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Haven’t you got better things to do?

Keithlard, or Virtue Rewarded

I am reading Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. It is wizzo. In my expert judgment it is nearly as good as Jane Eyre, except it is not.

Your friend and diarist is rarther tired, having spent all day working on the booth at a trade show. I could not sleep last night as I knew I had to get up early, so lay fretting and flumping from side to side trying to find a comfy bit of pillow, but they had all turned hard and unyielding. So I was a bit worn out when I arrived at the show at 9am, and after ten hours of smiling and welcoming search engine marketers, demoing the product, keeping a watchful eye on our rivals’ stands, handing out complimentary T-shirts, answering really hard technical questions, and being interviewed and filmed for the Telly, I was ready to curl up and go to sleep in the nearest corner.

I did not though, as there was a really cute girl on the stand next door, who I had been trying to muster the courage to go and talk to all day, and cursing my stupid shyness. I am no good at marching up to cute girls and saying “Hi! I am Keith! What is your name? I am friendly and unthreatening!”, otherwise I would probably be married about fifty times over by now. Finally she came to our stand and said hullo, and I leaped into action, as I am fine if someone else breaks the ice. In fact I can be a one-man charm offensive when I get going, as some of you will be able to testify :D

Anyway luckily she was really nice as well as super pretty, and amazingly enough I got up the nerve to go and chat to her in the pub after the show, even though she was with all her workmates who I do not know. I dare say this all seems rarther ridiculous if you are blessed with the ability to mingle, but I am not. Once I worked in the same office with a girl that I fancied for about nine months before being bold enough to contrive to bump into her at the printer. I probably had a brilliant conversational gambit worked out, but due to bad co-ordination of mouth and lips it came out as ‘shmrrpl msmphh smnt?’. Needless to say that did not lead anywhere, as she probably thought I had some kind of disease.

So over the years I must have got better at this stuff somehow, as I do not seem to dissolve into silent embarrassmint any more when talking to cute girls, even if I am a bit sticky getting going at first. Probably by the time I am 76 I will have mastered the art of saying hello. Anyway today just goes to show that you do not get anywhere being quiet, and sometimes a little bit of nerve can get you a long way.

I am tired though and must nestle into my tiny bed, goodnight :>

PS I have walked 32 miles in four days (most of it round the Business Design Centre in Islington :D)

The Year of Living Safely

I forgot to say that yesterday marked a year since I quit smoking :D

First off, quitting smoking is real easy. You just do not smoke any cigarettes. Staying quit is easy too - just apply the same technique. That’s not the difficult bit.

The really difficult bit is deciding to quit in the first place. Sometimes the ‘chief executive’ part of our brain has a discipline problem with his staff. It is easy to convince yourself to do something you already want to do; for example, take the day off work and go to the beach. Much harder to work against your existing inclinations; for example, not to have that seventh bowl of ice-cream.

The strange thing is that all smokers want to give up, without exception. Non-smokers will find this hard to believe. No matter how much you claim to love smoking, if you could wake up tomorrow morning and be magically free forever of the desire to smoke, everyone would take that deal. So why don’t we quit?

The answer lies in the curious nature of addiction. If you have never been addicted to anything, it is hard to imagine what it is like. Most people probably imagine that it is like being thirsty - you experience an intense desire for the drug, accompanied by symptoms of physical distress which are only relieved by the drug. That is true as far as it goes, but addiction also digs its pernicious tendrils right into the volitional centres of the brain. It makes you do things you do not want to do.

It is actually rather spooky once you realise what is going on. Nicotine (for example) is controlling your decisions. It is no different than if some evil alien implanted a chip in your brain and started influencing your behaviour by radio control. If you find this hard to believe, ask yourself this question: Have you ever decided not to have a cigarette, and then found yourself smoking one anyway? Have you ever done something embarrassing or inconvenient to get a nicotine fix? (for example, begging strangers in the street for cigarettes, or walking miles to find an open newsagents).

Why do we do that? It is because of fear. We are afraid to be without the drug. Rationally, we know that we’ll be just fine. No one died of not having cigarettes, no matter how much she wanted one. If you are in a situation where you know absolutely that there is no chance of getting cigarettes, anxiety disappears, and in fact you suffer no ill effects. It is as though the nicotine ‘gives up’ and saves its effort for another day. But up to that point we will do almost anything in our power to get the drug.

If the prospect of going without nicotine for an evening fills us with anxiety, how much more frightening is the prospect of a whole life without it? Exactly. When I was still smoking, even thinking about giving up made me nervous and edgy, and start reaching for cigarettes.

The fear of withdrawal is at least partly grounded in reality: if you go without nicotine for a couple of hours, you start to feel quite odd. You feel a little light-headed, as though something is expanding inside your brain, and even slightly intoxicated, but not in a good way. These feelings get progressively worse the longer you go on, so it seems logical to assume that they would simply go on getting worse until they become unbearably unpleasant.

In fact that does not happen. Withdrawal reaches a plateau quite quickly and does not get any worse; for four or five days you feel a bit weird and out of sorts, slightly divorced from reality as though experiencing the world through clear plastic. Your sleep patterns go haywire, and all sorts of strange and powerful emotions come to the surface, and generally you feel as if you’ve been experimented on by aliens. But by the morning of the fifth or sixth day, you wake up feeling just fine, and even a little euphoric. Curiously, there is no desire to smoke at all. The world seems fresh and clean, colours brighter, tastes richer, like your first day out of hospital after a long illness.

In the closing scenes of Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer taunts Harrison Ford: “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

I just got tired of living in fear. I didn’t want some drug controlling my life any more. I am not a smoker. I am a free man!

This car is not from the motor pool

I had an enjoyable drive across England; the A303 is a lot more fun than the motorway, featuring mighty hills, hairpin bends, tractors, and Stonehenge! Any road is a lot of fun with an Audi.

It was super hot weather, and I saw this man having a barbecue on his truck! As you can see he has a patriotic chair to sit down in and eat his Scania-burger.

Majestic Apollo, the Sun, enmired by the leaden clouds of e’en (good writing)

Possibly Britain’s most inviting snack bar.

More pictures of Mr Lard enjoying his holiday :D

Girl magnet

A curious thing happened yesterday. I had a super day walking, doing weights, then swimming and yoga with Jane, then a few pints in the pub and a game of Go with my friend Donald. The people at the next table were obviously intrigued by what we were up to and started asking us what the game was and all about the rules ekcetera. So if I go in there with the board I will probably find a game.

That was not the curious thing though, as when Donald went to the loo, a girl stopped by our table and said to me “I’ve been sitting over there for a while and I couldn’t help noticing that you have really nice legs.” (I was wearing shorts.) I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this as obviously she had had a couple, but then I do have really nice legs so maybe she was just very observant. We had a short discussion about whether I work out (yes), and then she departed again.

That does not happen to me very often, and she was quite hott looking, so I can only conclude it was the Universe taking the piss out of me in some subtle way. Also she seemed to be there with a man, so whether it was her boyfriend or not I do not know, but if he had not been there perhaps I would have gone over and continued the conversation later.

Perhaps she was trying to recruit me for a bizarre threesome, like in Alan Partridge: “Excuse me, I don’t want to be part of your sex festival.”

Anyway I think I will be popping into the Dignity more often.

Here's one, Ted. How'd you get to Carnegie Hall?

I walked home from work today. It is quite a long way! It took me about an hour and a half, but it is quite a nice scenic walk, and it is all useful calorie burning excersise contributing to Project Hott.

A young man approached me as I was walking up the A1 near East Finchley, and the exchange went a bit like this:

Man: Excuse me, do you know where North London is?
Me: Errrr… (trying to work out how to put this politely) We’re pretty much in North London right now.
Man: So do you know where the Apollo Club is?
Me: Sorry, no.
Man: But this is North London?

I cannot think of any way of getting to Finchley, short of a personal jet-pack, or teleportation from the future, without being aware that you are in fact in North London. Alternatively, I suppose it is possible to be so enormously drunk that you lose all memory of the actual city that you’re in, although I usually cannot afford to drink that much.

Bonking

I must quote you a fantastic bit from Pamela.

The eponymous heroine and fiancé Mr B are discussing how she will spend her time once they are married. She enumerates a long list of useful and improving activities, including family management, keeping accounts, visiting the unhappy poor in the neighbourhood, assisting the housekeeper in the manufacture of jellies, comfits, sweetmeats, marmalades and cordials, driving in Mr B’s chariot, listening to Mr B’s ‘instructive conversation’, entertaining ladies of quality, playing cards, music, reading, writing, and of course praying to God in thanks for ‘all the blessings I shall receive at the hands of Providence, by means of your generosity and condescension’. (I think Pamela would become slightly annoying after a while.)

Mr B points out that she has, in fact, omitted one important item from the list of duties expected of a newly married woman.

What delight do you give me, my beloved Pamela, in this sweet foretaste of my happiness! I will now defy the saucy, busy censures of the world; and bid them know your excellence, and my happiness, before they, with unhallowed lips, presume to judge of my actions, and your merit! And let me tell you, my dearest girl, that I can add to your agreeable enumeration my hopes of a still more pleasing amusement for you, though it is what your bashful modesty would not permit you to hint at; and which I will now no further touch upon, lest it should seem, to your nicety, to detract from the present purity of my good intentions, than to say, I hope you will have, superadded to all these, such an employment, as will give me a view of perpetuating my happy prospects, and my family at the same time; of which I am almost the only one, in a direct line.”

Or as we would put it nowadays, in our coarse, modern fashion:

 “Bonking.”

Why don't you come up to the lab?

Inside my Dad’s workshop. This ancient Cossor oscilloscope, which he’s repaired so often as to have practically rebuilt it from scratch, dates from an era when people designed user interfaces with a satisfyingly large number of buttons and knobs.

The workbench. I think I inherited Dad’s love of engineering and making things, except I work with soft, virtual, digital machinery instead of wires and solder. Nonetheless we’re in the same business.

A couple of the many bits of equipment designed and built by Dad, including amplifiers, signal generators, preamps, oscillators, speakers, and even a Geiger counter. (He likes to be ready for anything.)

A genuinely antique wartime signal generator, rescued for posterity. The label ‘Unearthly’ does not indicate an extra-terrestrial origin, but merely that the apparatus is not earthed (it was built in the days when a good jolt of electricity was considered an essential pep-up in the mornings).

Around Grimshall

This is my Dad’s house and where I mostly grew up. It has lots of garden and an orchard and fields and woods, and a stream. I love it now, but I guess when I was a teenager I thought it was about the most boring place in the universe :D

A super garden seat that my Dad made. I like to sit out here in the morning sunshine with my coffee and leaf through New Scientist or watch the little birds coming to the kitchen door looking for breakfast.

I spent lots of my youth roaming around the neighbouring fields and valleys, looking for (a) excitemint, (b) drink, or (c) girls. I suppose I did not find much of any of them, so now I make sure I bring some of all three with me when I visit.

Wizzo poppies in the garden.

And so the curfew tolls the knell of another parting day and the moping owl does to the moon complain, of such as wandering near her secret bower, molest her ancient solitary reign (potry).

Quite literally eat off my face

O vanity, vanity, it’s more pictures of me. Well I am simply responding to pressure from Mariposa and hundreds of other girls. The tragedy of the situation is that I do not really look like this at all, I am three midgets standing on each other’s shoulders inside a big coat, with an unconvincing rubber head.