● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
● Most posts are 300 words. I respond to all comments/re-comments.
● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Tuesday 28 February 2023

World needs more education

Something's been lost in translation here

Recently I had a minor musical triumph but doubt anyone’s interested. Honest, making music beats listening to it. Not that the two are necessarily alternatives. Making music causes the listening ear to become more sensitive.

I’m recalling a warm day in 1955. June-ish. Before many of you were born. I’m holding an antique Lee Enfield rifle with a metal spike attached to the muzzle. The spike is an evolution of the sharp-edged sword (a bayonet) which British soldiers, fighting in The Great War, attached to their Lee Enfields. Resolutely I shut my mind to the sort of wound such swords would have made.

Five metres away (though they were feet in 1955) is a wooden frame surrounding a straw-filled sack. The sack has seen better days.

An RAF corporal instructor, sweating like a cart-horse, staggers into a jog-trot, roars something incomprehensible, and lunges his spike-equipped rifle at the sack. Spike and rifle muzzle project from the rear of the sack and the CI roars again. Approvingly.

Countries accumulate military personnel to defend against forceful threat. Note how reality is turned into an abstraction. Actually: to kill the threateners. I was later to maintain airborne radio equipment, not to kill. But that’s a fib. Radios helped guide planes to drop bombs which blew others to bits. Some threatened, some didn’t. Even RAF cooks indirectly participated in the killing. Keeping pilots and bomb-aimers nourished to meet the exigencies of their trade.

Later I had a go at the sack but my spike did not re-appear at the back. I suspect I moved slowly and, had it been for real, I might have come off second best.

Hey, I’m not preaching pacifism. But neither am I preaching war. I’m for sack attack. We all need to know just what war is. No euphemisms.

Friday 24 February 2023

Too much good could be bad

Yeah, it's simple. One's empty,
one's full. Up and down.
Good and bad. Black 'n' white
So what's the problem?

It’s easy for me to imagine Hell: eating slices of cucumber, listening to Orff’s Carmina Burana, drinking wine based on the gamay grape, living within the smirk of Jacob Rees-Mogg, facing a holiday at Disneyland, driving an Austin Cambridge, reading any novel by James Paterson, enduring a lesson by my old chemistry master, finding an apartment in London, accidentally smelling boiled milk, vacuum cleaning carpets, picking up dog droppings, finding shoes that fit…

… you get the idea. But imagining Heaven is another matter. Should I bother, given I’m an atheist? Christians are discouraged from imagining Heaven since their feeble attempts in the past have led to caricatures hardly distinguishable from Hell. Also it’s hard on the imagination; 98% of the time consists of praising God but I assume this adds up to more than saying stuff over and over. Starting on Monday surely you’d have run out of ideas by Wednesday.

The problem with good things is that they often become bad things if repeated. When tomato juice became available after the war I found its taste seductive. Bought myself a 1½-pint tin, glugged it in less than ten minutes, never tried it since.

And here’s a point. Suppose I reverted to an old enthusiasm, rock climbing. It being Heaven, risk would have been eliminated. Couldn’t fall even if I wanted to. Rock climbing is, like all sport, pointless. Non-falling would make it even more pointless.

I’d write a novel No bad things in Heaven so it would become a best-seller. Over and over.

Clever Christians get round this by saying one may not understand the mind of God. So Heaven would be unimaginable. Would you take that proposition on trust? 

Millions of comments to every post. Ho hum. More sometime later.  

Thursday 16 February 2023

Gone fibre. What else is new?

The only visible evidence of the new system. The thing on top is
the router, the black box makes the signal more computer-digestible

Time for techno boasting and the likeliehood of no comments at all. I’m having to live with fewer comments these days (baseball excepted) but I’m wondering, might the UK (presently governed by a Ship of Fools) be ahead of the US in the subject I’m posting about?

Until the day before yesterday I was connected to the internet by copper wire. Now I’m connected by transparent plastic cable. Or, as they say in the trade, fibre optics. Which the US, liking to be different, calls “fiber” optics.

It should have taken two hours but the first bit ran into problems. This consisted of shoving new cable into a hole outside my front door so that the free end made it along thirty metres of underground conduit to a junction with the (comparatively) newly installed fibre optics network.

It got jammed. Delays were gloomily discussed. Then a more muscular shover had a go and lo! that pesky end appeared 30 m away. The rest, ie, inside the house, took less than an hour.

Why? you are asking. Speed is the main reason. Internet info now arrives 38 times faster than the UK  average. But that’s a “marketing” claim. For me, more like three times faster (150 megabits per second) given the estate where I live is more technically up-to-date than the UK average and was only developed thirty years ago. Reliability is also improved.

Mostly I’m barely aware of this new speed. But it should show up when I’m doing heavier work like transferring photo images or video. More especially, I’m future protected. The old (copper wire) network, supporting landline phones, is already deteriorating. Fibre optics will last longer.

Besides, it’s more techie: digital rather than analogue.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Summer enlivened

Grace in the follow-through. The late, great Roberto

I justified wanting to work in the USA in several ways: cultural, linguistic, sociological, geographical, the usual portentous stuff. Plus one secret reason: to watch and understand baseball.

As it was I saw more softball (larger ball, underarm pitching, easier on middle-aged/elderly players) than out-on-the-bleachers baseball games while I was there. Two to be exact, one in Pittsburgh, one in Boston. Later, on a professional visit, I watched the Seattle Mariners but that hardly counted; the stadium was so huge the game was reduced to a bunch of ants disputing a fig leaf.

But I saw dozens of games on TV. Learnt the difference between a fast ball and a curve. Grasped the reasoning behind the infield fly rule. Thrilled to the hard precision of the double-play. Watched the great (alas, late) Roberto Clemente augment his “three hundred plus” batting average.

Being on TV meant baseball was interspersed with commercials and occasionally spoiled by inane commentary. But it also meant I could watch the Pirates (my home team) play away at Candlestick Park (San Francisco Giants) or Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs). More than that, baseball meant summer; wearing shorts; lolling on the couch; a chilled can of beer to hand. But never a can of the local brew, Iron City, since VR was convinced it would taste of metal filings.

The smack of a baseball, pitched at close to a 100 mph, into a leather glove is loud enough the create echoes in some stadiums. It’s also unmistakable. For me it evokes a special kind of tranquillity even though the games can be as tense as the outbreak of war. Games never end in a draw and the rules are fashioned to prevent “negative” pitching.

Bought a glove and used it playing knockabout with local kids. Fantastically satisfying. 

Tuesday 7 February 2023

At least I cleaned the shower head

Thirty-seven minutes to go before V appears on Skype and we start my n-ty n-nth singing lesson. The world’s my oyster, a million subjects scroll through my noggin, what to choose? Pick a word. Any word. A five-dollar word, say; ie, more than three syllables.

How about “derogatory”? It appeared in yesterday’s crossword.

I’ve a dubious reputation with “derogatory”. In my youth and fevered adolescence I tended to shoot from the hip rather too much. Moving to London calmed me down somewhat, travelling also helped. But I have to admit there are those I actively dislike. The adult solution is to keep clear of such folk but, even so, accidents can happen. And thus I'm tempted to "derogate" if that word exists.

Twenty-five minutes to go.

Could it be I occasionally attract oafs? Which opens up another question. Am I basically likable? Chances are I’m not. I talk too much, for one thing. And in doing so I seek to be original, keen to avoid clich├ęs. Thus I take risks. Thus I’m likely to be misunderstood.

Nineteen minutes to go.

What is surprising is that I haven’t made more enemies in France. Problem is my French is formal, not idiomatic (ie, incorporating slang, up-to-date words and phrases, abbreviations that everyone understands). No French person would ever imagine I was French. To compensate for this failing I invent jokes always with a sting in the tail. Just when the listener thinks he understands me, I creep up and blindside him. Affectionately, y’unnerstand. Often startling but most laugh.

Eight minutes left. 

263 words used up out of my allowed 300-word limit. 

Gotta set up Skype. See you soon.

Whoops. V emails me, says she will be 5 minutes late. The word, in case you’ve forgotten, is “derogatory”.

Skyped lesson starts; lasts 90 minutes

Go to Tesco.

Rest after going to Tesco.

Prepare and eat my lunch.

Get washing out of dryer (in shed).

Clean spray head of VR’s en suite shower (soak in vinegar).

Am ready to resume post but have bust my 300-word limit. As the hideous Boris said: Hasta la vista.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Cheats never prosper. Or do they?

You can tell this RAF transmitter is ancient, it employed glass
valves and the photo came from a techno-museum. For my 
exam they removed the back casing to makes things easier

Have you ever cheated? Not low-level stuff like a crossword puzzle, cheating when it really mattered. Big time.

Cheat 1. My training as an RAF air wireless fitter lasted eight months. Electronics from scratch; twenty-five exams, theoretical and practical. Fail an exam and you dropped back several weeks. Remaining on basic pay, without the single inverted stripe.

I was three-quarters through the course and keen to leave RAF Yatesbury, an enemy PoW camp during the war. The next exam was practical fault-finding, not one of my strengths. Faced with a dead transmitter I was asked to describe the sequence of steps needed to diagnose its problem. Sequence? Hmm. The little I’d learned about this basic skill had become a blur.

I cheated. Examined the device, found a wire that had been deliberately separated and the end tucked away. Referred to the circuit diagram, identified the wire, recognised the effect of its separation, devised the sequence BACKWARDS and recorded it FORWARDS for my answer. Alas, real electronics fault-finding isn’t this easy as I found out when I repaired truly defective radio kit.

Heinkel three-wheeler. So short it hardly required a reverse
gear. It carried two people... barely. The examiner and I were
bulky and the mandatory hill-start was an ordeal for its 200 cc
engine and - especially - its over-worked clutch.

Cheat 2. I passed my UK car driving test in a Heinkel three-wheeler. I was legally allowed to drive a three-wheeler because I’d passed a motorbike test. But ONLY IF the three-wheeler had “no means of reversing”. The Heinkel had a reverse gear. I disabled reverse by screwing a plate over the appropriate gearstick slot. This was frowned upon but I reckoned I could argue it out if I was stopped for some reason. Prior to the car driving test I removed the plate.

Later, in the US, I took the much much easier US car driving test (in a four wheeler) and passed. Wiping out the earlier invalidity