Miscellaneous bits

Since my brain usually does not work in a very coherent or structured way, it was inevitable that this page should be necessary. Bits and bobs, links, comments, etc. Don’t worry, I won’t put a bunch of cat photos here.

By the way

For you HTML coders: Did you know that, under very strict rules, you are not supposed to use an h3 heading without previously having used an h2 and an h1 heading on the same page? This seems very silly to me. And if you have guessed that this paragraph is here purely to squeeze in an h2 heading so that I do not have to use the work-around which I used on other pages (there are too many of them on this page), you are correct. Thanks to TotalValidator (from Andy Halford) for pointing this out, though I wish I had not found out about it, as it does not appear to make the slightest difference to real-life browsers.

Daum glassware

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy
The dark basement of the museum features a vast display of glassware by Daum and others. Normally immune to the charms of glassware, I was very impressed by this huge display. And it is a great place for relief from a blazing-hot August day.

Old England building

The Old England building of 1899 has a magnificent glass and iron exterior; the interior is now the home of one of the finest collections of musical instruments in the world. Museum website

Tuschinski Theatre

A cross between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, but really in a world of its own, is the Tuschinski Theatre (opened in 1921). Still a functioning cinema (Pathé), it is well worth the price of admission to examine the much-altered but restored interior. The now little-known architect was Hijman Louis de Jong, with interiors by Pieter den Besten and Jaap Gidding, after de Jong was fired. For more information, see Amsterdam info and, as with so many things, the wikipedia article.

The most fabulous object in the universe

I have no idea just what Terry Gilliam would include in the running for this honour, but mine would certainly include parts of the Sutton Hoo treasure in the British Museum, particularly the sword mounts. Note that the ‘highlights’ section of the BM website has been moved to the Google Cultural Institute site—unfortunately not including the sword mounts. Extraordinary beauty on a small scale. Cultural Institute.

Hotel Hannon

Hôtel Hannon, Brussels
In 1902, architect Jules Brunfaut designed this beautiful house for his friend Edouard Hannon. The magnificent interior, with stained glass, frescoes, and originally furnished by Gallé, still has much to see. Now the Contretype Photographic gallery, there are occasional guided tours. Brussels is more than just Horta—almost-unknown architects created small numbers, or even single examples, of wonderful buildings, scattered over the city.

Going to London?

Highly recommended, and a truly world-class city, although in the past few years it has gotten grotesquely expensive. A good guidebook is a wise investment (we have long enjoyed the Eyewitness Travel Guides published by Dorling Kindersley). A few interesting things which you might overlook:

How about Cambridge?

Better than the Other Place. And easier to get to from London (only one hour from King’s Cross). And it has a court for Real Tennis. The official website is Visit Cambridge. In addition to the standard touristy kind of things (museums, the Chapel, the Backs, the buildings), try these as days-out from Cambridge:

What’s in a name?

Saffron Walden, mentioned above, is a wonderful name, and East Anglia is full of great names, often pronounced at odds with the way they are spelled (or spelt). Try these as your home town:


Those who are still in university, or younger, will find it difficult to believe the Olden Days of computing: when ‘portable’ meant 28 pounds, when a 13-inch monitor was a whopper – and without graphics – and when the operating system was small enough to fit on a floppy disk. A single-sided, single-density, 191-kilobyte (not megabyte, let alone gigabyte) floppy. And even then there was plenty of room left over for programs and/or data.

Back in those Dark Ages (1982), we bought our first computer, in order to produce my wife’s doctoral dissertation without going crazy from re-writes. Then cutting-edge, and triumphant over the legendary Osborne, our Kaypro II had the following specs (the ‘improvement’ numbers have been rounded down to lessen the pain):

Then vs. now
  Kaypro II Current iMac (2014) Improvement
Clock speed 2.5 Mhz 3.5 GHz ×1,400
RAM 64 K 8 GB ×125,000
Disk storage 2 × 191 K 1 TB ×2,600,000
Operating system CP/M 2.2, 7 K OS X 10.9, 5+ GB ×–700,000

Is OS X really 700,000 times better than CP/M? The Kaypro featured a spiffy aluminum case, keyboard including a numeric keypad, 9-inch green-screen monitor, and – a feature of computers from earliest times – it could be modified, even by someone as ignorant as I. Double the clock speed ! Double the disk drive capacity ! (Those DS-DD floppies, at 390k, were similar in capacity to the first not-so-floppies on Macs – but 5.25 inches in diameter rather than the Mac 3.5-inch hard-cased format.) I also added a huge 1-megabyte solid state RAM-disk (i.e. a bunch of RAM chips on a circuit board), which stayed alive even during warm boots. All due to excellent articles in the much-appreciated journal Micro Cornucopia, published by David Thompson in Bend, Oregon. (Reading through the advertisements now is mind-boggling.)

We still have the Kaypro. And it still works. Perfect Writer beats WordStar anytime.

Brilliant reads

Books are dead, so some say. The people who don’t read, that is; real people know better. Some of my favourites of recent years (non-fiction, since I rarely read fiction):


Being a bit of a curmudgeon, I thought I would include a few railings:

I remember when…

But on the other hand, it was OK to play with a puddle of mercury.

These are a few of my favourite things…

Au contraire…

Favorites suggests anti-favourites:


They say that one can tell a lot about a person by their taste in humor. As usual, They is wrong, but it is nevertheless interesting to compare one’s humorosity with that of someone else. The following list of TV/film ‘comedians’ or ‘humorists’ covers verbal humor. On the drawn ‘cartoon’ side, I really like Scott Adams (Dilbert), Gary Larson (The Far Side), James Thurber, and the wordless Kliban cats. (I also seem to find Edward Gorey rather more amusing than most people.) Some of these may not be familiar to those of the MTV era, but I am after all an old geezer.

In the “not funny” category, we have:

Norman Wisdom, Phyllis Diller, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, Benny Hill, Henny Youngman, Don Knotts, Woody Allen, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Burns & Allen, Jackie Mason, Cheech & Chong, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, The Three Stooges, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell; and any modern comedian who thinks that foul language is in itself funny.

And in the “funny” category we have:

Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams, Stiller & Meara, Billy Connolly (in spite of the bad language!), Peter Cook & Dudley Moore (usually), Lenny Henry, Sanjeev Bhaskar (and the cast of Goodness Gracious Me), Fry & Laurie (although thinking of Hugh ‘House’ Laurie as a comedian these days is as difficult as accepting Takeshi Kitano as a stand-up comic), Victoria Wood, French and Saunders, Ricky Gervais (half the time), Robert Klein, Steve Martin, Godfrey Cambridge, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy (in the old days), Billy Crystal, Bill Cosby (in spite of current accusations), Buddy Hackett, David Steinberg, Martin Short, Stan Freberg (who deserves to be much better-known these days), Monty Python and (less so) The Goodies.

So, I lied…

There are cat pictures, after all.