Wednesday 27 December 2017


My brothers are both engineers and after a fashion so am I. We will often discuss faultfinding and repairs that we have done, unlikely failure modes, heroic diagnoses, rough temporary fixes and the like.

One of my friends told me about a problem and I think finding the root cause might even have challenged my brothers. He was driving in his classic mini when his heavily pregnant wife said "Oh shit! I think my waters have broken". I don't know how he worked out what had actually happened, but one of the cabin heater hoses was punctured and was spraying warm coolant into the passenger's lap.

Richard "Does amniotic fluid smell like ethylene glycol?" B

Sunday 24 December 2017

Cracker Jokes

If you have just pulled a Christmas Cracker, you can hold the little slip of paper in front of your face and then tell any joke. It's best if they conform to one of the traditional standards for childish jokes, and if they're deeply offensive or inappropriate. These are my favourites:

I say I say I say, what key can open any lock?
(I don't know what key can open any lock)
A pikey.

Knock Knock.
(who's there)
The big Ish.
(The big Ish who?)
No, fuck off and get a job you parasite.

Does anybody have any others?

Richard "Happy Christmas" B

Tuesday 19 December 2017


Some of my friends and I now play a game where we try to start sentences with the phrase "I'm not a retard". It's quite easy in some social settings, but none of us has managed to do it in a professional context.

It started a few weeks ago with my pseudo-niece. I was in Houston (Tx) with my brother, his wife, her daughter and a couple of other people. They were discussing a fancy vacation that they'd had in Santa Barbara and the Hotel California. I think we all started thinking of The Eagles song, except possibly my pseudo-niece who's 16 and there's no reason for her to have an encyclopedic knowledge of overblown 70's rock music. One of the guys said "How do you check out?" but my brother who remembered the lyrics better said "No, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". We all laughed. When the laughing subsided Persephone supportively said to her daughter "Do you understand why we're laughing?" With enormous and misplaced confidence her daughter said "I'm not a retard, I know who the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are!"

Richard "Hotel California. Californication. Got to have a system" B

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Book Review "Nineteen Eighty Four"

I've just read George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" and while it's brilliant, it isn't an unalloyed masterpiece. I was surprised to find that the book is short, exciting and easy to read. It's about the adventure and destruction of Winston in a dystopian future of total authority and ubiquitous surveillance. Orwell has invented and developed the setting painstakingly, but the exposition and the storytelling are frankly clumsy. He has created, in enormous detail, a world and a language. The language is explained in a long appendix but is also forced into the narrative in the mouth of a convenient lexicographer character that Winson just happens to work with. The lexicographer is removed from the story as soon as he's made his useful speeches about Newspeak.

A lot of the history of the world is read directly from a counter-revolutionary textbook thousands upon thousands of plotless words at a time.

Some of the story telling is no better: Within a couple of dozen pages of introducing a pretty female co-worker we get a moth-eaten mahogany double bed in a room without surveillance. It's like having Chekov's rifle trained on us until they inevitably end up in the bed together.

This is personal preference, but I wish my fiction authors wouldn't keep having a swing at Language-Shapes-Thought vs. Thought-Shapes-Language. It's an interesting subject, but it's obviously one for scientific investigation, not speculative propaganda nestling inside novels.

My favourite parts of the book were a love affair as an adventure story, and sex as an act of political rebellion. The book is unrelentingly bleak. I found it both depressing and strangely refreshing that Winston is wholly defeated, there is no last-minute rescue, no shred of hope, and if I read the ending correctly, not even one last defiant thought.

I really enjoyed the book, but it is in reality a political essay disguised as a story. It's very very good but it could have been _much_ better

Richard "Ignorance is Strength" B

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Turning Pro

I used to play in a function band. We were good enough to get paid and for people to dance, but not good enough to be anything other than hobbyists.

For a year during that time I had the honour to play with a genuinely world-class drummer. He played with us for pocket money while he was finishing his music degree. It was great fun, humbling, and faintly embarrassing to play with him. He has since turned pro and I spent this weekend with him. While the quality of the musicianship in his bands is now is vastly superior, everything else is as bad or worse as when he played with us. The work is harder, the hours longer, there's more travel, less sleep, the pressure is higher, the money isn't good, and they still get asked to put up with the same stupid shit that we did.

A venue asked my friend's band leader to do a show for free before making a regular booking: they said they'd see how many people came, what the night was like and then take it from there. The band leader said "I've got a big group of friends, we're going out drinking and I think this might be the right bar for us. Why don't you come round to my house with a couple of barrels of beer and pour us drinks all night, and then we'll take it from there?".

My friend's gig was in Soho, but I couldn't be bothered staying for all of the three shows he had to play. Instead I walked to Chinatown and ate in the cheapest restaurant I could find. It was the sort of place that has the menu taped to the inside of the front window next to a rack of inside-out chickens. In fact the restaurant was so ramshackle that it didn't have a sign with its name. I think the place was called the "Come in we are open". I texted one of my friends about it and he rather brilliantly said that he thought he knew it, and that it used to be called the "Sorry we are closed".

Richard "Your hands and work aren't steady" B