My Usenet posts
Through the magic of photography, pictures from Japan! http://www.parhasard.net/japan/
In the course of reading a big stack of material that I bought a few weeks ago, I came across a potted biography of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker who, as well as being the first US citizen in Afghanistan, managed to get himself the title of Prince of Ghor, apparently a remote region in that country. Rudyard Kipling based his “Man who would be King” on this Yankee, and there’s a recent book came out describing what he did. Think I’ll buy it, when I get paid next.
The US embassy in New Delhi has a summary of his life online, at http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/in1/wwwhsp_0403.html . Have a look, if you’re into anachronism and improbable travel stories.
“New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundations, hence the name. It was founded around the late 14th century. It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top, yes? These might be two feet square, forty-five feet long.
A century ago, so I am told, some busy entomologist, went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that calibre nowadays?
One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.
And he pulled his forelock and said, ”Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.“
Upon further enquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dinning hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for five hundred years. ’Your don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.’
A nice story. That’s the way to run a culture.”
Studio Canal made a version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974, with Albert Finney as the inescapable ’ercule. Watched it last night, and I was dead impressed; Finney seems to be hamming it up mightily, and enjoying it, while avoiding the stuff that didn’t work for Peter Ustinov (disrespect for the role, conviction that “he’s better than this”—yeah, he was, but that does kill a role) and David Suchet (general enchantment with the British Army, though that will have been the writers more than him).
In some aspects of my life I feel lately like every social skill I’ve ever had has drained out of me, that I’ve been talking for the last fifteen minutes in a high-pitched voice on ideas and theses about which my interlocutors have no reason to know or care. Not so good.
Does anyone have any horror stories or endorsements of MBNA’s credit card service? They seem to have the best interest rates in the country, and I’m in the process of applying for one to replace my BoI Visa card. I won’t write you out the story of my issues with the latter, because it’s a beautiful day and I feel like tuning out feelings of hatred at faceless corporations and the world in general.