Monday, 30 January 2012

London 1973

Retronaut has a fascinating collection of photos of the West End in 1973.

Probably because I was 15 then, this is the London that lives most strongly in my memory.

Our New Age

Paleo Future looks at another Future Past outing of the 1960s


I've always loved the dynasphere.  It's one of those absolutely mad inventions that shows that the human spirit will never be defeated.

Though it may be made to look bloody silly.

Falklands 1982

Friday, 27 January 2012

The wilfully blind

The Washington Post is supremely puzzled by the following:
Yonathan Melaku was sneaking through Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery, his backpack filled with plastic bags of ammonium nitrate, a notebook containing jihadist messages, and a can of black spray paint. The 23-year-old former Marine was heading to the graves of the nation’s most recent heroes, aiming to desecrate the stones with Arabic statements and leave handfuls of explosive material nearby as a message.

Before police foiled the plan in June, the vandalism was to be Melaku’s sixth attack, months after he went on a mysterious shooting spree that targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and two other military buildings in Northern Virginia. A video found after Melaku’s arrest showed him wearing a black mask and shooting a 9mm handgun out of his Acura’s passenger window as he drove along Interstate 95, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
The headline for this story?
Motive of shooter who targeted military sites is unclear
That's right up there with "Germans invade Poland; motives unclear".

Mercedes-Benz restores oldest SL to mark 60th anniversary

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz SL and to celebrate the occasion, Mercedes has completely restored the oldest surviving example to its original condition. Introduced to the press on 12 March 1952 on the autobahn between Stuttgart and Heilbronn, the prototype 300 SL (Super Lightweight) was powered by a 3-liter, six-cylinder in-line engine canted at 50 degrees with an overhead camshaft, three Solex twin carburetors and dry sump lubrication, which put out 170 bhp for a maximum speed of 143 mph (230 kph). Not bad for 1952... Continue Reading Mercedes-Benz restores oldest SL to mark 60th anniversary

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Be seeing you.
The Independent looks at a new Alzheimer's clinic in Switzerland that's a bit different from most retirement homes:
The newly approved €20m (£17m) housing project is to be built next to the Swiss village of Wiedlisbach near Bern and will provide sheltered accommodation and care for 150 elderly dementia patients in 23 purpose-built 1950s-style houses. The homes will be deliberately designed to recreate the atmosphere of times past. 
The scheme's promoters said there will be no closed doors and residents will be free to move about. To reinforce an atmosphere of normality, the carers will dress as gardeners, hairdressers and shop assistants. The only catch is that Wiedlisbach's inhabitants will not be allowed to leave the village.
And all they want is information... Information... Information...

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Friday, 20 January 2012

Chez Szondy digs out

We have been fighting the ravages of a winter storm since Monday and the results have not been pretty.  Casualties so far have been the Blazer, which was destroyed on Tuesday trying to get up the hill and may be scrapped.  I'm not certain of this because the machine was towed into town and I haven't had a chance to look at it.  The mechanic said that it's a dead loss, but so did the last one who looked at it two years ago.   The other is the PT Cruiser, which we believe cracked a fuel line when we tried to start it this morning.  Another tow job and one that means some fearful logistical problems if we're wrong.

The other part of the week has been marked by heavy snows and freezing temperatures.  It's bad enough that the roads have been impassable.  I've already ended up trudging a couple of miles up our road over the past few days.  It's also covered tree branches with thick snow, which has caused all manner of havoc with roads made even more impassable, outbuildings collapsing under blankets of snow and frequent power outages.  Worse, when the power was on the clouds were so thick with ice that the satellite signal might as well have been hitting a brick wall.

The upshot: I awoke this morning to a a land of wet, melting snow feeding what is certain to be flooding down in the valley, no power, no heat save in the living room, the prospect of boiling a kettle on the emergency camp stove, a child who has been housebound for the better part of a week, a wife who has been kept from work during her busiest time of the year and is close to despair, two dogs who are having nervous breakdowns because of all the outages and yours truly missing every deadline imaginable.

Since I'm writing this, the power has obviously come back on and I'm overheating every room in the house just in case it blips out, I'm waiting for the two truck to haul the Cruiser into town and wife and daughter have bags packed just in case the car can't be repaired today and they have to evacuate to Grandma and Grandpa's house while I stay home to take care of the dogs and keep the pipes from freezing.

Needless to say, this is a long way of telling everyone that blogging will be light over the next few days while I sort things out this end.

No wonder I'm getting these headaches.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Britannia rising from the waves

I've been watching the current spat over building a new Britannia yacht for the Royal Family and I must admit that I'm in favour of it. True, when I first heard the idea, I thought it an absurdity in a time of "austerity" when the illegal junta that occupies Britain cuts all the wrong things while leaving the welfare state intact, but when it was pointed out that it was to be funded by private subscription, I was all for it.

The decommissioning of the old Britannia was a nasty, foolish, spiteful piece of class warfare that deprived the nation of a great asset. Replacing it would go a long way toward not only providing Her Majesty with a proper jubilee gift, but also to revive Britain's standing in the world.  Not to mention that the last Britannia also doubled as a hospital ship in time of war, so she had more than diplomatic or trade duties to perform.

In fact, I'd go a step further and use the Royal Family to justify other initiatives.  For example, no one questions the American Secret Service detail and the president's tank-like limousine.  What about an elite fighter squadron tasked with escorting the Queen when she flies (sort of like a Red Arrows with live ammo) and similar details to match whatever transport she's using at the moment?  Ostensibly, it would be a royal security detail, but it's real purpose would be to maintain an elite fighting force available in times of emergency.  It would be a wonderful way of protecting areas of the defence budget by making them "prestige" items that dare not be touched without insulting the nation and by making them practical rather than ceremonial guards we'd be putting a 21st century face on the honour guards that surround Her Majesty at Buck House et al.

Women and children last

The Birkenhead Drill: From a better time with better men.
The Costa Concordia disaster as a perfect example of what the 45-year assault on Western culture has led to.

Go help us all.

The Master Mystery: part 9

Monday, 16 January 2012

The British Army

War Horse

Charles Moore at the Telegraph takes a scalpel to yet another piece of Spielberg manipulation.

Personally, I haven't seen the film and don't intend to–partly because I loathe Spielberg and mainly because I was disappointed when I found out that the titular horse doesn't join the Royal Flying Corps and pilot a Sopwith Camel against Erich Von Stalhein.

Klaatu barada DIE!

That didn't end well
The BBC looks at the question of how the first message from outer space should be answered.

If it's this one, I'd recommend keeping silent and building lots of weapons.

You shall not pass!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Fragments of Phobos Grunt crash into the Pacific Ocean

Russia's 13-ton (11.8-tonne) unmanned Phobos-Grunt interplanetary space probe that was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 9, 2011 has reportedly burned up in the Earth's atmosphere. According to Russian Air and Space Defence Forces, the spacecraft was destroyed on Sunday, January 15th, 2012 at 1745 GMT as it made an uncontrolled re-entry and broke up 775 miles (1,250 km) west of Chile in the South Pacific... Continue Reading Fragments of Phobos Grunt crash into the Pacific Ocean

With Folded Hands

Click to listen.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Wireless future

Click to enlarge
The BBC looks at prophecies of life in the year 2000 made in 1900.

They don't do a bad job except for this one:
3. Mobile phones

"Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn."

International phone calls were unheard of in Watkins' day. It was another 15 years before the first call was made, by Alexander Bell, even from one coast of the US to the other. The idea of wireless telephony was truly revolutionary.
That's what you get when you let wet-nosed middies write Future Past articles.  "Wireless"  here doesn't mean portable telephones.  It means that telephone networks across oceans would be connected by radio i.e. "wireless".

As a side note, I've been such a bad influence on my daughter that she calls radio "the wireless"

Slidewalks II

Looks like this is our week of slidewalks.  One Alfred Speer in 1873 had an idea that would have made New York's Broadway somewhat different from as it was.

Au revoir, mademoiselle? Non!

A radical left-wing council running a small town in Britanny with a population of a miserable 15,000 decides to ban the word "mademoiselle" and the BBC runs an article that, with a perfectly straight face, reads as though the word is now a relic of history that no one in the francophone world will ever utter again.

I can't decide which I find more risible; the moral blindness of the Beeb that can't see the evil totalitarianism of the state trying to control thought through controlling language, the argument from inevitability that sounds like every bit of Marxist rot I've ever heard or the blithering Canute-like arrogance of imagining that an official edict can abolish a perfectly inoffensive everyday word.  I predict that long after the Commissars of Cesson-Sévigné are dust, the people there will still be greeting one another with "madame" and "mademoiselle" (If they aren't salaaming on their way to the mosque, that is).

As for the BBC's idiotic bit about Germany; sorry, but that '70s ban was a farce and in my experience most Germans I talk to still use "Fraulein" without a glance for the Thoughtpolice.  And as for "thee" and "thou",  it's still used i' uz corna o' Yorksha, bai gum.

Bloody namby pamby jessies!

Civilisation Part 8: The Light of Experience

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Paleo Future looks at slidewalks; Future Past's pedestrian version of the monorail and about as successful.

And here's one we made earlier

Viet Communists build brand new ghost town

The glories of central planning
 What if they built a city and nobody came?

A broken clock

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have put forward the hands of their Doomsday Clock to five minutes to midnight because the world isn't doing what they want.

I never had much truck with this doomsday clock business.  During the Cold War it was always obvious that they were, like the Communist-front CND, more concerned with disarming the free world than the Soviets and ChiComs.  In my view, they lost all credibility when they set the clock back to 18 minutes before midnight after the fall of Communism instead of to 6:35 PM the previous day. Frankly, now that someone is bumping off Iranian nuclear scientists and bombing their production sites I'd have thought they'd be setting the clock back again rather than forward.  But then, this is a group that has stirred global warming into the mix to keep themselves in a job, so don't except much from them except the same tired line.

UFO: The Dalotek Affair

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Avengers, assemble... My desk!

It's a shame that I meet most of my editors and clients in phone and Skype conferences because I would really like to be sitting behind this desk when visitors come calling.

There's even a Nick Fury needle gun in easy reach if the meeting gets a bit dodgy.

The Gondoliers

Paleo Future looks at crime-fighting gondolas.

Try not to think about telephone wires, trees or large birds.


Presenting the Dual-Motors Corp Firebomb: the most unfortunately named car in history.


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Sisyphus gets up the hill at last

And I am back.  More or less.  The last three weeks have been a nightmare.  Like an idiot, I'd figured I'd have no problem working through Christmas.  It seemed so simple; just a matter of time management.  Never mind that I've always been rubbish at time management.  This Christmas it would work.  Okay, I'd miss out on getting anything done Christmas Day and I'd probably sleep most of Boxing Day, but I was sure I'd be able to disappear for a few hours in the afternoon to write articles and do some contract work.

Nope.  Didn't happen.  Instead, I ended up with an endless procession of errands, family visits, visiting family and errands involving visiting visiting family.  That's something that I could have handled, except I woke up a week ago last Thursday and discovered that the satellite modem was out.  I don't mean "out" as in it was a bit wonky, I mean "out" as in it was completely US; a dead box that wasn't shifting a single electron through its circuits.  Two calls to technical support, the first ending in a shouting match, only to have the serviceman call and say that he can't get out to Chez Szondy in less than a week.

So, it was a week without the Internet except for the short periods I could drive into town, which is no way to run a freelance writing business.  This threw all my deadlines into the bin and I was frantically rescheduling everything and hoping that none of my clients were getting too cheesed off at me.  A week later, the serviceman showed up at the crack of dawn–which around here in January is eight o'clock.  Within five minutes, he'd found the problem in the voltage converter in the power cable, replaced the unit and everything was up and running.  Then he called the tech support people for a sign off and learned that one diagnostic wasn't returning a number, so he went outside and replaced the satellite dish transceiver.  By this time another serviceman turned up.  Even with the extra help, the tech desk still wouldn't sign off, so they replaced the modem, so the only thing left of the original system was the dish itself and the cables.  During this, they called the tech desk six times, were hung up on twice, and the five minute fix had stretched to four and a half hours.

What finally resolved it was when they discovered that the tech desk had shut off the relevant software at their end, which is why that one little number wasn't showing up.

I had the satisfaction later of telling my wife that I'm not the only one who tears a strip off of tech support.

That was last Thursday.  Since then, I've been doing a massive job of catch up on high-priority jobs and wading through a small sea of emails.  It was only a few hours ago that got even enough of a breather to make this entry.

I'm not out of the woods yet.  There's still a lot to do.  There are contracts to complete and articles to submit, but at least my workload is overwhelming instead of impossible.

We call that progress.

Anyway, long story short:  I'm back and as the workload eases, I'll be getting some posts up.  With any luck, I'll be back up to speed within a week.

If Phobos Grunt doesn't land on my office, which I'm not ruling out.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

We're back... Sort of.

Good news:  The internet connection is finally fixed and I'm back on line.  The bad news: I have insane deadlines over the weekend thanks to all the disruptions.

Back Tuesday.