waterproof and get out there, I guess. <Sigh> I shall give it a few minutes longer. Time to explore a new (to me) online treasure trove.

An afternoon aside (or two) to Christa

Hope you don't mind me scanning in all these old photos of you. I remain in awe at your domestic eptitude, my love. I set off before 11:30 or so and here it is 13:08 already. I forgot the bacon, too. And, though I had my ballot card with me, I've yet to stretch my democratic muscle. But disaster: Sainsbury's in its unwisdom has stopped baking the "well-fired" loaves we both liked so much. What's a chap to do? Still, in a minor compensation, a Draper's tools shop is to open where the corner newsagent was in the Fryern Arcade. I decided against calling in at the monthly "MQ" lunch this time — venue the "Bridge" at Shawford, aka where Victor Meldrew met his end. Time for a bite to go with the reviving cuppa.

While the battered sweet and sour pork is getting thermally agitated there's time, too, to say "hi" to Peter S (encountered in Jonathan's Arcade bookshop) — the poor chap sees himself facing another 10 years of wage slavery. And time to wonder (not for the first time) where exactly I've managed to put the mobile phone I bought for you just before you died. So far, it's always turned up,2 but I seem to have outdone myself this time. I would call it to see if I can hear it, but I don't recall its number offhand. (Frankly, "offhand" is exactly the way I treat it.)

Dan Dare, where are you?

Were we actually living in his future, I'd now be strapping on my jet backpack and whizzing down for a quick vote. Sadly, I can't remind myself of all his adventures since this was one of the items dear Mama took against (in a vain attempt to stem the science fiction addiction she neither understood nor approved of, I suspect). So the pages I clipped from the Eagle and the second-hand annuals basically went the way, as it were, of all flesh. But you can now catch him in a museum here! Good grief! There's now a Dan Dare Corporation Ltd., too. Heresy.

Back in 1969, as my school career wound down and I was casting around for something interesting to "do" that would both deliver a tertiary level education and also render me less financially dependent3 on my parents, I briefly considered electrical engineering, and life as a student sponsored by what was then called the Central Electricity Generating Board.4 I made the final shortlist of forty applicants, but not the top 12, alas, so at fairly short notice I opted to follow Big Bro's trail into aeronautical engineering instead. (Actually, I opted for production engineering, but the Apprentice Training Officer wasn't having any of that, bless him.) And, of course, my exposure to computing during that engineering education took me into the data processing world in February 1974, to the initial alarm of my parents. Computers were still fairly esoteric things, but that was changing even as I joined the industry, of course. By 1977, you could read about PCs in (for random example) Lucifer's Hammer as a commonplace artefact of life... that's science fiction for you, I guess, dear Mama!

Memristors are made of this

Today I learn here that in 1971 what's been called the electronic missing link — the memristor proposed by Leon Chua at Berkeley — has now been fabricated. I do like the idea that "the race towards smaller devices will proceed at full steam." When's the last time anyone in the electronics industry used a steam engine, I wonder?

Ever onward

I treated my main co-pilot to afternoon tea and a cake over at Brambridge in one of the sunny intervals after I'd walked to the polling station. Also took him down to Comet to see if the cheap little HP Media PC was still there but someone else had obviously spotted what good value it was. No matter. Decided a couple of boiled eggs and the patent Mounce marmalade sandwiches was perfectly adequate for an evening meal given the load loaded at lunchtime. I'm still hovering on 86 kg, by the way, so I've now regained 5 kg or so since the low point six months ago. Don't need any more. Plenty of fresh fruit today but rather little veg. Tomorrow morning I will start a new crockpot experiment — I must say the addition of some fresh mint made quite a nice difference to the last one. Co-pilot presented me with a French bottle of some apple-based alcohol that, in moderation, will also do wonders for the slow-cooked mix, though he's warned me a) to be wary of the sediment (!) and b) not to drink it unless I wish to irrigate my colon (!). It sounds vaguely Scrumpy-ish. I shall proceed with caution.

This evening's little triumph (after consultation with Mrs Brian) was the successful laundering of my little outdoor "zipped walking waistcoat" thing which initially flummoxed me by its insistence on the need to be washed separately. Turns out it's a colour leakage issue, and a class of things called "colour catchers" can be obtained and bunged into the washing machine to sacrificially take up any colours knocked loose, as it were. Amazing! All these pieces of knowledge that I've so far avoided.



1  Epitomised by Herman Kahn's perfect example of this ghastly breed. I still have his 1973 book Herman Kahnsciousness which I describe in my database as "Roly-poly IQ 200 opinionated prat who gave us wargasm". Still, on the plus side, his description of the stages leading up to all-out "thermonuclear exchange" (what a euphemism) inspired George MacBeth's wonderful 1966 short story Crab Apple Crisis in which a petty squabble between neighbours degenerates into all-out war between their families.
2  This time, it was in the front "pocket" of the smaller rucksack, where it's been hiding since the last walk I presume. It's now suckling on its power nipple, as it were.
3  Dad's salary as a company director wasn't ever particularly high, but it ensured my student grant would be a maximum of £100 which struck me even then as not quite enough to live on for a year!
4  Long before the crazy economics of the "Raygun/Thatcher" era persuaded us to sell off portions of the national infrastructure for the exclusive benefit of the deep pockets of the suits in that mysterious entity "The City". (This opinion may be a tad simplified, but — given the infinite extent of human greed — I stand by it.)