Saturday, October 31, 2009


Listened this afternoon to the Enigma Variations. Was struck, as always, by the beauty and nobility (what other word is there?) of Elgar’s tribute to Jaegar. Okay, I’ll admit it, I can’t listen to Nimrod without a few tears half appearing, and I’d be suspicious of anyone, especially someone English, who could. Or does this most Albionic of tunes appeal to all regardless of nation, race or religion?

This afternoon I suddenly found myself wondering what Jaegar thought when he first heard it. I don’t know enough about the circumstances to know whether he was first exposed to it in the concert hall, or just in the score, but what an incredible shock it must have been. If it had been me I know I’d have been wondering how on earth I could ever match up to something so wonderful as a kind of description of me.

It’s a little bit like the way you feel (or I do) when you get one of those nice tributes students are wont to render around Teachers’ Day, the ones in which it turns out you are the bee’s knees of the profession, and you wonder how on earth you can keep that up for the rest of the year. I always feel highly intimidated. Talk about having greatness thrust upon one.

Then again I suppose old Jaegar might have just put it down to the wonderful generosity of Elgar himself (as one recognizes the charity of one’s students.) Certainly once someone has made something as wonderful as Nimrod because of you I’d think it pretty much would stand as a justification of your existence.

Friday, October 30, 2009

From A New Place

I have 'issues' getting on-line from Maison KL - basically because our phone line is not working for reasons the phone people don't seem to be able to explain (except to say it's a 'technical problem') - so I'm typing this in the Indian restaurant on the hill. The restaurant seems to have had a make over and is hardly recognisable from the last time we were here, proving that everything changes. And change is always good. Except when it's not. Good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thinking Ahead

Now planning for a trip tomorrow evening and then over the weekend to our house in KL. We've not been able to get up there for quite a while and this will be our only chance to sort things out before we head off to England In December.

Noi is in charge of the sensible planning whilst I figure out what CDs to take and put in the car. The White Album is already in, as is Sticky Fingers, as I've fallen in love with both again. Oh, and Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast, which I bought on the recommendation of old mate Simon (thanks!), makes the playlist as it is excellent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Blimey! They told me that when the going gets tough the tough get going. But they didn't tell me just how tough the going was going to get or where the tough get going to. As far away from the going as they can, I would imagine.

Once or twice over the years (and there are plenty of them) I've been told I make it all look reasonably easy. Who is this imposter? Pure bluff, I'm afraid. Not drowning exactly, but hardly waving. Sort of treading water whilst holding on for grim life, I suppose.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fragility, Again

Leaving work today I happened to ask a colleague, and friend, why I'd not seen him around last week. It turns out his mother had a fall, a bad one, and has sustained some degree of lasting damage - she remains bedridden. His father is not in the best of health and was depending on the mother for care.

Just when you think you've got problems you get a sense of perspective in a way that can only be painful for someone else.

Lest we forget how fragile we are.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Still Marking Time

I've spoken to Noi twice today: a refreshing call in the morning establishing we'd both got through the night and an early evening call to relay the not entirely unexpected news that she'd be late setting off - she usually is on these jaunts, given the reasonable demands of family - and I'd be best not waiting up. In between these highlights I've been marking, and have now cleared all outstanding scripts thank you, listening to Elgar, reading Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, thinking about what it is to be English, and nursing a mild headache, not necessarily in that order.

It's been a day singularly short of any conclusions, except for the fact I'm not likely to exchange affectionate greetings with the missus in its course. However, the likely connection of the English imagination with a certain melancholy madness has brightened things up and explained a lot. It certainly accounts n large measure for Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 which always makes me feel unaccountably cheerful in a he cannot be serious sort of manner.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marking Time

Noi took off for Melaka in the late morning leaving me with a pile of scripts to mark, a flask of tea and some sweet potato for an afternoon snack, and a pile of rice cake and chicken rendang to be heated up for dinner. I've finished the marking, eaten the grub and am now watching Wolves vs Villa and missing her.

I also found time to finish Empire, finding the last forty or so pages the richest in terms of real thought. This is the part in which Ferguson defends empire, having been fairly (in both senses) critical of it in the rest of the book. I think it's reasonable to point out that the British version was a lot better than the other nasty ones that flourished in the first part of the twentieth century, but I don't think that's saying an awful lot considering just how irredeemably nasty the others were and how accidentally beneficial the Brits managed to be. But what I like about Ferguson is that he doesn't try to make his case any more strongly than that - you get a genuine sense of proportion, and dollops of irony, from his work.

Anyway I've now moved on to Ackroyd's Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination in a vain attempt to try and feel English. And because Ackroyd is authentically crazy in a way I can relate to, in between marking yet more scripts. There's plenty lying in wait for me tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This via Niall Ferguson's Empire: from Boys of the Empire (a magazine for kids) October 1900: The native problem has never been acute in… Australia… The Aborigines have been driven back and are quickly dying out. And this is only just over a hundred years ago - within a couple of lifetimes.

How does Stephen put it, in Ulysses? History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Ferguson's bit on the concentration camps devised by the British for the troublesome Boers should be compulsory reading in all English schools. After such knowledge what forgiveness? as an anti-Semitic yankee once put it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I've been phoning Mum everyday for the last couple of weeks and each call has ended in disappointment. The pain she's suffering from the shingles shows no sign of abating and it's obviously wearing her down. Phoning is all I can do and it isn't really doing anything. As far as I can tell the doctors treating her (there seem to be at least three who've paid visits) are baffled as to why this attack has been so prolonged. The original prediction was that it would be over and done with in three weeks at the most.

I've sometimes made the point that keepgoingness is something to be deeply admired in people. I'm seeing that, as I often have in the past, with Mum and my admiration knows no bounds. The problem is, that's not going to help in the current situation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I started Niall Ferguson's Empire: How Britain Made The Modern World when I was stalled on Doyle's Paula Spencer and found myself getting through the opening chapters at a fair lick. I think I was expecting something in the nature of a tightly-packed, worthy well-researched tome of the sort that demands close, strenuous reading, so I was surprised to find myself enjoying what struck me as fairly light and fluffy popular history of an almost anecdotal nature. Later I realised the book had its origins in a tv series which explained a lot.

Now I've arrived at the last two chapters I think I've learnt something about the nature of the British Empire, but I'm still left with a sense of puzzlement that the whole enterprise ever was. I just don't connect with it on the simple level of it being a brute fact of history - there's a kind of underlying absurdity somehow. Oddly I think Ferguson captures something of that in his loopier tales. There a particularly telling moment when he describes various bits of statuary of the great and good of empire being left to rot in some dump in India that seems to sum up the whole enterprise.

If it were simply a matter of absurdity, though, I think I would be able to get my head around that. But there's also the horror. Using the Maxim gun to slaughter Matabele tribesmen, aka 'savages', who didn't have that kind of technology opens a window on the real heart of darkness that is painfully disconcerting, to put it deliberately mildly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Dimming Of The Day

Our sunsets are too abrupt to allow for any protracted roaming in the gloaming. Usually they're over so quickly we barely notice them. But tonight, with a little change in our routine caused by the day being a holiday, we were out for a cup of tea and kaya toast as the light faded, thickening in distinctly Shakespearean fashion.

What is it about having the sun smeared on the horizon that is so restful?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Coming Unstuck

Finished Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer with gratifying ease this evening, reading the final pages on the bus to Orchard Road. Now wondering why I got stuck in the middle. Probably it was connected with the rather dense nature of what on the surface appears quite a casual narrative. Doyle is doing that extraordinary thing - paying close attention to another's life, one that most of us would dismiss as mundane and limited in the extreme. Even Paula's alcoholism is nothing special, simply the most degrading aspect of a life that appears hopeless all round. Yet Doyle reaches beyond all this to the complex, suffering human being at the centre and convinces you she's more than worthy of consideration, partly because of the richness of consciousness that leads to that unexpected density in the novel.

To take a single example: the way Paula's experience and gradual acceptance of the mobile phone given to her by her daughter Nicola are woven into the narrative, creating almost a kind of poetry of texting in the later stages is both funny and extraordinarily insightful. Doyle really gets that sense of how a simple thing like the phone can mean so much to people in terms of the way it infiltrates their lives. And he does this without in any way patronising the character - it's an experience we all might recognise.

There's a kind of charity in Doyle's work that is deeply moving, partly because it's so unsentimental.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


In recovery from a massage administered by Noi's massage lady, Kak Sabariah. It's a privilege to have the experience. Every muscle aches in a way that is guaranteed to deliver a good night's sleep.

And since last night saw me enjoying the longest uninterrupted deepest sleep I can remember for quite some time, it looks like this long Deepavali weekend is set to break all records for relaxation.

Friday, October 16, 2009


When I started Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer last Saturday, his follow-up to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, one of my favourite reads of last year, I thought I'd race through it in a couple of days. Almost a week later and I'm only just over halfway through. In the middle of the week I got to the section about Paula visiting the home of her son John Paul, a recovering heroin addict, followed by her succumbing to some kind of brief illness, and I just lost my way. I read the same page something like five times without it cohering for me. I briefly considered putting the book to one side but to give up on a text I'd looked forward to reading, and initially enjoyed, seemed ridiculous.

I should say that this was tied in with a sense of being a bit out of sorts, not quite tickety-boo, that descended on me in the middle of the week. It was like being on the edge of an actual illness, but never really getting there and it seemed to colour my reading of the novel.

I suppose this is a reminder of sorts of what a physical experience the reading of a novel can be.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I really must get down to viewing all the unviewed stuff I've got on DVD. Earlier this evening I sat down to a Jeeves & Wooster episode and found myself wondering why on earth I've not watched all twenty-three (it’s the complete collection of all four Granada series) repeatedly in the course of the year. It's as if I've been holding back on a major treat for a perfect time when any time at all is perfect.

And speaking of perfection, is there any way in which the series falls short of that happy state, being so utterly spot-on in almost every respect? Was Stephen Fry too young to essay the mighty Jeeves? I don't think so, though the criticism has been leveled in some quarters. The idea of Jeeves as being of the same generation as Bertie makes perfect sense - and implies the kind of elegant energy necessary to resolve the constant crises in their lives. Above all Laurie and Fry (and the whole production team) understood the style fundamental to Wodehouse's comic vision, and it's wonderful to wallow in that visually and verbally.

I'm enjoying myself just thinking of all the wallowing to come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Finished, for now, David Cairns's Mozart And His Operas, in the certain knowledge that this is one to go back to, as soon as I get my hands on a recording of one of the masterpieces it deals with. Isn't it odd how you somehow know that a guide can be trusted when you have no expertise in an area and you'll need to be reliant on them? I know this guy knows exactly what he's talking about even though I don't really know what he's talking about.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A New Life

We've just been watching Masterchef on our recently acquired BBC Lifestyle channel. It's become one of Noi's great favourites, tonight's programme being the start of the third series they've screened. I can easily understand her interest. The actual cooking involved is only part of the attraction, and that's quite fascinating in itself, even for someone like me who's never in the kitchen. But in addition to that there's the intensity of the competition itself with the various chefs being put under what looks from the outside like enormous pressure, especially when they're sent to do shifts in top notch kitchens and have to deliver for real. In fact it all gets a bit too much for me at times - I don't regard it as a programme I can relax to.

And I've noticed something else that adds to the pressure. You get a strong sense of the personalities of the contestants, even within the tight timeframe of a single episode. It's cleverly edited in that respect, often utilising telling reaction shots intercut with bits of interviews to illustrate just how seriously they take the competition, and take it seriously they do, almost without exception, if we are to believe them. The usual line is that they regard their participation as an opportunity to change their lives, and they are going to be none too happy if they don't succeed in doing so. So the viewer, well me really, ends up wanting them all to win in order to avoid what is obviously going to be a profound disappointment.

Which rather begs the question: what is it about their lives that's so bad they need to escape them? And why should cooking, of all things, be the solution?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Other People's Lives

Recently I've found myself intimately involved in the lives of a retired professor of linguistics who is going deaf, a prize-winning Australian vegetarian novelist, a probably psychopathic killer with a tendency to view other as objects of art, and a forty-eight-year-old recovering alcoholic and survivor of an abusive, violent marriage.

And all of this without having to leave my chair. The magic of fiction, eh?

Paradox: why is it that leaving the prison of self to occupy another's confinement feels like a form of escape?

Sunday, October 11, 2009


After an all-action day of good food, good company and good conversation (sort of pictured above, but not in a way to do it any justice), today has been what Noi terms a lazy day. A much needed one, I must say - though I forced myself into doing some work in the afternoon. Never felt into it though, as if it weren't appropriate somehow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Something Afoot

Yesternight as I was luxuriantly yawning my way around the mall, the missus was all hustle, tustle, bustle and high purpose - as, indeed, she is as of now. Today marks our annual post-Raya Open House at the Mansion and I, as ever, am agog at Noi's ability to get everything sorted out in the extremely confined space of our little kitchen. My contribution? A wide passivity - I lug a few tables around and sometimes pop to the shop, but otherwise keep out of the way.

Friday, October 9, 2009


There's a rich, royal, relaxing version of being weary that one sometimes gets to enjoy at the end of a week's work that speaks of a kind of fulfilment. I'm enjoying something like that tonight. I could have nodded off quite easily just after the maghrib prayer, especially as I was lying down, listening to a Mozart piano concerto - no. 22, KV482 - and that was putting everything into proportion. But we needed to go to Parkway for cooking purposes and so off we went, and I thoroughly enjoyed drowsily shopping around, eating some porridge and buying precisely nothing. If this sounds inordinately self-satisfied, let me assure you it's meant to.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Spoilt For Choice

A few weeks ago, at a meeting at work, we were shown a short film of an American gentleman giving a lecture on the problems having too many choices brought to people's lives. It was entertaining and, to some degree, insightful stuff, though a little bit over-generalised. One example he gave was that of trying to buy a pair of jeans these days when there are so many available that you end up looking for the perfect pair and worrying that you might miss them. I can imagine people behaving in that manner but unfortunately, or fortunately, I don't, so the example didn't strike home with any great force.

Since watching the film I've been ruminating on whether the thesis does apply to me in specific ways, and I've reached the conclusion that having a wide range of choice can be a problem for me, but not in the way outlined in the lecture. Put simply, I don't have a problem with the need for perfection. Far from it - I find myself generally more than happy with what I've got in all aspects of my life.

No, the difficulty ubiquity of choice creates for me is simply that of using time effectively. I can't read all I want to, I can't listen to all I want to, I can't paint and draw all I want to. In fact, I hardly paint and draw at all, despite a slight hankering to do so, because it is only a slight hankering and I'm drawn more firmly in other directions. Sometimes this inability to do everything I would like to, when the choices are so readily there, is irritating, but it's also extremely useful. I can't recall the last time I was bored.

Another deeper point the lecturer made was that our part of the world - the prosperous bit - would be better off reducing its range of choice, especially when those choices can be so damaging, and providing more choices for those in the world who are not so privileged. I'm not so sure the economics of it all would work quite that way, but I applaud the sentiment behind the idea.

And I also recall him promoting the idea that it's useful to lower expectations in order to achieve the satisfaction we crave. That's made me think a bit. I don't feel like I've consciously lowered my expectations but I must say it's true that there's very little about me now that I see as being 'driven' in any sense. Of course, it's entirely possible that I am being wonderfully self-deceived in all this, and possibly that's the real choice I'm making.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On A Roll

Still hugely enjoying David Cairns's Mozart And His Operas to the extent that I'm deliberately dragging it out a bit. It helps that it's packed with information and needs to be savoured. It's obviously the kind of book that you go back to as a reference, when listening to a particular opera, as well as providing an excellent through-read.

But in the meantime I've been dashing through a fair amount of fiction: following Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which I finished at the weekend, I've also completed David Lodge's Deaf Sentence and Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello and am now a fair way into Banville's The Book Of Evidence. It certainly helps when the marking is out of the way.

It's a curious thing that whilst a fair number of my generation find much to complain about culturally I see us as living in a golden age for poetry and prose and music (of all kinds.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Elvis Is King

It's amazing what one guy can do with a great voice, a guitar and a magnificent back catalogue of songs for all occasions. To be strictly accurate there were five guitars on stage for Mr Costello's concert last night, ranging from an electric which responded to a number of tastefully deployed foot pedals to a nylon stringed number that he played sitting down, but the name of the game was simplicity and it worked wonderfully for the approximately two hour gig.

It helped enormously that we were part of an audience that reacted enthusiastically between numbers but knew when to shut up and listen. Elvis exploited the soft bits as much as he did the rock n' rollers, such that the switches in volume became part of the intended drama of the show. The degree of intimacy he conjured in what was obviously a foreign setting - he made at least two slightly rueful comments about the grandeur of the concert hall - was remarkable, assisted in no small part by the way he flung himself, sometimes literally, into his material.

And what of the material? He started with Accidents Will Happen and finished with Pump It Up which is a fair pointer to a sensible decision to base the performance around the fairly obvious hits, a policy which extended to the covers he performed, such as Good Year For The Roses (beautifully done) and She. Mind you, a cracking version of Jacky Wilson Says was unexpected and some of his own songs were slightly surprising choices - re Toledo from Painted From Memory. But all in all, it really didn't matter because the guy showed sheer class on everything. And I loved his hat.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Distorted Vision

I've really got to consider wearing glasses. On Saturday when playing The Hazards Of Love and reading the lyrics I distinctly read that one member of The Decemberists provided barking vocals for the prelude to the album. I thought that was a bit insulting as there wasn't any doggy-like howling over the music that I could hear. It only occurred to me later that the said member of the group may have been contributing simply to backing vocals. Not quite as expressive, but a good deal more likely. In defence of myself though, I must say that the lyrics are printed in a tiny white font against a black background.

Then today, whilst glancing at the cover of a magazine that the Ministry of Education here sends to schools, I read: Primary school system builds on solid foundation to torture new generation. That struck me as being refreshingly forthright until I realised they probably had nurturing in mind and re-read the sentence again to confirm the milder reading. A pity though: life is somehow more exciting when you view it at an angle.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Over the last week or so this part of the world seems to have suffered more than its fair share of natural disasters - the storms hitting the Philippines and Vietnam, the tsunami that struck Samoa and, closest to home, the earthquakes that devastated Padang in West Sumatra. There was an appeal at Friday Prayers for donations, which chimed in with the sermon's message of caring for neighbours, but I didn't spot the donation boxes (I often have difficulty in being sure which boxes fulfil which purposes), so I'll have to find out where I can usefully donate something to. This being a pretty hopeless effort to do at least something in a context of overwhelming pain.

The fact that in February I was enjoying myself on the opposite coast to Padang brings home with greater intensity somehow just how destructively dreadful the quakes have been. Actually I've been surprised at the lack of heavy lifting gear in the city, given the extent of construction work and economic development that I witnessed around Medan generally. It's a reminder of how atypical life in the cities of Indonesia can be.

The paper today had pictures of the damage caused in out-lying villages and it wasn't pretty. And that's the worst part of all this, at least from the viewpoint of a very safe observer, the sense that it's the poorest who inevitably suffer the most. From those who have so little, all is so often what is taken.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Bigger Concept

Readers familiar with received opinions in the world of what might loosely be termed rock music will be aware that concept albums are not held in high esteem; in fact they are thoroughly reviled, certainly by the hacks who imbibe and pass on those opinions, though perhaps it's a different matter for the fans who listen. I'd suggest this has been the state of play since Yes came a cropper with Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that ended my love affair with what to that point I might have considered my favourite band. Notice that when The Who did Tommy, some years before this, the rock opera was accepted almost unanimously with open arms and bands were sort of half-expected to go for big albums stuffed with big ideas to enhance their credibility - in Britain at any rate.

So why do musicians continue to produce them? (And produce they do, even those who are generally awarded points for perceived authenticity, working largely in genres not known for welcoming 40 to 50 minute epics - Green Day, Neil Young and Elvis Costello, to cite just three. (I’d argue that Elvis's The Juliet Letters is a concept album, in case anyone's wondering why his name is there, and since he worked with The Brodsky Quartet on it, I guess it must have come in for its fair share of opprobrium from those who remember him as a sort of punk and think he should have stayed that way.)) I'd simply point out the inevitability of almost anyone who creates things moving towards a bigger canvas owing to the possibilities it affords of a wider vocabulary affording them new ways of saying possibly new things. Certainly some will come a cropper, particularly, though not exclusively, those of rather limited talents, but the whole point of making things that weren't there before is to take risks. The guys who run the labels might not like this in case it alienates the fan-base or some such nonsense, and the hacks don't like it because it threatens received opinions and they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies so they don't get it, but my guess is that those who like the music for its own sake are more than happy to hear those who make it stretch out a little.

Listening to The Decemberists's brilliant The Hazards Of Love has been making me think along these lines. Today was the first time that I've sat with the lyrics and followed the action of the album song by song - the last three times I've listened to it has been in the car and it's not been advisable to take my eyes so dramatically off the road. I can't honestly say that the concept behind the album completely works. I didn't get the story, for example, and that's quite a drawback since the story, I assume, is central to the enterprise and intended to add another layer of depth and meaning. I didn't find myself particularly moved by any of the songs in terms of their place in the greater narrative, which in the case of this kind of concept album is meant to happen, I think. But I did appreciate the use of recurrent motifs to link the songs and the idea of song-types, or at a lesser level, themes to represent distinct characters. And I was moved by individual songs simply in terms of their own qualities. So if the need to create something like a rock opera fueled the band's desire to create such wonderful music it's more than okay by me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ending It All

Now finished both Hibbert's biography of Garibaldi and Keithley's narrative poem about the fated Donners and their companions in misfortune. Both good reads; both with striking, powerful, melancholy endings.

If you didn't know the Donner story in advance, and I didn't until reading the appropriate page on Wikipedia, I think you'd struggle to make any sense at all of the ending of his poem. Having said that, Keithley plays fast and loose with the recorded facts of the case, and, possibly surprisingly but to fine effect, actually plays down the real horror of the cannibalism. The motif is introduced quietly near the beginning of the third section of the poem, so quietly I think you'd miss it if you weren't aware of what made the story so notorious in the first place. Certainly I found myself having to re-read the lines in question to check they implied what I thought they implied. In fact, it's in the third section that the poem becomes most obviously that, a poem. The prosiness, necessary in the early part of the poem, is left behind for a distinctly hypnotic deployment of the resources of the writer's version of a plain man's American English. I'd certainly be interested in reading more by Keithley and having just conducted a useful bit of googling on him and his writing I may just be able to do that not too soon.

But first I'll need to clear a backlog of reading, which will be focusing soon (in fact, it is now) exclusively on recently bought material. Along with The Donner Party, Garibaldi And His Enemies was almost at the foot of my list of Books I've still got to read which I'm embarrassed about not reading enough to put on this list drafted earlier this year. (The only book on the list not completed is Merwin's narrative poem The Folding Cliffs which I made a false start on a while back and which I don't feel I have the energy to mount another assault on at this time - hence my equivocation earlier in the paragraph on whether the exclusivity of my current reading re having been recently purchased will be maintained.)

I enjoyed Hibbert's book so much I'm puzzled as to what took me so long to get started on it. The final section, dealing with the years after 1860, when Garibaldi's greatest success receded into a glorious but concluded past, evoked a huge measure of sympathy for the great man - and I use that phrase advisedly. Hibbert makes the faults of the man, and there were many, abundantly clear, yet in a curious way they add to his stature. It was wonderful to read of his reception in England and how, especially in his early days in London, it was very much a working class affair. And when it came to the bit about the poverty he readily accepted as his lot, as he had throughout his life, I found myself wanting to cheer. It made the bonus-seeking bankers we are saddled with look even more pathetic than they usually do (which is pretty pathetic.) I'll miss the man.

But since I'm already thoroughly enjoying David Cairns's Mozart And His Operas and just making a start on Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, last read when I was a very young teenager - which is when Bradbury should first be read, I suppose - I’ll get over old Giuseppe. Faithfulness is rarely, if ever, a characteristic of the rampant reader.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's In A Name?

The printers at work have names. Not just the usual Canon 12000A DXG stuff but the names of animals. The one nearest my desk is dolphin, or Dolphin if we're being really formal. The names are necessary, I assume, for our noble IT staff (who are seriously good at providing excellent service) to identify precisely which one each computer links to. We have a lot of printers.

I've known about the dolphin thing for a long time, ever since the first week I worked at the place and was told I was connected to it. Earlier this week an IT guy connected me to mule as dolphin was temporarily down, and today I needed to link to penguin to print some official IB forms. The first time I've been unfaithful to the ever-reliable (except this week) dolphin.

What I'm leading up to is that it suddenly occurred to me how uninteresting the names were, despite one colleague finding them imaginative for the IT Department. The suddenness coincided with my facetious suggestion that we should be linking to killer whale when someone forgot penguin's name. After the initial facetiousness it came to me that my idea was a profoundly sensible one. Frankly one penguin is much the same as a dolphin, but no one's likely to forget a killer whale; plus any outsider hacking into our system (note the technical precision of my vocabulary here) would be instantly deterred by the sheer craziness of an organisation adopting such a moniker just for a printer. (And we'd probably be up for all sorts of prizes for creativity.) In rapid order I came up with ocelot, duck-billed platypus and howler monkey as further possibilities. I'm particularly pleased with the last of these.

So, all in all, a fruitful day, I'd say.