Feveral ufeful Inftruments and Contrivances

I just got through reading London’s Leonardo: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke. It is not very good, but Hooke is so interesting that it doesn’t really matter. Scientist, engineer, inventor, astronomer, horologist, architect, city planner, natural philosopher, professor, hypochondriac, surveyor, diarist, the comparisons with Leonardo are not idle. It is strange that he is so little known, but like Leonardo, he was interested in everything and tended to flit from one subject to the next without actually finishing things. I am the same myself (I am not saying that I’m a genius: that is for others to say. I’m just better at starting things than I am at finishing them).

One nice bit in the book is Hooke’s to-do list for October 1663, which I think underlines the point:

  • Prepare a paper on what should be observed and recorded for a history of weather
  • Make and demonstrate a hygroscope from the beard of a wild oat, with an index
  • Prepare two thermometers invented by Christopher Wren, one of tin, the other of glass
  • Make an artificial eye
  • Arrange for a suitable concave glass to be made and use it for projecting a picture in a lighted room
  • Cut out a piece of dog’s skin and stitch it together again to see if it will grow
  • Take lodgings in Gresham College and supervise the operator in making a new air-pump and a machine for measuring the force of gunpowder
  • Show microscopical observations of a common fly and of moss growing on a brick
  • Take care of the [Royal] Society’s repository in the west gallery of Gresham College and place a label on each object so people can know what it is and its provenance
  • Get ready to demonstrate to the King [Hooke’s] new device for taking soundings at sea without using a line
  • Graft feathers onto a cock’s comb

I love that. Insanely ambitious doesn’t even begin to cover it! Of course he invented and built many extraordinary things and is justly famous for his Micrographia full of astoundingly detailed engravings of insects and plants and minerals under the microscope, and discovered Hooke’s Law, and designed telescopes and barometers and watches and astrolabes and sextants and air-pumps and hygrometers and magnetometers and gravimeters and cider presses and calculators and windmills and, bizarrely, a ‘whale-shooting engine’, but you have to laugh at the sheer intellectual exuberance and chutzpah demonstrated by a list like that. I think we would have got on.

Now I am reading David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, which is really intresting and not a dusty old book of phillersophy like you thought. It is like one of those great drunken conversations about life that you have when you get back from the pub, only Hume was probably not eating a kebab at the time.

I think it would have been great to go down the pub with Hooke and Hume for a pint of Leffe and some nuts, and intellergent conversation. I need to invent a time machine as many of the people that I really want to talk to are rarther inconsiderately dead.

Chicken Finchley

This is a delicious recipe that I invented really late last night when I was drunk.

You will need:

  • Chicken pieces (breast or thigh is good for this)
  • Vegertable soup or similar
  • Pasta
  • Garlic, pepper, salt, thyme, rosemary, olive oil

How to make

  1. Smash up the thyme, rosemary, pepper ekcetera (if you are a cookery genius like me you will have a pestle and mortar handy)
  2. Brush the chicken pieces with olive oil and roll in the smashed herbs
  3. Pop them under a hot grill and meanwhile put on the pasta to cook
  4. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with a little olive oil, and add the soup and garlic, cover and simmer on a low heat.
  5. When the chicken is done (poke a knife into it and see if the juice runs clear) shred it into lovely bite size pieces, and stir into the vegertable goo.
  6. Serve with a chilled LAGER or similar.

This is a great recipe when all you have is some sad looking chicken and some things in tins, and you are drunk.

Actual food may not match picture. Or be as nice.

Bird feeder excitemint

I have got a bird feeder! I went up to the Welsh Harp reservoir to fly my kites today and popped into the super garden centre they have there, with a little cafe and everything. They have got a massive bird care section, with every type of feeder and bird bath and computerised electronic jet-wash where you put 10p in the slot and huge soapy rollers come out and scrub the bird clean from top to bottom, and then give it a coat of wax. Actually no that last bit was a dream.

Anyway I got a little bird feeder that sticks on to your window with suckers, because I do not have a garden sadly. So now I am sitting waiting for some birds to come and investergate the food that I have put in it. There is a choice of chef’s specials including a mix of exotic seeds, and some lovely fat out of the grill. If there was a bird Michelin guide my establishment ought to have at least three crossed knives and forks. Anyway I am trying not to get too excited because apparently it can take up to a month for any birds to notice that you have a feeder there.

I had another super walk along the brook the other day and noticed some pretty amazing birds! They are Mandarins. They are quite rare I think as there are only about 1,000 pairs in Britain. It is also a symbol of happiness in China where it comes from. So that has cheered me up!

It was a nice day at the reservoir flying kites, except unfortunately I managed to break a leading-edge spar on my Matrix. Carbon fibre is terrific stuff, until it breaks into about a million little sharp pieces, luckily it did not poke a hole in the sail, but I nearly got a big splinter of it stuck in my finger. So now I need a handy source for Skyshark Competition Airframe 5P which ideally would not cost any money.

I brought my fighter kites as well but it was really a bit too windy for paper kites, so I flew my brilliant little MAC ripstop fighter which is very fast and twitchy like a racing motorcycle, except it can survive being piled into the ground at high speed unlike a motorcycle. Hurray for the return of kite flying season!

On the way back I sat by the lake bathed in golden evening sunlight and watching various coots, ducks, geese and swans ekcetera. There was an Indian family there with possibly the two cutest little girls ever, who were very excited about the birds, and one little girl was totally amazed by the swan and kept trying to reach towards it and touch it. She was pretty much in love with the swan! I thought that was brilliant. I love it when kids get excited about things because they have never seen whatever it is before so they are not bored and jaded like most grown ups.

In conclusion then, it is a wizzo world.