2008 — 23 June: Monday

For tonight's placeholder picture of Christa I've chosen a shot of her as we set out for an early evening stroll in Windsor Great Park, back in mid-1974. I had not yet quite got around to proposing marriage at this point. I do like her bubbly expression:

Christa in Windsor Great Park, June 1974

Midsummer? Amazing! G'night, at 01:26.

Famous Belgians... dept.

I know it's only 08:37 on a sunny Monday morning, but it seems there's a new name to add to the already enormously long list of famous Belgians for use in "Trivia" contests: Paul Otlet. Who he?

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or "electric telescopes," as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a "réseau," which might be translated as "network" — or arguably, "web."

Alex Wright in The IHT

Another illusion shattered... dept.

Didya know that "Bertrand Russell, whose youthful love of mathematics helped him overcome a bout of suicidal despair, later came to believe that mathematics is fundamentally 'trivial.'" Gosh. (Source.) An earlier book by Broderick ("the Spike" in 1997) picked up on the idea of humanity accelerating into the unimaginable future. It's amazing what tosh people dream up when predicting technological outcomes. I'm happy just getting through the week, or even the day!

And, to get through today, I need breakfast and a packed lunch, for starters. Cheriton beckons... Right! Brekkie loaded. Lunch prepped and packed. Weather and traffic checked. Await phone call for the rendezvous timing. And it's only 09:32, what have I forgotten? Aah, 'spose I'd better get dressed.

Phone has done its thing. My passenger is en route and due in about 15 minutes — do I have time to update the level of WinSCP? No, but at least it's safely downloaded. Do I even have time for another cuppa? Not really! See you later.


It's gone 17:00 so it should be safe to tune back to Radio 2 — the astrology rubbish will have finished. The walk was very enjoyable, as was the cuppa and biccies afterwards. What a life we trio of grumpy old pensioners lead, heh? And my second-ever slow-worm!

My second-ever slow-worm

Mike did wonder why on earth I wanted a picture of a small pylon against the nice blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. But how else could I have achieved this?

A solarised pylon, June 2008

My previous pylonic Photoshopping attempt was back here.

It's now 19:04, the inner man has once again been pacified, and (to my delight) while I was munching my (very) occasional bacon'n'eggs I've been told that there actually is a "Pylon Appreciation Society" with (of course) a web site run by a lady called Flash Wilson Bristow.

Personally, I just like the angularity of the things, and the way they contrast so starkly and brutally with nature.1 That book ("How to live off-grid") I bought recently tells me that, by 1934, Parliament had approved plans for compulsorily purchasing all the rights of way "needed" for the UK's national system of pylons for the electricity grid... "Wherever they found opposition too intense to handle, the power companies simply buried the cable. But it was cheaper to build the pylons." I wonder what the reaction would be these days?

My! How opinions vary... dept.

Once upon a time, there was a classy magazine here in the Benighted Kingdom. It was called The Listener and was stuffed to its brim with intelligent, opinionated, writing and criticism. Today, I was browsing the New York Times Sunday Book Review section, happening upon yet another set of political memoirs — those of Scott McClellan, Dubya's former press secretary (the real life equivalent of the divine "CJ" in The West Wing TV series). Jacob Heilbrunn, reviewing this, describes earlier (and more heavyweight) tomes, including what he describes as "the first volume of Henry Kissinger's invaluable memoirs" (namely, "The White House Years"). Invaluable, heh?

In The Listener on 20th April 1989, Christopher Hitchens expressed a divergent opinion: When I had finished digesting 'The White House Years', I was so replete with its mendacity and conceit that I took a vow. I swore that I would never read another work by Kissinger until the publication of his prison letters.2 Of course, Mr H went on to write a short book suggesting why Dr K should be indicted as a war criminal, but that's another story.

Farewell, George Carlin

"I don't have pet peeves," he said, correcting the interviewer. And with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he added, "I have major, psychotic hatreds." (Source.)

Aside to Christa

Just (21:33) come back in from the back garden, my love, harvesting a third large bowl of strawberries, and watching the inexorable spread of all those lovely little "triffids" (ground sprouts, or whatever the devil they're called — we gave some to Iris a few years ago; she'll know) some of which are now flowering. I took a picture of one a year ago... (My God! What a lot has happened since then, my love!) Anyway, I'll post a fresh picture and see which of my erudite botanists can identify them:

Triffid flowers

The blasted pollen is out in force, of course, as are various little b(l)i(gh)ters! Your rose bush against the fence is doing quite well, too:

Fence rose bush

Not with a bang... dept.

"Our planet is not at risk from the world's most powerful particle physics experiment," a report has concluded. That's OK then! (Source.)



1  Nature abhors a vacuum and a straight line, at least on the human scale, though there's a nice quote on that here from Samuel Butler, considerably anticipating Benoit Mandelbrot.
2  Hitchens also had this to say on the old showman himself: "To listen even briefly to Ronald Reagan is to realise that here is a man upon whose synapses the termites have dined long and well". Good stuff.