At the End of the Day

I read a piece in the Torynaff this afternoon explaining that NASA’s £460m mission to photograph and explore the furthest reaches of the solar system is now so old, it’s powered by a 32-bit Mongoose V processor – based on the same MIPS R3000 which featured in the original Sony PlayStation. All those descriptors are gobbledygook to me, except ’32 bit processor’: even I know that this is to contemporary hitech what Caxton’s press is to an HP printer.

But the amusing and inspiring thing for me is that the Pluto probe left earth nine years ago, and when asked to wake up last December 6th, it did so with impeccable obedience. What do you think the chances are of a 2015-created laptop doing the same thing?

Imagine how many updates the Probe has missed. I’m waiting for the press release from NASA mission control to announce, “Our little baby will get round to photographing Pluto just as soon as Office, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress are done downloading their enhanced posting experiences”.

Had the probe been launched in 2010 towards, say, Saturn, there would be all kinds of problems. Down there in Houston, earnest scientists would be saying to the Duty Officer, “Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again? Take the battery out, wave it about a bit, and then put it back in…that usually works. What about the router….can you turn it round to point at the utility room?”

In the period since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has moved from January to May: its year is 246 times longer than ours. This must make dull months like November seem awfully tedious, and I’d imagine the suicide rate there is very high. In fact, it’s 100%, as one of the few things we know about this Dwarf Planet is that nobody lives there. In celestial terms, it is a veritable Billy Nomates.


I am very keen on exercise. So keen, in fact, that I walk approximately six miles every day. The main reason I do this is because, increasingly, I have the memory of a challenged gnat. Indeed, it is one of the ironies of human existence that the more one’s cerebral cortex goes into hibernation, the fitter one gets.

The day begins roughly as follows.

Get up, stumble over to wet room, shower. Remember that fire needs stoking from last night, go to den where fire is, forget why I’m there. Halfway back up stairs to bedroom, remember nature of mission, put on slippers, shamble outside, pick up four logs, bung on fire.

Dress, descend to kitchen. Empty dishwasher, clean kitchen surfaces, look at wrist, discover absence of watch. Go upstairs, get distracted by dirty washing pile, go back down to kitchen, put washing in machine, look at wrist, rediscover absence of watch. Go upstairs, remember implant bridge needs cleaning, get halfway back down stairs, remember naked wrist, go back up and put watch on, walk through main living room to den in order to recharge laptop, spot absence of laptop. Walk back through main living room, climb stairs, pick up laptop, get halfway down stairs, remember absence of glasses, go back up, stick glasses on top of head, descend again, halfway through kitchen notice that have loaded washing machine but not started it as such, hear telephone ring, answer it to discover I am lucky winner of free termites survey, replace receiver, wonder why conditioner pack is in middle of floor, finally start washing machine, pick up laptop, discern lack of glasses, say rude word, remount staircase, begin futile hunt for glasses, eventually discover them on head.

I am that man heading for the plastic beaker with holes in the spout, but my God, I’m going to have a perfectly honed body and a fine pair of lungs.


Seen in Scotland:

dullsignHurrah for an institutional sense of humour


Last night at The Slog: The timeless art of going on a bender