Two resolute men, acting in concord, may transform an Empire, but an ordinarily resourceful duck can escape from a dissentient rabble.
Ernest Bramah in one of his wonderful "Kai Lung" books. I have Peter Bloxsom to thank for introducing me to Kai Lung, that loquacious and itinerant (not to say, cowardly) Chinese story-teller. Author Ernest Bramah was, I believe, a one-time secretary to Jerome K Jerome. He delivered his handwritten manuscripts bound in brown paper. The first novel, in an edition of 1,000 copies from "eccentric" publisher Grant Richards in 1900, is reported to have taken 28 years to sell out.
[talking of the quality of the oral contributions in recent British TV documentaries]... The dialect of documentary had become: "And I'm, like, not going there. Hello? I needed to get to a better place."
Impressively, however, For Better Or for Worse contained many lines worthy of delivery on the stage rather than in the therapist's office. Madeleine, during a sexual crisis in her marriage, announces: "I'm good with hugs and cuddles. It's the swinging from the chandeliers when I'm buggered that's the trouble".
Southerners may imagine this confession to be even more pithy than it is, if unaware that "buggered" is Northern for exhausted.
Writing in The Guardian on 14 February 2005.
Citizens of the Empire don't run away from it. Those who do run don't get very far.
In "Metamorphosite". Staying "empirical", Benjamin Franklin remarked that a great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges... "Metamorphosite", by the way, is nearly my favourite Russell story, but not quite as good as Minor Ingredient.
"regrets and is surprised that in a country like England, so devoted to sport, the committee should have struck out from... the Civil List the Salary and Wages of the Master of the Buckhounds and the Hunt Servants together with the expenses of the Hunt... and have thrown the whole onus of their cost on the King."
Labour MP Willie Hamilton lambasted a rise in Her Majesty's Civil List (aka pocket money allowance) in December 1971 from £475,000 to £980,000 as "the most insensitive and brash pay claim made in the last 200 years". Some 70 years earlier, however, King Edward VII wrote (on 21 March 1901) to then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Michael Hicks-Beach acknowledging the terrific waste that went on in the royal household and promising to make economies, but adding the above...
Of course we try to build some error-tolerance into computer systems. For instance, the "TCP" part of TCP/IP is the part that re-sends bits if there's evidence a bit might not have made it over the net correctly. That's a way of trying to protect one small aspect of a digital design from the thermal reality it's trying to resist. But that's only the easiest case, where the code is assumed to be perfect, so that it's easy to tell if a transmission was faulty. If you're worried that the code itself might also be faulty (and in large programs it always is), then error correction can lead to infinite regresses, which are the least welcome sort of error when it comes to developing information systems.
Jaron Lanier, of Gordian Software, in www.edge.org [December 2003].