December 2007 Archives

I build factories. I was called on a project recently, and they told me "if it fails, you'll go to court and you won't get your money". They said, "we'll make a big scene and you'll take the rap, because we can't be seen to get it wrong. Don't worry, you will get your money, but officially you won't get your money, and we'll make a big scene". So I've been on two and the projects crashed and I didn't get my money. But two weeks later they called me in quietly and I got my money.
Overheard in Leaside Hotel Bar, Luton, December 6th.

Stick Up

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I travelled around with a group and praised their music and watched their every action. I helped the lead guitarist stick stamps in his album. Then one horrible night, as I was walking down a dark alley, the 'boys' set upon me. They held me on the ground, removed every single piece of my clothing and then, grinning lecherously, they stuck 'Ban the Bomb' stickers and World Cup stamps all over me. It was horrid. I can never now live a happily married life, because every time I see my husband's priceless collection (he's got several penny reds and a jubilee issue) I just pass clean out. So please, rampant group members, control yourselves.
From a letter in Melody Maker,
quoted in This England 1965-1968: Selections from the 'This England' column of the 'New Statesman', edited by Audrey Hilton.

Even by the standards of Victorian eccentricity, Francis Galton was an extraordinary figure. His mother was a daughter of Erasmus Darwin — Charles Darwin's grandfather. Despite being a child prodigy — he was discussing Homer's Iliad at the age of six — he did not do well at school, and found it difficult to stick to his medical studies. In 1840, at the age of eighteen, he dropped medicine and went to Trinity College, Cambridge to read mathematics. He lived the typical life of an undergraduate: after three years of drinking, dancing, hiking and doing no work at all, he had a nervous breakdown while preparing for his finals, and left with an ordinary degree.

When Galton was twenty-two his father died, leaving him a substantial fortune. He gave up study and began to travel, in the Middle East, then Scotland, then in South-West Africa. Back in London he published his first book, Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa (1853). The common thread that was to link all of Galton's varied enthusiasms was already apparent in this book: measurement. During his South African travels, he wanted to determine the precise dimensions of a Hottentot woman's buttocks; since he did not speak her language he resorted to surveying her from a distance, using a theodolite (normally used to survey land); 'this being done', he recorded, 'I boldly pulled out my measuring-tape, and measured the distance from where I was to the place where she stood, and having thus obtained both base and angles, I worked out the results by trigonometry and logarithms.'

From A Guinea Pig's History of Biology by Jim Endersby. Galton's own words are on this page image at the Web site.

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