2009 — 7 December: Monday

The evening's equanimity was more than restored by a dose of Alan Bennett chatting to Mark Lawson, some Jonathan Meades, and some gentle puttering on the PCs. Plus I watched the recommended "Popcorn" and enjoyed it. I've also been reminded I should maybe start thinking about Christmas cards! But now (00:14 or so) I think I shall call it a day, as it were. G'night.

There's some wonderful...

... jazz piano on BBC R3 (sounds very reminiscent of early Keith Jarrett), the rain has (mostly) stopped, and I had to laugh at this Jesus and Mo strip. Time (09:27) for tea. And some lovely Bach while I read the fragrant Ophelia Benson. Source and snippet:

That's the advantage of goddy epistemology, of course: it's so extraordinarily flexible, so convenient, so personalized. The knowledge is so neatly molded to fit individual wishes. God is good when I win and blameless when I lose, good when I survive the tsunami and out of the equation when other people are swept away and drowned. This is all very understandable from the point of view of personal fantasy — there's not much point in having an imaginary friend who is boring and disobliging and always picking fights — but peculiar when considered as a kind of knowledge, which is generally how believers treat it.

Ophelia Benson in A Deal-breaker

"Goddy epistemology"? Lovely!

I (wrongly) assumed this story was about economics! Another tsar to the rescue. And just how many "Squiggles" must one eat to o/d on antimony, I wonder? If this is news... Oh, and bankers are agin plans for windfall taxes. Now there's a surprise. Time for brekkie. Where's that stale crust?

Remember dot crawl?

That weird phenomenon you could see when watching a colour TV signal on a monochrome set? Turned out to be useful after all. (More.) Good ol' BBC BASIC! (More.) Wonder where I've put my program CD? (I used BBC BASIC a lot back in the days of my first XP system — a little Shuttle which underwent a tragic meltdown about five years ago.)

The weather...

... is so damnably gloomy, I thought I'd disinter an old joke I once sent to Carol, and found again a few minutes ago while looking for something entirely different:

Three businessmen driving home, the worse for wear, after a Christmas office party total their BMW and end up knocking on the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter agrees to let them in on condition that each can demonstrate some aspect of the Yuletide season.
The first brandishes his cigarette lighter, declaiming "Behold, the star of Bethlehem!". In he goes.
The second casts around, grabs his car keys, rattles them, and sings "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!" In he goes.
Number three, thinking fast, pulls a pair of ladies panties from his jacket pocket, and waves them aloft.
"What" remarks Peter acidly "are those?"
"They're Carol's!".


Job interviews

I honestly cannot remember, back in 1969, the process by which Hawker Siddeley (Aviation) Ltd decided I was a likely candidate for an aeronautical engineering apprenticeship. But boy(!) did they get it wrong. I'm sure the fact that Big Bro was there, and doing well, had some influence on their "decision"... Having spotted a job ad from ICL in late 1973, I applied (for a job as a trainee instructional writer) and found myself doing a programming aptitude test having already supplied two bits of my writing1 in advance. And in 1981, the IBM job (as a technical writer working on CICS) used a job ad that directly ripped off an ICL ad I was already perfectly familiar with. IBM actually set me a writing test, too. It was a lot easier than ICL's approach.

I've just listened to an item about "Fermi problems" (example, "how many piano tuners are there in London?") used nowadays in job interviews. I'd not realised this was the term2 given to what I think of as "guesstimation". Yet I knew that Fermi estimated the strength of the atomic blast at Trinity by dropping pieces of paper during the blast. Every day, another little slice of my ignorance gets shaved or chipped away.

Meanwhile, (see above) our guvmint has a ten-year strategy to solve the problem of depression and get people back to work. That's funny, as I can now see more clearly than ever before that being at work was often depressing!

I'm mildly curious. Where is all this rain coming from? It's 14:13, lunch has been and gone, but the rain goes on and on. Un-nice! Good job we walked yesterday, and I'm postponing my next shopping trip for a while. Instead, it's clearly a day for another joke.

Before you know it...

... it's nearly time to start thinking about the evening meal. It's 17:22, nearly dark out there, not raining (at least not while I wheeled out the black bin a few minutes back) and the delicious music of the Tin Hat Trio is accompanying the delightful comix-variant biography of Bertrand Russell and the philosophy of maths. What a life, heh?

Then it's 19:41, the meal is digesting, the book ditto, and the evening unfurls. I have a CD of "Dixit Dominus" to be played and returned to its owner. And, come rain or shine, I must shop tomorrow morning, ahead of my lunch date.

The lad called — during the Handel (of course) — to tell me he's just resigned, is now on gardening leave, and starts his new job on 4th January with this outfit:


His salary should enable him to buy me the traditional Chocolate Orange for Christmas though, since Kraft is the new Terry's, I've rather gone off that idea.



1  Describe a spiral staircase to somebody who's never seen one, without using the word "spiral" or any synonyms of it. Explain why a mirror inverts left/right, and front/back, but not up/down. (Clue: read Martin Gardner's Ambidextrous Universe before catching the bus to the interview!)
2  One who knows has gently but Fermi-ly reminded me that he mentioned the term in an email to me some eight months ago. I'm in a hole, so I shall stop digging...