2008 — 3 July: Thursday

I must say, I very much prefer this somewhat cooler weather. And pollen levels seem to be a lot more bearable, too.

Tonight's picture? Christa, at the "dining room end" of the Old Windsor living room.

Christa in 1978 or so... at the "dining room" end

I found my eye caught by the various artefacts arrayed along the windowsill.

Windowsill artefacts

The red, plastic "Soma" cube,1 for example — a puzzle invented by Piet Hein (he of the "super egg") and named after the drug in Huxley's Brave New World. We bought that (to replace one I'd made out of balsa wood) in Oxford on the day of our first picnic.

A bicycle trouser clip. (How very singular.) Next to that, a Crookes radiometer that always disappointed me by barely twitching when (in bright sunlight) it should have whirled round like a dervish. I bought it, if memory doesn't trick me, from an outfit called "Proops" in London while I was still at school. Wonder where the devil it got to?

A set of giant pencils (produced as a marketing freebie by Christa's Dad's furniture factory). These were not very practical, but of enormous sentimental value to my Best Girl.

A weird plastic polygonal shape found in, and filched from, an old ICL desk drawer. It inspired me (if that's the right word) to make a series of cold-cast resin paperweights with various items embedded in them. I will take a picture of one of those that Christa kept on her study desk for nearly 30 years... Perhaps I should offer a small prize for identifying the embedded objects?

(One of) Christa's home-made paperweights

A scallop shell ash-tray (from my Midlands aunt) and a two-hole paper punch. I'm sure both those are still knocking around somewhere, too.

The mug, perched quite safely on the arm of one of those gigantic armchairs we got very cheaply at an auction. The mug is currently still in use as one of Christa's little caches of toffees, though the armchairs were handed on when we moved down here from Old Windsor. And (of course) her happy smile — priceless.

Oh well, an unaccompanied trip to Dr Fang in a few hours for a(nother) repair to a chipped filling. Not much to look forward to, really, is it? G'night, at 00:44 or thereabouts.

Let the sunshine in

Overnight rain (which I heard once or twice) appears to have disappeared. The sun is blazing away at 08:53, at least, and definitely time for the morning cuppa. Creature of considerable habit, am I...

Time (12:03) to get out the chariot and toddle reluctantly off to Dr Fang. Better check how much thermal agitation today's lunch needs, too. At least I can pre-heat the oven even if I won't necessarily be able to chew.

Good! "See you in six months, Mr Mounce." That's what I like to hear. Speedy repair on the chipped filling, too, although this time he took it all off rather than trying the same patchwork as last time. This is, as I remarked to him, only the fourth time2 I've been to the dentist (as an adult) unaccompanied by Christa and, for that matter, the first time ever I've driven myself there. Amazing. See what you've got me doing, Christa? Just like a real grown-up!

(The Wimpole Street surgeon [see the footnote] turned out to be a master craftsman, and while I can't say I enjoyed the experience, it didn't actually hurt, and is still in good shape 17 years later. He told me he reckons, with the possible exception of one chap in the USA, to do more root canal work than anyone else on the planet, since that is all he does. I guess it takes all sorts.)

Time (13:36) for lunch, and then a nice afternoon adventure somewhere with my main co-pilot.

Wisdom of Whores... dept.

I visited this lady's excellent website a few weeks ago (I must have; [a] I remember it, and [b] it was bookmarked in my browser). Her current blog posting shows the difficulties of automated word replacement algorithms. Anyway, today, Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer reviews her new book:

Why don't we know more about the world? Here's a simple answer: Wonderful writers aren't where they should be... Then, on top of the writer-maldistribution problem, there's the hitch that self-anointment as a writer doesn't make you a good one. Most self-proclaimed writers, like self-proclaimed singers, are bad at what they do... She opted for "the issue that makes politicians most squeamish" — AIDS — and the "AIDS industry itself, a world where byzantine international bureaucracies fight turf battles with one another. ... A world where money eclipses truth."

Carlin Romano in Philadelphia Inquirer

Doing our bit... dept.

... for the local tea and cakes sector of the UK economy, this time at the Brambridge Garden Centre. Not to mention the local sector of the "Shell" economy. (Aside to Christa: you wouldn't believe how quickly petrol has gone up since I started driving your final birthday present to me around!) And, speaking of local sectors, I was amused to notice (as I drove back into my borough of Eastleigh from that of the Test Valley [which houses both my dentist and my GP, Dr Joey]) this afternoon, the boundary sign states that Eastleigh is "tackling climate change" — a bold claim that strikes me as almost as ludicrous as the sign that used to adorn the edge of Southampton Common to the effect that you were entering a nuclear-free zone.

The inner man had to make do with the second half of lunch a few minutes ago (it was from a "serves two" pack, after all) — chicken breasts in a warm tomato vinaigrette and a salad. (Once again, the two halves of the hard-boiled egg showed that the fridge's main compartment is set slightly south, as it were, of 0C.) Still, my weight hovers nicely around the 86.7 kg mark, nearly 8 kg below the level of the IBM cubicle slave I was two years ago. And about 6 kg above the low point during Christa's final illness.

Oh well. Now I shall fire up the Nikon and do a spot more slide scanning. Ever onward. I'm also flummoxed by a nice quotation as it's attributed both to Horace Walpole (whom I've heard of) and Jean de la Bruyère (who's new to me). I tracked it down after learning that Roger Sandall takes it as his guiding philosophy: life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel. I've no idea which side of that fence I'm on. In the last year it seems to me I've done a great deal of both...

I'm shocked, I tell you...

... shocked to learn that gambling is taking place at Rick's café!

Then in November 2007, Wikileaks published never-before-seen operating manuals for the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, revealing that the United States had a policy for hiding some detainees from the International Red Cross, and used dogs to intimidate prisoners. The same month, the site published lists of U.S. munitions in Iraq, including stores of banned chemical weapons. Documents leaked from the Swiss bank Julius Baer in January strongly hinted that some customers were engaged in widespread money laundering.

Ryan Singel in Wired

Personally, I've always liked the "sunshine" test. What a good job I have nothing to hide! On an almost-related front, however, this looks very promising. Thinking caps on...

And this raises the hackles more than somewhat:

One sure sign of a lack of political vision is a rise in the number of pieces of acronymic legislation. After September 11, the US Congress passed the euphoniously named "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" the initials of which spell out "USA — Patriot." The Patriot Act is a pretty bad piece of legislation, but at least its drafters worked hard on the acronyms so that opponents could be labelled "anti-patriot" — a perfect level of analysis for Fox News. Admittedly, in this administration, having public officials torturing acronyms rather than detainees might be counted as a plus, but I still find the whole practice distasteful. I'd suggest that politicians vow to vote against any piece of legislation with its own normatively loaded acronym, no matter how otherwise appealing. It might make them focus a little more on the content.

James Boyle in The FT

I thought "Patriot" act was a bit too good to be true!



1  Faded by the sun, these days, to the point where it's even easier to solve. (And currently living on the windowsill of our / my bedroom.)
2  Visit #3 was last September, before she died. Visits #1 and #2 were to a gentleman in Wimpole Street for some intricate root-canal work felt to be beyond the capability of our "normal" chap. This was during the first Gulf war. At least I got to a bookshop or two on those occasions. As I told Carol at the time (7th January 1991):
Upshot is I've now got to go see Painless Potter (aka Rothschild) up in the dental equivalent of Harley Street in London (that's the only silver lining — two days of London!) for two days private excavations on a root canal that was not done terrifically well 11 years ago. And take penicillin. And pay £175. Me with an ache in all the diodes down my left side, too!
So much for our wonderful National Health Service. (Which would cost me £27, would supposedly be guaranteed for 12 months, but which my dentist doesn't feel up to tackling.) He showed me the X-rays of both the left hand molar he root-filled for me 3 years back (remember the awful saga?) and the right hand one that is now troubling my happy go lucky nature. Talk about having the bit between the teeth — Mr 11-years-ago only got half way down the root canal, and may even have been drunk en route by the look of it. Anyway, bacteria being smaller than white blood cells (assuming I have any) they are currently holding some sort of nerve-stomping jamboree down there exacerbated by hot drinks. Since I cannot actually function without a drip fed infusion of tea, and since I like it hot, I have to bite the bullet.