Antique  Observations by
   RLC members

last additions 2003/04/21

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How much nuclear is there in Manchester and just what is the city doing to fulfil the nuclear-free ambitions of its sign near Piccadilly Station? And where do medical isotopes used in hospitals fit into this grand if dotty ambition?

BooksJohn Ryle, writing in the Guardian in April 1998, was wondering when authors would be able to create laser-printed, 'perfect-bound' books [i.e. ones with a glued spine] in the privacy of their own homes. He seemed to think that the answer was: soon but not yet. Wrong! Okay, we can't manage the fancy textured jackets yet, although we can do a full-colour jacket, but members of Romiley Literary Circle have been taking desk-top publishing to the point of getting books on bookshelves since 1993. And we're not talking about softback or paperback books with a glued spine. We're talking proper hardbacks with a traditional, sewn and glued binding.
    The key to achieving the author's dream was the sudden availability of soft fonts for laser printers and the add-on programs which allowed their use with WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Freed from boring old monospaced 'Courier', all the aspiring book-creator had to do was divide his novel into convenient chunks, write and execute macros to (i) re-order the pages into a sequence that would allow a set of booklets to be formed by double-sided printing and (ii) add page numbers, and then get busy with his book-binding kit. The 'print as booklet' option in WordPerfect 6.0 and higher has simplified the printing process, but the skill of the bookbinder is still in demand and the hunt continues in second-hand bookshops for carcases suitable for recycling.
    Of course, it's too much to expect a journalist writing a 'futurology' piece in the Media section of his newspaper to know that his future has been around for several years. But he did achieve the valuable goal of padding out the adverts with a few hundred words. And he got paid for it.


Q: Why did Arthur Scargill join New Labour on his death bed?
A: Because he didn't want the world to lose one of the few remaining Socialist dinosaurs.

Q: How many Liberal councillors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None! They've spent the light bulb budget. No one knows what they spent it on, but it's all gone.

DEMOCRACY - a system that lets the Opposition spend so much time proving that the Government is quite useless that the Opposition becomes equally unfit to rule.

The party out of power always has all the answers. Politics is the art of getting elected before anyone realizes that their answers are no good either.


I'd not been to Manchester for a heck of a long time - not since I had to do my 10 days' jury service in the summer (which is another story) and before the IRA blew the place up, leaving behind a lone pillar box as a symbol of the power of Post Office engineering over the wreckers.
   I must have been thinking about all the Xmassy stuff I planned to buy, but I missed it on the way into the centre of town from Piccadilly station. But it did register on the way back - that sign reading "Working for a nuclear free city".
   If you want to know what a non-Tory government would be like, the saying goes, look at what non-Tory councils are doing. Which party, I asked myself, runs Manchester, winner of countless International Bad Pavement Awards over the years?


And that set me wondering. Just how many nuclear power stations there are in Manchester anyway? Or how many nuclear missile silos are there, lurking around the city centre? Well, perhaps they're so well camouflaged that we never notice them.
   Seriously, though, when was the city of Manchester ever nuclear? Are we talking about the time when Rutherford was splitting the atom at the university in the 1930s? Or just fantasies in the fevered brains of politicians with too much time on their hands?


This leaves us with the question of what form all this 'work' takes. What is Manchester City Council actually doing to free the place from nuclears? The voting punter finds it hard to believe that they are doing anything more than wasting time on pointless meetings in committee rooms at the town hall, probably seasoned with the odd boozy lunch at the city's expense. Oh, yes, and the inevitable junketing abroad to other de-nucleared cities to find out what they are doing about an imaginary problem. Presumably, places like Paris, Rome, New York, Melborne and other cities that offer some scope for spare-time sight-seeing.
   What we really need are people working to make politicians do the job they were elected to do. Sadly, all we get are signs erected at public expense to the tell uninterested voters that their elected servants are busy slaying imaginary dragons.


Is there anyone out there old enough to remember when a half-hour BBC programme was 30 minutes long? When the programmes followed one another without the endless round of BBC internal adverts for Radio Times (other listing magazines are available) and BBC products?
   These days, everyone yells, "Cue the book!" at the end of every episode of a BBC major series, knowing that the inevitable plug for a book or a video will follow the credit titles.
   When people switch on a favourite programme at its advertised starting time, the last thing they want to hear is, "But first, here's a list of the rubbish you won't be watching a week on Tuesday." Listen up, BBC. We don't want your bloody adverts and we don't want to have to pay for all your cute, time-wasting internal adverts.



Back To Basics!! Make kids to half an hour's homework every day. Anyone who has lived to just a moderate age will have heard such slogans and alleged solutions to the nations problems several times before. Take homework, whose turn has come again. How are they going to enforce it? Are we going to have a Homework Police going round checking that the little dears do spend thirty minutes slumped over an exercise book with the telly turned off? And counselling for parents of pupils who refuse to do the prescribed amount homework?
   Sounds like more jobs for pals of the Labour Party's usual suspects. And how are they going to ensure that each child does half an hour? Given that some of the little horrors are as thick as three short planks and others are too clever for their own good.
   We can expect loud squeals of protest from the teachers if they have to assess the capabilities of each child in each subject to ensure that the half-hour quota if filled. Which will lead to what? Right! More demands for more pay. More burned out cases seeking early retirement. And more yells from Labour councils that they haven't got enough money to educate their charges. Surprise, surprise!

CDsLetter from Romiley Arts Federation to the Observer, July 1996 [published 04.08.96]

There seems to be little point in rebuilding Greenwich for the Millennium when most people in the country will see the site only on television. It makes more sense to do the whole thing as a CD-ROM, which could be sent free - or as 'free' as these things ever are - to every household in the country and sold to others as a money-making enterprise.
    That way, the architects could still win their prizes, any monstrosities would remain just electronic fantasies and the poor old taxpayer wouldn't have to shell out for a shoddy mess built in a rush.
    Let 'Viva the Virtual Millennium' be our slogan! You know it makes sense.

Letter from Philip Turner to theGuardian weekend, 02.12.95.

Dear Editor,
    Do you have a brief and convincing explanation of what the lines of Nik Cohn and CJ Stone are for? [Note: Cohn and Stone were columnists for the Grauniad's Saturday colour magazine in 1995]
    Are they there to score points on some sort of social awareness worthiness scale, for instance? Or just there to space out the advertisements?
    And do you happen to know if anyone actually reads their contributions instead of just glancing at them, thinking:
    Yep, I don't have to waste any time reading this...
and moving on?

Yours puzzled...

Reply from Deborah Orr, the editor:

Dear Philip Turner,

No, yes, yes, no.

Your unruffled...

Letter from HTS Productions to PC Magazine Subscriptions Dept., 15.08.95.

Dear Sirs,
    It may have come as a bitter disappointment to you that the Henry T. Smith Productions' subscription to your publication has not been renewed early, despite the almost daily invitations to do so, but you can blame it on your own editorial department.
    My colleague, Philip Turner, had an item published in the July '95 issue of PC Magazine but, three months later, he still hasn't received the promised 25.
    As it is his turn to pay the company subscription, it would be advisable to start worrying whether it will be renewed; by Mr. Turner this year or by anyone else in the future in view of the impression created by such treatment.
    I trust you are now fully in the picture as to how on Earth we have been able to resist the temptation to renew five months early, a subscription which appears to have gone up by a huge 18% on last year's price.

Yours faithfully,

Henry T. Smith.

Windows 95 - In Search of Enlightenment
What does the 95 refer to?

The number of:

  • pounds (sterling) it costs before VAT and delivery?
  • hours it will take you to install it?
  • megabytes of hard disk space the WINDOWS and WINDOWS/SYSTEM directories will each eat up after you've installed about three applications?
  • crashes you'll have on the first day?
  • minutes you'll spend on hold to the Microsoft Technical Assistance line before you abandon all hope of getting through?
  • swear words you'll need to know to vent your frustration while you try to get it to work?

A Computing Acrostic
M ost
I ntelligent
C onsumers
R ealize
O ur
S oftware
O ffers
F rustration's
T orments!

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