2013 — 11 September: Wednesday

Call me an old cynic1 but I would have thought one way of "deterring dictators" from any propensity to use chemical weapons against their own citizens / serfs / peasants / tax exiles / what-have-you might be for people like the UK (and, for all I know, the US) to stop exporting the chemical ingredients of such weaponry in the first place. (Link.)

Meanwhile, my weird memory (having failed to prod me into putting out the black bin [my very own local chemical weaponry stockpile in the making] last night) at least had the gumption to trigger an Exec-level interrupt that both woke me in time this morning and placed that oversight at the top of the conscious "To Do" stack.

Neat, heh? :-)

I left BlackBeast running...

... overnight to let it finish re-generating the Copernic Version 4 indexes. I am both pleased and quite impressed by the program's reworked interface and the new ways it seems to have found to winkle out hidden (some might say "lost") data. Wonder if V5 will have a direct neural interface? My chums have largely given up trying to persuade me to use the command line interface to do my searching. I did what was, for me, quite a lot of research before finally deciding on Copernic. And I now find it utterly indispensable which, given my reluctance to use the command line, is (I suppose) comprehensible.

I don't pretend to understand my reluctance to interact via the command line, particularly now that I seem to have got into the habit of assembling PCs that are by the standards of my working lifetime in the I.T. industry "supercomputers". It's most odd. A subconscious fear that, as happened a few times with RISC OS, I might tie the system into a recursive Gordian Knot of some sort, perhaps? Though I don't know what makes me think programmers of search systems are any less likely to do that than I am.

It matters not...

... how often, or even how infrequently, I wield the mighty Wilkinson Sword giant toe-nail clippers of floral destruction out in the back jungle, I invariably get a phone call from the care-home that I have to dash back inside to pick up. No matter how often, or even how infrequently, I point out the benefits of email as a more reliable method of contact, that particular message just doesn't seem to register. Maybe I should send them an email?

Anyhowsoever, it seems I can now expect to find a line item for a bunch of new bits and bobs of clothing (sold, I strongly suspect, by the relatives of a recent "departure") on the next monthly invoice. "Go for it", say I. After all, I know (even though they don't) only too well how very much dear Mama took delight in impoverishing her hard-working husband by indulging her NTSC2 custom-made couture habit / addiction back in the 1950s and 1960s when she seemed to me to be last capable of coherent thought.

Speaking of which, I've just read a ridiculous story about blind gunslingers. That's Iowa off my itinerary. (Link.)

What the Interweb...

... is for, clearly!

People who don't like the things that everyone else likes don't have to pay attention to those things anymore. The Internet has made it much easier for them to find the things they do want to pay attention to, and build a community with others who share their tastes. If you prefer klezmer bands covering Deep Purple to Katy Perry, you will have a much easier time finding those bands and fellow fans today than you would have two decades ago.

Henry Farrell in Democracy Journal

I loved the idea of an "aspiring public intellectual". Who's Katy Perry, by the way? (Copernic to the rescue: the designer — Berlin label Tres Bonjour — of the latex clothes she's apparently worn on at least one occasion got a passing mention in a newsletter I received in August 2011 from "Last Gasp" of San Francisco, and — if my Firefox history can be believed — I peeked on 27 April 2012 at a YouTube clip of her singing "Hot N Cold" with Elmo on Sesame Street. Memory of that have I none. Oh, the shame!)

Time for a late lunch, methinks. It's 13:39 and counting.

Because it's just the...

... sad sort of OCD completeist I am, I was browsing the very earliest .txt file currently revealed by Copernic to still be living on BlackBeast. To my amusement, this turned out to be a draft I'd somehow completely forgotten about3 (from the mid 1980s) of chapter one of a book on CICS programming that I was then foolishly under contract to write for Ellis Horwood (I hold Richard Deasington [and his earlier "X25 explained"] entirely responsible for any blame still attached to this folly as it was he who had put me in touch with the publisher, suggesting I, too, should make myself some extra pocket money).

As it happened, I eventually (after several years!) ducked (for the first time ever) out of my contract (thereby putting a stop to the gentle annual reminders asking "where's the manuscript?" that I'd been receiving). I just couldn't bring myself to finish writing the book — mostly because my day job in IBM at the time consisted (largely) of writing books about CICS programming for IBM. Recipe for madness, if you ask me.

Anyway, the draft contains a foolish prediction I'd found somewhere ("where?" would be an interesting question4 at this distant remove) made (I asserted) shortly after Charles Babbage's death: "This extraordinary monument of theoretical genius accordingly remains, and doubtless will for ever remain, a theoretical possibility." So off I wandered into the Interwebby undergrowth a few minutes ago looking for this, but spotting, instead, an 1892 book reprinting Times obits of Eminent Chaps from 1870 to 1875, which (of course) neatly brackets the demise of the irascible genius. I live in hope that the (pre-Murdoch) Times will have had the decency to give this hero of mine a decent send-off. For £2 plus £3-35 postage, where's the downside in my snaffling the one remaining copy?

My "welcome" pack...

... for my next annual electricity and gas contract throws in a hypothermia thermometer...

hypothermia thermometer

...but makes no mention at all of the idea of slinging on an extra layer of clothing. Funny, that.



1  Chorus: "You're an old cynic!"
2  Never Twice the Same Clothes (with apologies to a venerable North American TV standard).
3  A couple of minutes probing my memory, however, reminds me that I began drafting it using LocoScript on my Amstrad, and must therefore have transferred the file from a 3" diskette in (basically) CP/M format first (in 1989) to the Acorn RISC ADFS format, and thence (probably in late 2002) across from the Acorn to my first little IBM-compatible PC in its dinky little Shuttle case.
4  Further probing of my memory suggests I nicked the quote from an even earlier book I'd written for the London School of Accountancy (at the useful rate of £5/page back in 1982) to help out my friend and ex-colleague John Smythson from ICL — his eldest daughter's illness had, in turn, deflected his attention from that particular job. I could generally knock out between six and ten pages of purple prose per evening (provided I could leave the tea-making to Christa) so this was useful pocket money to supplement my ungenerous IBM salary.