Archive for May, 2004


Monday, May 24th, 2004

Right: Simon Sarmiento, and others, write that the graphic saying “Helmintholog” is clipped. I know it’s clipped. I clipped it. I did this because, when I didn’t, the site switched to a one-column layout when narrower than about 850px and I wanted people with small screens to understand what it was meant to look like. Somehow I set the width wrong when I did this. It is now fixed. There has to be some way gracefully to degrade the logo on narrow screens, and I think the overflow is quicker, and stranger, than trying to resize the underlying gif. Anyway, it no longer clips, in any browser I have tested, at 1024*whatever.

Mozilla now displays the two books side by side rather than one above the other. Every other browser understands that when you ask it to display one span with “float:left” followed by another span with “float:right” this means that there should be a gap between them. Only Gecko supposes that I mean for them both to be squashed up against the right-hand edge of the box. I wasted some more time trying to get a gecko-only display that would fill the unwanted blank space with the words “eschew mozilla” but it suddenly stopped displaying background colours and graphics when (and only when) I wanted it to show them.

words are inadequate

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

to express my oipinion of CSS positioning rules. All I want is a box with two other boxes inside it, one at each side. This is how the two books on the right are displayed if you are using sensible software. Works perfectly well in IE; works perfectly well in Opera. Firefox insists on displaying the two inner boxes one above the other. I have failed to fix this for an hour now. Almost any other use of this hour would have been more profitable. In future, Mozilla users who don’t like the layout will be invited, in the spirit of open source, to code up themselves something which their browser can display as intended.

Doctor my eyes

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

This year I can once more thread thin nylon leader through the eyes of flies. This is very odd, because my eyes have got slightly worse since last year, when the only way I could manage this was to brace my fingertips together. Now I can hold the fly in one hand and the line in the other, and stab it through as easily as when I was 22. Since my eyes have got worse, I can only assume that the controlling software has improved. I can’t see as much as I could even last year, but I have somehow managed to recognise better the cues that tell me whether the nylon is on target or not.

Iranian laughter

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

The whole glorious story of how the Iranian intelligence service used Ahmed Chalabi to con the Americans into destroying Saddam Hussein for them has one final, delicious twist. This really has been a war to end wars. It will be very hard for a while to sell the American people — even the American army — a war of choice again. And who was next on the list for a war of choice? Iran. It is really astonishing how much cleverer the mullahs have been than their opponents.

Ayahs and snakes

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Both of the FWB’s grannies were born in India and when they are together, they grow nostalgic. Last night they were discussing the nursery servants, whom they loved; one of them remembered that it had been her ayah’s job, at bedtime, to get into her bed first in case there were any poisonous snakes there.


Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

I dont know if I like this redesign. but Ben Hammersley told me, when we were watching otters in Florence, that he was paying his hosting bills with Google ads, so I thought I would try them. Also, putting ads on this site and seeing what happens is one way to discover whether it is commercial or not. This matters.


apologies for stupidity

Friday, May 21st, 2004

I haven’t posted much this week because I have been getting up too early. Instead of shambling up between 5.30 and 6.00 am and absorbing coffee while I think out loud, I have been getting up at the same time, putting on some clothes in roughtly the right order, walking to the newsagents to buy all the daily papers but the Star and then speed-read the lot of them. This is to write the Guardian’s online daily summary of the British press, which has to be finished by 9am: I was filling in three days for Ros Taylor, who was on holiday. It’s not exactly demanding work, but the effect of speed-reading all of the newspapers, and whipping up a coherent summary, is to destroy the power of reflection after the deadline has hit. It’s incredibly difficult to get it back. I can’t stop thinking like a newspaper. My attention span narrows to about ten minutes, and nothing seems urgent unless there’s a deadline right NOW.

It is also remarkable how quickly one stops noticing what utter crap most of the newspapers are, and how little they even pretend to supply news, rather than a sort of blurry timeless brightly-coloured sludge of stories about actresses, models and other people who don’t in any interesting sense, actually exist.

Found poetry: lost short story

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

Two search requests, listed consecutively, from yesterday:

1: hearing protectors used in pubs
1: what is the difference between homosexuality and polygamy

“So there I was, in the pub with my hearing protectors on as usual, and I think I must have misheard your question, because I could have sworn you asked …”

One might argue that the mishearing hardly matters. In pub conversations that go on for long enough, the answer to all questions is “women”.

mother love

Monday, May 17th, 2004

My wife’s grandfather went through the battle of Jutland as a sixteen-year-old midshipman. Among the books that have come down to us from him was an anonymous work, published in 1916, From Dartmouth to the Dardanelles, the diary of another 16-year-old midshipman who hadsurvived the sinking of his ship off Galipoli in 1915. The book was edited and published by the midshipman’s mother, after he wrote it convalescing at home in 1915 . Her preface now appears a work of war-mongering horror, but if you are going to monger wars and defend at any cost an empire, this is the attitude that mothers will have to learn.

Let it be remembered that these boys have looked Death in the face — not once only, but many times;and that, like our soldiers in the trenches — who no longer say of their “pals” ” He is dead” but only ” He has gone west” — they have learned to see in the Great Deliverer not a horror, not an end, but a mighty and glorious Angel, setting on the brows of their comrades the crown of immortality ; and so when the call comes they, like Sir Richard Grenville of old, ” with a joyful spirit die.”

What would be unnatural is that their stupendous initiation could leave them only the careless children of a few months back.

The mobilisation of the Dartmouth Cadets came with a shock of rather horrified surprise to a certain section of the public, who could not imagine that boys so young could be of any practical utility in the grim business of War. There was, indeed, after the tragic loss of so many of them in the Cressy, the Aboukir, and the Hogue, an outburst of protest in Parliament and the Press. In the first shock of grief and dismay at the sacrifice of such young lives, it was perhaps not unnatural; but it argued a limited vision. Did those who agitated for these Cadets to be removed from the post of danger forget, or did they never realise, that on every battle-ship there is a large number of boys, sons of the working classes, whose service is indispensable ?

It seemed to me that if my son was too young to be exposed to such danger, the principle must apply equally to the son of my cook, or my butcher, or my gardener, whose boys were no less precious to them than mine was to me.

In the great band of Brothers who are fighting for their country and for the triumph of Right and Justice there can be no class distinction of values. Those who belong to the so-called “privileged classes” can lay claim only to the privilege of being leaders — first in the field and foremost at the post of danger. It is the only possible justification of their existence; and at the post of danger they have found their claim to priority hotly and gloriously contested by the splendid heroes of the rank and file.

I wonder, too, how many mothers of the chickenhawks — almost all of whom were born members of the American ruling class — would take this view of their sons’ obligations to the poor bastards from West Virginia and points south who are their servants’ children or cousins.

Of course, these families were moulded by a brutally militaristic education. My grandfather-in-law was, according to family history, the most-beaten midshipman of his year. The midshipman’s school day started like this:

At 6 o’clock, roused by the réveillé, we scurry to the bath-room, take the prescribed cold plunge, and then dress. Hot cocoa and ship’s biscuit are served in the mess-room and followed by an hour’s study. At 7.30 “fall in ” in the long corridor called the ” covered way,” which leads from the dormitories to the mess-room. All the other terms having gone in to breakfast, our particular batch of cadets is called to ” attention.” Then comes the order : ” Right turn ” — and helter-skelter, as fast as we can lay foot to the ground, we rush along the hundred yards of corridor to the mess-room door and fight our way through that narrow opening. Woe betide the unfortunate who falls in the mêlée! He will get trampled on by all behind, and when finally he is able to rise to his feet, dazed and bruised, after the rush has gone by, he will be assisted on his way by the unsympathetic toes of the cadet captain’s boots. Moral : Keep your footing !

God and the Daily Mail

Saturday, May 15th, 2004

No time for a proper review, but I read A.N. Wilson’s novel about God and the Daily Mail on Thursday, while I was watching the spare computer reboot, reinstall, and fail to work properly. Three times. That’s another story, one for which the world may never be ready. Anyway, the Wilson book is superb. I can only see two flaws. The reviews, written by journalists, naturally suppose that it is “about” the Daily Mail and our trade generally. More of the book is in fact taken up with a story about being a Christian in a godless world. Civilians will suppose the passages about the Mail are a satire. That is also a mistake.