Q&A

When were you happiest?
As a child up until the age of about 13 when my father died.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Irritability.

What are the traits you most deplore in others?
Cruelty.

Describe yourself in three words
Mostly easy-going.

What’s the closest you have come to death?
Being rendered unconscious with chloroform [And who knows what else] and ‘Assaulted’.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
You need to have an HIV test. [See previous question.]

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A pilot. Then a photographer.

Would you choose fame or anonymity?
Anonymity would be great.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
No.

Which living person do you most despise, and why?
I don’t think I despise anyone.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not having kids. [Too old now.]

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I would not begin drinking alcohol.

Andy Kaufman

… goofing on Elvis:

Micromorts

“A micromort (from micro- and mortality) is a unit of risk defined as one-in-a-million chance of death.” ~ Wikipedia

Yesterday I was reading John McPhee’s excellent book “Draft No. 4“.

Wanting to know more about him, I found a 2017 interview in the NYT, where they reported that he was cycling 15 miles every other day. This at the age of 86.

You have to be in good health to cycle 15 miles, even on the flat. I studied the photos of McPhee and decided he looks remarkably good for his age.

This led me to thinking about my own health — I realised that I need to be more active. Maybe cycling was the answer.

Looking at the Brompton Bicycles website (I’ve had Bromptons before and liked them), I saw that they have a new colour — Cloud Blue — that appeals to me:

As it turns out though, they’re not taking new orders due to high demand, so that was that for now.

Getting back to John McPhee, I discovered that he tore a rotator cuff after falling off his bike. Various other well-known people have been in the press recently having had bicycle accidents.

Being a cautious person, I wanted to quantify the risks of cycling: according to Wikipedia, cycling 10 miles incurs the same risk — one micromort — as travelling 230 miles by car.

However, everything you do has a risk attached to it. I can sit here in my office chair all day today and probably nothing bad will happen. Long-term though, being as inert as I currently am greatly increases my risk of vascular disease, diabetes and other horrors.

Work

“You never think of problems when you work. If I had my nephews here, I would put them to work. They wouldn’t get in trouble. Work is the best medicine for everything.”

~ Prenta Ljucovic / NYT

SpaceX

The NROL-108 Mission’s Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad this morning.

SpaceX launched another rocket from the Kennedy Space Center today. It was the 102nd launch of their Falcon 9 ship.

The first-stage booster landing safely at Kennedy Space Center today.

The first-stage booster on this mission was making its fifth landing — the booster is apparently the most expensive part of the rocket.

Watching these launches live on YouTube is something that’s always interesting.

The payload for this mission was a ‘Spy’ satellite of some sort — the customer (The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office) asked SpaceX not to broadcast its deployment.

Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, has set his sights on getting to Mars. The Falcon 9 can deliver about 4,000 Kg to Mars. The far larger StarShip, which is in part designed to get humans to Mars, made a test flight last week which Musk described as a success. (It exploded on landing but they got good data.)

Currently Reading

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

I bought this book some time ago but didn’t start reading it until last night, after watching this video about his desk, which is also a sort-of advert for classy New York City apartments:

He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002.

 

Typography

Fonts interest me. Not to the point where I can identify different typefaces at a glance, but I like messing about with them now and then.

This blog is built on WordPress’s Twenty Seventeen theme, which comes out of the box with one font only (Some sans-serif or other). Whilst the default font is reasonably easy on the eye, I wanted a serif one.

There’s a plug-in for WordPress that lets you change the typeface to one of many offered by Google, so now this blog is set in Times New Roman, (Edit 29th December: it’s now in Garamond) which I prefer. Google offers hundreds of fonts, including classics like Palatino, which I tried but found lacking.

The world of typefaces is huge — there are websites from tiny to giant where you can browse innumerable fonts.

There are also various degrees of font creator out there, from lone designers working out of a bedroom to big corporations like Adobe.

I might play around with the fonts here again when I get bored or decide I want something better.

(There’s a great documentary by Gary Hustwit about Helvetica, the typeface designed by Max Miedinger.)

 

Currently Reading

Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall.

Update, 19th December 2020.
This book was quite enjoyable for me. He writes well (Hall was a poet and journalist for most of his life). It’s a brief read at 144 pages and the price is pretty steep (£9.39 for the Kindle edition) but I didn’t feel short-changed. Full of sharp-eyed observations, unusually frank, and good on the problems that come with ageing.

Dementia

A few years ago my mum’s brother, who’s 83, was diagnosed with dementia.

Dementia is quite widespread — it affects about 7% of over-65’s in the UK. It’s definitely on my list of Diseases I Never Want to Get.

Thinking about Alzheimer’s today, I remembered a recent study that found a link between Alzheimer’s and a bacterium called Porphyromonas Gingivalis.

I was thinking that if one half of a married couple developed Alzheimer’s, the other should be at higher risk if the disease is in fact caused by a bug.

A quick Google search turned up this piece of research from 2010. It says that if one half of a married couple develops dementia, the other half is 6 times more likely to develop it than the average person.

Talking about dementia, today I watched a documentary called ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’. It’s about an ageing psychiatrist whose memory is fading.

I found it quite moving: he’s an engaging character who seems to have a cheerful nature. There are many poignant moments.

The piece as a whole is a little quirky: she throws in some fantasy scenes which break up the sad reality of what’s happening to Mister Johnson.

Here’s the trailer:

Mending

A couple of years ago, I needed something warm to wear for the winter.

I decided that I wanted a natural fibre, specifically wool.

I found a shop selling knitwear made from Donegal yarn. I selected one that I liked and paid up.

Over the course of the following two years, I found myself wearing this jumper almost all the time, regardless of the weather.  I liked the look and the feel of it, so why not?

Last week I noticed a hole in the left elbow. Luckily, my mother offered to mend it. The jumper is now once more wearable in public.

I hadn’t had to spend money on a replacement and I had helped preserve the planet’s finite resources.

With this in mind I was pleased to read about the EU’s ‘Right to Repair‘ legislation — a giant step in the right direction.

Apex, 2018

The metadata says this picture is from August 2018.

I might have been trying to catch some of the House Martins in flight over the rooftop. August 2018 is a little over two years ago. Two years passes in the blink of an eye, or so it seems to me now.

In a recent YouTube interview, Nan Goldin said that she no longer takes photographs of people. She prefers instead to make pictures of landscapes, the sky and interiors — areas that interest me too.

This photo is one of many I’ve taken of the house I live in. Perhaps the reason for my focus on it is that, as a home-worker with a narrow social life, I spend a lot of time here.

I haven’t yet become bored with this house as a photographic subject — to quote Seneca,  “Just as one of small stature can be a perfect man, so a life of small compass can be a perfect life.”