On the last ep of Doctor Who (at the time of typing) Bill found herself in Scotland, during the Roman invasion.

She asked a centurion how come he spoke ENGLISH. He replied that he was speaking LATIN.

Bill looked puzzled – then opined that it must be the T.A.R.D.I.S. acting as a Universal Translator. “Funny how it synchs the lips though,” she added.

This was clearly a dig at Star Trek.

Right from the Original Series, the writers tried to keep the tech as REAL as possible. Which is why today, we have solid state hard drive modules, flip-type mobile phones (out of date, now) and tablets – possibly like the one you’re reading this on NOW.

However, some tech remains theoretical – like inertial damping (stops you becoming an integral part of the WALL when Kirk dials up warp 11) gravity plating (saves having all those 2001-type rotating WHEELS) and of course, the afore-mentioned WARP DRIVE (without which, travel to other solar systems would take DECADES).

But ONE piece of tech defied all efforts by the Trek’s writers to even DESCRIBE. Yes – the Universal Translator.

When Star Trek first aired, in ’66, it did not take long for viewers to wonder why – given the rest of the tech was explained – there was no word on how come almost all aliens spoke ENGLISH (and with an American accent, to boot).

Various explanations were vaguely hinted at – like, English had spread widely through the galaxy, in the early days of exploration (which also hinted that America had pioneered space travel, galaxy-wide – cheeky).

But in TNG, the now-somewhat-enhanced comms badges were said to connect to the ship’s computer and thus supply the universal translations.

Which was totally impractical – and left viewers asking how come the lips were still in synch. At which point, the techies said, “Oh FFS, YOU sort it out – it’s only a TV show, you know.”

I am FAR from being a computer wizard. In my mid-50s, I began learning computing from scratch (with a little help from a couple of books) and am now able to do all I NEED – quite well.

My current computer – “Hercules” – runs Microsoft’s Windows 7 Ultimate.

I had begun with “TIM” (depending on context, This/That/The Infernal Machine – it was a piece of crap) running Windows Vista Home Premium.

Today, Microsoft keeps pestering me to adopt Windows 10, but they can stick that where the sun don’t shine – it’s for TOY computers.

And Windows 8 is a misbegotten version of 10 (there IS no Windows 9).

So here I am with a Windows system that is no longer “supported” by Microsoft – which means you no longer get “updates” – HAH!

I turned their poxy updates OFF, YEARS AGO.

At first, I allowed them to JUMP IN any old time they wanted, but that resulted in them DUMPING, without warning, anything I was working on.

Which is why I eventually acquired Google’s Gmail – it was a tad busy for my taste (like Windows 10, it’s designed for KIDS) but it had “auto-save” facility, unlike the then-current Microsoft e-mail service.

But they were still wasting my time, so I changed my “options” – forcing them to ASK PERMISSION to download their updates, at MY convenience.

This was fine for a while (and their e-mail service finally – BELATEDLY – acquired an auto-save facility; so I now use both) but ANOTHER Microsoft issue had been a constant pain in my arse – the updates THEMSELVES.

The thing is, you expect the OCCASIONAL cock-up, even from a service like Microsoft (hell, WordPress is far from perfect). But the number of ROGUE updates that were frigging up my computer was UNACCEPTABLE.

Every time I got a bundle of updates that screwed him up, I had to do a “system restore” – then use the “half-split” method to isolate the faulty one (with another system restore each stage) – then “quarantine” and “hide” the sonofabitch – all of which took HOURS.

So after a couple of YEARS of this – I began dumping the WHOLE BATCH of updates that caused any problems (just ONE system restore).

But as the Microsoft blunders continued, I finally REBELLED. I went and did something “not recommended” by them – yes, I switched the bastard things COMPLETELY OFF.

Since which time, Hercules has run perfectly fine. As we have seen, their “security patches” don’t protect people from viri, like WannaCry – where as thus far, Avast’s free antivirus DOES.

So who NEEDS Windows updates? Or Windows 10?

Not THIS computer dummy, that’s for sure.

When I were a young lad, there were four aphorisms that made NO sense to me. They were, in no particular order…

(1) “If you save someone’s life you become responsible for them.”

(2) “Before embarking on a journey of revenge first dig two graves.”

(3) “May you live in interesting times.”

(4) “No good deed ever goes unpunished.”

First, let us examine the origins of these axioms. The first three are said to come from China – indeed, number three is generally described as a Chinese CURSE. And inevitably, they are all attributed to Confucius. But there is little evidence for ANY of that.

In fact, only number four can be reliably ascribed – to twentieth-century American authoress, Claire Boothe Luce.

Whichever whatever, all four are widely used and to a young person seem irrational, to say the least.

I mean surely, if you save someone’s life, THEY should at least offer to be responsible for YOU.

And why TWO graves?

And who would want to live in BORING times?

And should one not be REWARDED for doing a good deed?

Well, this author is now approaching sixty (tragically, from the wrong direction) – and these days, fully understands all FOUR.

However, to explain it to his YOUNG self – or any young person – would take some doing. But he will now TRY…

(1) Imagine if, like me, you had rescued three cats, four dogs and a woman – would you then want to see ill befall them? NO. And the only way you can ENSURE they prosper is to look after them yourself.

(2) This one depends on the RELATIONSHIP you have with the one you wish to NAIL. If it is an EX – FORGET it. Walk away. Because in the future, all you will remember about the affair that MUST have had some NICE moments – will be the mean, spiteful thing you did at the end.

And even if your target is a STRANGER, you still damage your KARMA by doing evil things to ANYBODY.

But conversely, if you just turn the other cheek EVERY time some monkey jerks you around, your SELF-WORTH will suffer.

So do as I do; only clobber SOME of those you do NOT know – and leave it until about six months later. Then they’ll have no clue who screwed with them and will not RETALIATE. And if they accuse someone they RECENTLY messed with, they might receive a knuckle sandwich from them. Result.

(3) 2016 and (thus far) 2017 have certainly been “interesting times” – do I really need to go further?

(4) While Luce is generally credited with the maxim that every good deed you do ineluctably turns round and bites you in the ARSE, there are many variations on this observation – some going back centuries. It is not a new notion.

Your humble scribe actually RESEARCHED this last adage; one definition states it is “…used to express the idea that beneficial actions often go unappreciated or are met with outright hostility”. Okay. Another might simply claim it to be one of Murphy’s Laws. But I prefer the FACT that we live in a BLOODY OBTUSE WORLD – and that’s all you need to know!

All comedy is REBELLION – against reality, normalcy, commonsense and order.

But over time, it establishes RULES – ultimately producing an ALTERED STATE of reality, normalcy, commonsense and order.

Thus in order to CONTINUE to rebel, it must blow PAST its own established rules.

But then it becomes INSANITY.


T’other day, I was reminded of an incident WAY back in my schooldays.

The scene was Copleston High, 1968 – single-sex in those days. Your Humble Scribe was 15. Her Total Worshipfulness, The Mayor-person (or summat like that) of Ipswich, was coming to give a talk. With low expectations, we all trooped into the hall.

Picture Margaret Dumont and you’ve more or less got her. The purpose of her visit having been expedited, she seemed to think some entertainment was required. And so she launched into a deeply LAME gardening anecdote. Unfortunately, her Ineffable Largeness didn’t appear to have rehearsed it…

“So there I was, up this ladder [I’m paraphrasing] clipping the top of this hedge, with m’gardening shears [she made shearing motions] but the ladder was too close to the hedge and I kept hitting myself in the…” – at this point she appeared to be about to pantomime scrunching herself in her SERIOUSLY ample bosom – 550 teenage boys held their collective breath – after a two-second pause that seemed an eternity, she JERKED her hands DOWN – “…stomach.” [Collective snigger].

The tragedy is, her comic timing was PERFECT – but (presumably) unintentional.

And the irony is, her INTENDED anecdote – has given ME a BETTER one!

If the old biddy still lives (unlikely – she’d be well over a HUNDRED by now) I’ll bet she remembers that day. Even Alzheimer’s couldn’t wash the memory of a sea of expectant boys faces – plus a dozen masters – all waiting to see how she was going to dig her way out of the gigantic HOLE she’d just dug herself!

Back when I drove a hack for a living (London – the Seventies) around 2pm, things went limp (nowadays, you can get stuff for that) so I’d take a break. More often than not, this’d involve getting a take-away from the East Finchley branch of Wimpy’s.

Now for non-Brits, I should explain that Wimpy differed from his more famous American clown brother (McD) in that his chips (french fries, not CRISPS) were non-franchise. What I mean is, if you own a McD, you can only sell THEIR chips – the spuds (potatoes) for which are grown World- wide and called “Burbank Russet” (not a lot of people know that). Thus from San Francisco to St Petersburg, all McD chips taste the same.

But if you ran a Wimpy, you could grow your own potatoes out back, have your Granny cut them into chips and fry them in monkey-fat.

Nevertheless, the East Finchley chapter of Wimpy’s sold SERIOUSLY nice chips. Cut thin and fried in Prep.

It’s amazing the difference that size, shape, age and breed of spud (allied with temperature and type of oil) can make to the taste of the humble chip. And also, how hot and long they’re kept after cooking (big chips “stew” and garner more flavour). Anyway, they were damn fine chips.

Thus it was I’d obtain m’Wimpyburger and chips, return to the Batmobile (I had a big, black saloon) and drive to a little copse I wotted of, to enjoy m’dinner. And resident in said copse was a gang of SQUIRRELS. Not those jack-booted grey ones either, but the good old British RED ones.

And they were incredibly tame. You could feed ’em bits of chip (not by hand – the little buggers’d bite you through to the BONE if you tried).

Anyhay, here in Thailand, we have our own squirrels (my wife, who’s Thai, pronounces them “screws”) and although we had a rogue one who incurred my displeasure by ripping the bark off my lime tree (I use limes in m’sauna) and killed it (I have to BUY limes now) and whom I captured in a rat-trap and repatriated some miles away, where he now rips the bark off someone ELSE’S trees – the others are welcome.

They are grey, have tails like the brushes used to clean shotguns and are highly athletic. They hang off the mango tree by their back legs, grab the birdseed tray (which I refill daily) with their front legs and chomp away.

But hey, they leave plenty for m’birds (who sit in the nearby bush, fuming impotently – no Little Brown Bird’s going to take on a SQUIRREL) so I have no quarrel with them.

Of course, they’re not as cute as those red squirrels back in Finchley. But here in Paradise, it don’t drizzle rain every damn day – so they’ll do!

A while back, I was walking through downtown Bangkok and I found myself in McDonalds (it was my fault, I wasn’t looking where I was going) so I ordered a McSomething and chips and when it arrived, there was a yellow ping-pong ball in it.

Now I’ve had little bits of plastic crap with McDonalds meals before, but they generally come in plastic packets and resemble some sort of toy. But this was just a plain ping-pong ball. I looked at the girl behind the counter, wondering if she wanted to play table-tennis with me.

But no. Seeing I was puzzled, she pointed towards a display, which had two perspex tubes – one with a smiley face – the other, grumpy. Above these, was a notice – “If you have enjoyed our service…” The smiley tube looked to have about 500 balls in it – the grumpy tube was… EMPTY!

Ridiculous! Unrealistic! So what did I do? You guessed it.

I quickly explained to the girl that I am an INDIVIDUALIST. I was PERFECTLY happy with their service. It was just…

Needless to say, I won’t be going in THERE again!