Channelling Gogol: What even is time?

I seem to have become detached from my temporal moorings and have drifted free of traditional societal definitions of time.  The sun continues to rise and fall (or rather the earth continues to spin at roughly its wonted speed) and so days are still happening but otherwise the usual markers of the hour or day have largely been rendered (temporarily) obsolete.  I am fortunate to still have some work to keep me somewhat occupied with external stimuli and a few times each week this offers up a conference call scheduled for a specific time: oh the excitement of a timed appointment!  I am forced to admit that my digestive system and its rapacious need for new input, despite my – in theory – reduced energy expenditure also provides a solid indication of the passage of time.

I believe we are now well into week four of lockdown, which means that it is more than four weeks since I last felt the touch of another human being (or indeed mammal, or to be frank, member of phylum Chordata).  I have not yet reached the stage of laying on my own arm until it loses feeling to simulate the experience of being touched by another but, as this sentence demonstrates, the thought has crossed my mind.  On three occasions, when out acquiring victuals, I have encountered someone I know and have had a brief conversation at a range of a few metres.  Otherwise, almost all my interactions with other members of my species have been via a screen or phone.

While I think we all want to try and spend time with friends on-line, none of us have actually done very much from which to build the metaphorical champagne bottle which would launch a conversation: frankly, it’s a struggle to generate so much as a conversational micro-Helen.  To this end, it has been important to come up with pretexts to get together that can automatically generate the seeds of conversation that the presence of good company will germinate.  For the last three weeks, a bunch of habitués of the Guide Dog, fuelled in many cases by take-out from the aforementioned Guide Dog, have been using Monday night as Quiz night.  This week it was my turn to act as Inquisitor and set the questions.

My quiz had six rounds, with the first three based very loosely on categories in Trivial Pursuit: Science and Nature, Geography and Art and Literature.  On occasions like this, it is brought forcibly to my attention that what I consider to be general knowledge held by the vast majority of the populace is, in fact, just random crap that I have unusually both encountered and contrived to remember whereas most people probably won’t have even bumped into it, let alone committed it to the fleshy tablets of their mind.

Round four was a picture round, six pictures of local bands in local venues which I sourced from my very extensive camera roll of examples.  Preparing this round frittered away most of last Saturday morning as I simultaneously cheered and depressed myself remembering all the fun I’ve had at gigs over the last few years.

Round five, the Music Round, was very much my own innovation.  I found a free portion of the piano score on-line (generally the first page) for four well-known popular songs in a relatively tractable key (C, G or F Major) which I deliberately did not practice (very easily achieved).  For the round, I played each tune by sight-reading the score live (both hands and one pedal!) in front of an audience with the challenge for them to guess what I was musically massacring.  I played most tunes a couple of times in an attempt to maximise the portions of the music where the right notes were played in roughly the right order at least once.  I will admit that alcohol had been taken in order to give me the necessary Dutch courage to follow through with my own idiotic idea and it would appear that I tend to provide a live commentary (some of it only vocalisations) of my process.  I am told that this was by far the best round of the quiz and I believe was found very funny by those not playing the piano.  For me, it was somewhat traumatic at the time – I well remember half the audience (most of whom are far more skilled musicians than I and one of whom is my piano teacher) shouting B-flat when I’d played a natural during a piece in F Major – but I feel that one of my few useful functions at this (or any other) time is to bring some silliness into people’s lives.  Since I have mostly out-lived my shame, I am more than happy to sacrifice what passes for my dignity in this cause.  For my next quiz, could it be time for the recorder to take to the stage?

The final round was Ditloid Movie Night – I shall leave researching the word puzzle that is the Ditloid to the reader – which I thought was impossibly difficult but was found to be relatively easy by most of my victims.

I greatly enjoyed my time as Quizmaster and between the quiz and post-quiz drinking, the Zoom chat kept going until past midnight: no last orders when drinking from home!

The previous weekend, I had the idea to make use of my copy of Cards Against Humanity to play a game with friends.  This had a few challenges as only I possessed a copy of the all-important cards and while you can download a file to allow the cards to be printed, my friends do not have a printer.  Luckily, they are both developers and so the more talented half of the (N)YTMG team was able to knock up a card dealer in the (N)YTMG test environment from a spreadsheet I created from the Response cards.   We had to make some minor modifications to the standard rules of the game, replacing the Card Tsar with a more democratic selection of the winner of each round: a protocol I feel is a much better option all-round.  I am proud to say that we were able to achieve the move from Tsar to democracy without a single execution, very limited terror and almost no Purges.  I read out the Prompt cards with each player being able to use their acting skills to help sell their chosen Response(s).  It made for a thoroughly enjoyable, filthy and entirely unsafe-for-work evening of alcohol-fuelled silliness and can be heartily recommended, assuming any of your surviving maiden aunts are sufficiently broad-minded.

This weekend, I am going to attempt to stage a Frankenlunch – renamed Quaranstein – across Zoom: lunch is entering the cloud!  The idea is that everyone will cook the same dishes together in real-time, with me playing the part of Delia Smith and shouting drunken encouragement at half-time.  Excitingly, the opportunity exists to burn down multiple properties in southern England as we will all be playing with fire!  I am currently channelling my inner Cecil B DeMille to work out how to obtain sufficient camera coverage of my process without damaging any of the “cameras” (laptops) via heat, steam, fire or ingress of ingredients.  I feel quite certain that a report on proceedings will follow in due course through this august document of record.

Other than the foolishness described above, I continue to make it through lockdown more successfully than expected, by me at least.  I’d expected to be carted off in a wicker basket to spend the duration in a secure facility long before now.  Like everyone else, I feel low at times but mostly I seem to bounce back pretty quickly with the aid of live streamed culture and planning or participating in on-line idiocy with friends: I am a lucky chap!  Work has also been helpful in providing time away from my terrible flatmate and, somewhat to my surprise, Radio 3 has proven very successfully at starting each day with a positive vibe – and barely a mention of the C-word!

Today has also seen a major boost in morale on the home front.  The relatively flattering (i.e. dim) light above the bathroom mirror failed nearly three weeks ago and I have been forced to use the “big” light ever since.  At 54, morale is not improved by the sight of my crumbling visage being well lit: so many il/de-lusions have been shattered.  However, today, my heroic postman has delivered a replacement fluorescent tube and this morning’s ablutions could return to being performed in a state of tenebrous grace!

Anyway, I must away to consult with my DOP for tomorrow and prepare my dungeon for next weekend: further reports will follow…

The Explore/Exploit Dilemma

I am currently reading a particularly excellent book entitled Algorithms to Live By (by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths) which attempts to take some of the insights learned by producing algorithms in mathematics, and especially for computers, and applying them to real life.  Expect me to be using the principles of “interrupt coalescence” and the “tail drop” in my everyday life from now on!  The book also provided a simple explanation of a technique I have been using (albeit within a “black box”) at work for almost twenty years without (as it now transpires) understanding it at all.

Like all the best books, be they fiction or non-fiction (which is a terrible name for the written form of  a huge swathe of human knowledge), this book has introduced me to new ideas and forced adjustment (or abandonment) of existing ones.  The title – and the content – of this post refers to one of these.  For a human, the dilemma might be whether to re-visit a tried and tested restaurant (“exploit”) or to try somewhere new (“explore”).  For humans, we tend towards greater exploitation and less exploration as we grow older: if for no other reason that that there is less time to exploit any new discoveries found while exploring.  In my general raging against the dying of the light (which is, frankly, a tad too bright at the moment and could usefully die a little), I am trying to resist this tendency, though my innate laziness does – all too often – favour exploitation.

For this post, I will be exploring the dilemma in terms of my musical gig going using three examples from recent weeks.  In these antics, my decision-making is also influenced by a desire to support (as well as exploit) favourite artists – some of whom also count as friends – and to support the local music scene and its unusually large number and range of venues: something that, my travels have taught me, we would be unwise to take for granted.

A few weeks back, I found myself in local basement bar Belgium and Blues to watch Bad Cat.  This trip falls firmly into the exploitation camp, as I have been to the bar several times before as its wide range of, often alarming strong, ales and handy location on my way home from several other venues making it a tempting location for a nightcap whilst continuing a conversation (or several).  On this occasion, for the first time, I delved slightly deeper into Belgian culture and partook of one of their excellent sweet waffles – a Thursday evening activity which threatens to become a habit (but I do associate Belgian bars with monks, so this may be entirely proper).  In fact, this waffle acted as a dessert to the main course of another Thursday tradition, the splendid Thai curry on offer at The Guide Dog earlier on that evening.  The Thursday curries at The Guide Dog seem leagues ahead of those I put up with in London back in the 90s: as so often in my life, a twenty year gap in an activity pays off!  Bad Cat are a local swing band, containing several friends, who have graced these pages before.  Their music is perfectly suited to the basement vibe and the evening was an absolute hoot with all the elements of a perfect night-out coming together: good beer, food, company and a nonpareil conjunction of music and venue.

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Sassy fun incarnate!

As an aside. every time I see Bad Cat perform I want to take up the trumpet: mostly to use the mutes.  So far the cheek-by-jowl (I provide the cheeks) presence of neighbours to my tiny dwelling has enabled me to resist but I can’t help feeling that time is running out for my embouchure…  In the interests of full disclosure, I have just searched for “electric trumpet” on-line and I’m finding the results rather exciting: you can obtain a silencer for your trumpet!

The following night was much more of an exploration: the venue – Turner Sims – is an old favourite – but it was my first time with a Gambian singer and kora player.  Turner Sims can be quite an austere space for music, hosting as it often does chamber music, but Sona Jaborteh was having no truck with that: I have never been so heavily involved in a gig at Turner Sims before!  She had the whole audience joining in with many of the songs, both new and traditional, so I briefly new several words in at least one Gambian tongue (i believe I can still remember “musow” means “mother”).  Sona and her band were clearly having so much fun with the music and audience members would have needed a heart of particularly icy stone not to be transported by the joyous atmosphere in the hall.  It is amazing how an artist can transform even a well-known space so that you see and feel it anew.  I can’t help pondering whether there is something classical music needs to learn here: so many classical music gigs contain glorious music and musicianship but a very one-way, pedagogic, relationship twist performer(s) and audience.  I can’t help wondering if the young are used to a more involving relationship twixt stage and stalls…

Still, shallow reflection aside, over a pair of consecutive days I navigated a glorious path between the Scylla and Charybdis of exploitation and exploration: beating even cunning Odysseus by losing no seamen at all!  However, it was this last Saturday evening that my delicate balancing act may have reached its apotheosis.  I have for a year or so, been exposing myself, through the good offices of Playlist and the Out-take Ensemble, to an extraordinary range of contemporary and experimental music.  I finally decided to take my interest and curiosity by travelling all the way to London for a whole evening of experimental music – my only safety nets was that one of the percussionists was Sam Wilson who I’d heard performing a piece by Anna Meredith (who was also the composer of the one of the pieces on the bill) at a recent Playlist gig.  Making my decision easier was the fact that it was held in King’s Place and that the cost of the ticket was only £9.50, though there was still the cost of getting to, and eating, in the capital.  I  think King’s Place has become my favourite place for music in London: it is a lovely space and it has such an interesting programme.  If I lived closer, I suspect that I would be there a lot more often.

The gig was performed by Icebreaker who are an unusual ensemble of instruments – a range of saxes (from bass to soprano), flutes, pan pipes, guitar, bass, violin, cello and a whole bunch of keyboards and percussion – played with amplification and tackling a diverse range of contemporary repertoire.  The stage was packed with gear, even before the players arrived, which created a keen sense of anticipation in me: what had I let myself in for?  I needn’t have worried, this was exploration at its very best: the gig had the most entrancing, exciting and unexpected range of musical offerings.  It was entitled Velocity and was part of the same Time Unwrapped series I visited earlier in the year, to enjoy Manu Delago and Friends from my beanbag throne, and so also unpacked time (though didn’t stray into the depths of quantum loop gravity).  The temporal exploration varied from a piece almost without time, to a hypnotic piece that moved almost glacially slowly to the final piece which kept doubling in speed long after I thought it was impossible for Sam to strike the wood blocks any faster.  The whole programme was a tour de force on so many instruments and I suspect required a specialist ensemble like Icebreaker to do it justice.  I found that the different pieces required different ways of listening which was also fascinating.  The gig was being recorded, and as we left Recomposed (who I think are a duo of composers) had recomposed elements of it into a new piece which served as aide-memoire, highlights reel and a way to deepen and expand the whole musical experience. I hing around for a while to enjoy their work before having to head for a train back home.

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Travelling in time without a TARDIS

I think I can say that Icebreaker: Velocity was my favourite of all the gigs I have ever been to: it was a programme full of wonder that I would never have attended or, probably, enjoyed at any earlier stage in my life.  While it didn’t take place in Southampton, it was only my local exposure to new music that brought me to go and have that amazing experience.  Thanks to that gig, building on earlier local work, I now want to see more contemporary music: I just need to find out when and where it happens!  I also discovered a hitherto unsuspected love for at least some EDM (electronic dance music), at least when performed live by such an outstanding ensemble: I have so far resisted purchasing any glow sticks…

Back to the bean bag

Last Saturday, I once again visited London – missing out on further opening festivities at Studio 144 (my persistent inability to be in two places at once is growing increasingly frustrating) – for the second time in this, the briefest of months.  Needless to say, there were Southampton connections to all of my planned activities – along with the usual seeking out of novelty to bring you, dear readers, (slightly less un)original content.

The first reason to head to the capital was to see Angry! at the Southwark Playhouse, which was directed by a friend.  This has proved a rather tricky beast to describe and it has taken me a full week to arrange my thoughts into a usable (and shareable) order.  To start with, it is not a single play or narrative but rather six individual, gender-neutral playlets of varying length and tone.  The are two actors – Georgie and Tyrone – one female, one male; one white, one black.  After the thumping opening music has boosted a chap’s heat rate to dangerously high levels, they appear together (for the only time) confronting each other.  Thereafter, they take alternate playlets: for my performance Georgie starred in 1, 3 & 5 and Tyrone in 2,4 and 6 but this alternates from performance to performance.  While the playlets are written to be gender neutral, we the audience bring a whole cruise ship’s worth of personal, historical and societal baggage which means that the specific actor appearing in each has an impact on one’s emotional response.  This is particularly strong in 1, where for me the confrontation was around the male gaze – and my insecurity about never having seen the film Bambi – but which would have been quite different with Tyrone on stage.

My feeling is that the first three playlets are (or could be) set in the real world whereas the last three are set in a counter-factual or fantastical world – and it is (just) possible that they share a common world.  Playlets 2 and 4 are brief and tend to the comic, albeit darkly comic for playlet 4.  Playlet 5 has the feel of a dream where each time the protagonist re-examines the light, it changes and with it the whole scene changes (my mind was probably alone in wandering towards Bagpuss).  Playlets 3 and 6 are the longest and have the strongest narrative element.  Playlet 6 is particularly heart-rending – and most obviously speaks to current world events – and because of its powerful, emotional charge, along the fact that it comes last and I’m human (unless and until you can prove otherwise), represented the majority of the impression which I was left with when the play finished.

The staging is relatively simple, with interesting use of lighting – which I am convinced showed shooting stars at one point (or I may have imagined that).  The acting was strong and powerful.  Embarrassingly, I don’t know enough about direction to comment on it – but it certainly seemed to work well with the staging in the round.

Even now, I am still trying to decide whether there were any links or common themes between the playlets, but I am starting to be convinced that there weren’t.  This made the play an odd experience with dramatic shifts in tone, but without any obvious reasons for them beyond that we are now in the next playlet in the anthology.  Each playlet was very dense with language and so there was something of the poetry collection about the whole piece.  Given how much thought it has forced me to devote to it over the past week and the range of emotional responses the playlets generated in me, I cannot deny that it was a very powerful – sometimes distressing – 90 minutes and I am really glad I went: something which I might not have done without the personal connection.  However, I can understand the mixed reactions it has received.

The rest of my day was less challenging emotionally as I raced up to King’s Place to catch a pair of concerts staged by the hang player (and percussionist) Manu Delago (who I first saw at the Turner Sims in Southampton) and some of his friends.  These were both beautiful, evocative sessions falling into a space somewhere between jazz, modern classical and experimental music.  The second was in the glorious space of Hall 1 with a very conventional concert layout.  I think Hall 1 at King’s Place may be my favourite venue for chamber music – having wrested that crown form the City Recital Hall in Sydney (and being a lot more geographically convenient).

However, the first concert – Inside a Human Clock – was a single piece lasting exactly an hour (OK, 59 minutes and 48 seconds – but it does show what good time professional musicians can keep, in marked contrast to the author) and was staged very differently.  The audience sat in concentric circles in the middle and the musicians (or most of them) moved around the outside of the circle.  For some of the participants, this was quite a long walk – or so I thought, until I remembered that Manu quite often drags his friends up an Alp (on foot, with their instruments) to perform, so it probably felt like an easy option.  Within the circle of chairs was a huge pile of bean bags which the audience were also encouraged to recline on during the concert: sadly, no-one was offering peeled grapes…

I was only the second arrival and the staff manning the hall must have seen something in my eye or demeanour that suggested that I might be “up for it”.  I shall continue to insist (until my dying day) that they encouraged me to hurl myself, with wild abandon, into the pile of bean bags: it was not, repeat not, my idea!  As you might imagine, I was all too easily led astray and can assure you that my leap into the pulse-filled unknown was just as much fun as you would imagine.  The only slight downside was I then found myself slightly trapped in a sea of beanbags and only through wild flailing was able to free myself – or at least regain a somewhat upright posture.  Clearly, I spent the actual performance reclining on a great mound of bean bags like one of the more debauched Roman emperors (no horses were harmed in the making of this post).  Eventually, a few others joined me in my bean-bagged splendour: I am nothing if not a trend-setter (so, very much a void).  The concert itself was a really unusual and enjoyable experience, and captured something beautiful in the idea of clocks and the passage of time.  It was possible one of the rare occasions I came close to mindfulness, rather than just being full of mind as it my normal state.  I loved the format of the gig but can see that it would be difficult to practically perform a work requiring a full orchestra: while double-basses did circle us slowly, I think  a harp, celesta or the timpani would have struggled (then again, we do have casters).

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Heliogabalus reborn?  He certainly has all the selfie-taking ability of an ancient Roman…

Needless to day, I now believe all concerts should be savoured while reclining on a sea (or at least small lake) of bean bags – science just needs to come up with the silent bean (it already has the musical bean covered: both in the wind and percussion sections of the orchestra) – and am seriously considering replacing all my chairs at home with beanbags.  Future visitors chez moi, you have been warned!

Trouble with the fourth dimension

I have reason to believe that I may have been affected by illicit experiments in temporal mechanics.  I seem to be living in two distinct months at the same time.  All the official sources of information as to the current date insist that I am living through the dying days of July 2015.  However, other evidence suggests quite strongly that it is already Autumn.

Following recent heavy rains, there has been a decidedly autumnal feel to the air and our early mornings are now graced by the characteristic chill of the season of mellow fruitfulness.  Still, I will admit that these, merely climatic, signals could easily be blamed on climate change: or just the natural – if growing – variation in our weather around its drifting mean.  I could perhaps also categorise the recent pruning of the rose garden in East Park as seasonal “drift” – in this case, from February 2016 (or was it delayed form February 2015?).  At this rate, we will be able to wear fresh, local poppies on Remembrance Sunday!

Last night was, for me, the clincher.  As I arrived back at Southampton Central, the platforms were overrun by aficionados of association football in their traditional red-and-white stripped garb (looking not unlike an unwound barber’s pole) – accompanied, of course, by the more drably caparisoned members of the local constabulary to prevent any lekking displays from getting out of hand.  Their mating “plumage” was emblazoned – as is so often the case – with the name of a company of unknown industry: who or what are Veho?  (A Vietnamese poet of easy virtue?)  They were clearly fresh (ish) from what I believe is known as a “match” and strongly indicate that the football season is upon us once more.  I know the scope of the association’s works has been expanding across the year, but I was still under the impression that the season began in the autumn.  Has money changed hands and Chronos been inveigled upon to interfere with the normal flow of time?  FIFA does seem to have paid off almost everyone else and offering a backhander to Time may be their best hope for human-viable ball games in the Qatari summer.  A risky strategy as I don’t think his other half would approve and even the gods don’t fight against Ananke (then again, Sepp Blatter has never put up much of a fight against his overwhelming hubris).

So, I seem to be stuck in both July and Autumn: simultaneously.  It is terribly vexing.  I’ve had no joy with either the police – despite the long association between one of their boxes and the fixing of matters temporal – or the myriad firms of ambulance-chasing lawyers which clutter the daytime television schedules with their appeals for the blameless infirm.  Does anyone have the number for the Celestial Intervention Agency?

Fetch my tartan blanket

and some German toffees to offer to the kiddies in a slightly sinister fashion (well, that ad always makes me think of The Boys from Brazil).  Yes I am now officially well into middle-age and heading for OAP-status (though that is moving away from me quite rapidly under the current government: so it may be quite a wait for my pension book and bus pass).

I must come clean and admit that this morning I bought a hanging basket.  No-one forced me, and it didn’t even strike me that a Rubicon had been crossed until I was filling the basket with compost this afternoon.  It was only then that my lost youth briefly awoke to express its horror at what had become of me.  In my defense, I would like to stress that this basket will not contain gaudily coloured annuals: I remain firm against the siren voices of the petunia and French marigold (for now, at least).  No, I like to think that its purchase was an entirely practical response to possession of only a small garden: when you run out of space in the first two dimensions, it’s time to move into the third!  I did consider using the past as a location to plant my strawberries (an excellent choice if you don’t want to wait for a crop) but my experiments in temporal mechanics have yet to bear much fruit (nor, yet, have my recently planted strawberries, despite their abundance of gravitational potential energy).  If string theorists could exhibit even one of the seven extra dimensions they claim to need (I’m all for simplifying the maths, but seven seems like an extravagance to me), I could have planted them there – but, as to date they seem to have achieved the same degree of practical success as I have with my time rotor, my only option was to exploit the z-axis.

Talking of the onset of old age, I think I may have had my first funny turn yesterday (about time, I hear you comedy starved readers of GofaDM crying).  I was bending down (never a wise thing at my age) dead-heading the clematis (oh yes, it’s like the last days of the Roman Empire at Fish Towers) and then stood up: with modest alacrity, but not that quickly (I don’t – and never have – done anything that quickly, except talk).  This left me quite light-headed for several seconds – so much so, that I was unable to see properly and as a result my secateurs were quite unable to make contact with the head I wished to render dead.  Fortunately this passed rapidly and before I removed one (or more) of my fingers, but it was a very curious experience: nothing was quite where my brain claimed it was.  I can only assume that my blood was unavoidably detained elsewhere (Frozen points at East Croydon perhaps?  Possession of a beard and tan in a built-up area?) and so unable to fully service my head’s exorbitant demands for oxygen.  Or maybe it was just a response to the unfamiliar heat, sunshine or a dearth of recent snacks making their way by slow peristalsis to their place of digestion?  I chose to believe the last of these and that this was my body’s way of saying that the time had just passed cake o’clock (though, in the interests of full disclosure, I should make clear that this is my first interpretation of pretty much any omen I encounter).

Spookopolis

Can you guess what it’s going to be about then?  Yes, it will be about scare city!

Having just been drenched yet again whilst out and about on two wheels, and with my garden looking more in need of a marina than a patio, I was surprised to see the Environment Agency fretting that our rivers may run dry.  Given how waterlogged the semi-arid environs of South Cambs are, it struck me as a rather distant worry (I suspect the sun swelling to consume the earth or the heat death of the universe should be more pressing concerns).  Still, trying to make the best of a bad job, I am willing to offer my current abundance of the wet stuff (collected in both vessels and the local topographical minima of the grounds of Fish Towers) to the EA to refill a river or two at a very reasonable rate.

I am, in many ways, a creature of habit and there are certain dietary staples (well, they’re staples to me – if to no-one else) that I attempt to buy every week.  However, these staples do have a tendency to disappear from the shelves of Waitrose – and, indeed, from those of other (inferior, probably serviette selling) supermarkets.  Organic cottage cheese has not been sighted for many months.  Organic, wholemeal spaghetti is but an infrequent visitor to our shores – I presume it is driven here by adverse weather conditions on its regular migration routes (well, it doesn’t grow on trees, whatever you may have seen on Panorama).  The most recent disappearance has been of toasted flaked almonds (an essential part of my daily breakfast), and then of all flaked almonds – and this was not just a Waitrose-based phenomenon but one that occurred Cambridge-wide.  Almonds were still readily available, as was the ground version, so I am led to posit that the UK (world?) has but a single almond-flaking machine.  Could there be a business opportunity in this?  Could I set myself up as an almond-flaker and break this monopoly?  Or should I offer to establish an almond-flaking regulator, OFFLAKE?

However, my most serious recent scarcity has been one of time.  This shortage has led to a serious decline in the generation of nonsense to post to this blog.  I wish I knew where the time went.  Perhaps its leaking out into all those hidden dimensions the folk of CERN are poking into?  I have to seriously wonder (can, or indeed, should I be breaking infinitives for emphasis?) how normal folk, those with full-time jobs, make it through the week at all.  Am I just hopelessly inefficient, frittering away the hours?  If so, I really ought to stop as deep-fried time must be terribly bad for me – though may be excellent training for my next trip to Alex Salmond’s kingdom.  Or am I just trying to do too much?  In this latter case, things will shortly be getting even worse as I shall be taking on a whole new activity in February (of which more in a later post).  We must all pray that my temporal oversight improves and that the blogging does not continue to suffer!  Either that, or I shall have to find a way to make the stuff – I’ve always been a big fan of seconds (at the meal table at least), but I’m not sure if this is sufficient background to go into manufacturing.  At least, the leap second has been spared for another three years – it may not be much, but that second could be vital to me!