John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 39

by on Aug.12, 2010, under Rum Doings, The Rest

Episode 39 sees us not discussing: What can we do about Hula Hoops and comic books and their effect on the moral turpitude of the youth?

Back on creaky furniture, arguing over mead, things feel very traditional but for Nick’s peculiar quietness. We talk about times in the witch-encrusted New Forest. Nick reveals the location of Anne Frank’s remains. Nuts are put in their place.

We consider accents, shrieking families, and morris dancing. We talk with pleasure about Radio 4’s former quiz show All The Way From Memphis. There’s thoughts on Sherlock, Nick’s holidays, and John’s world exclusive weight loss programme. And Bath’s weather.

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24 Comments for this entry

  • Alex

    Thanks to that video on RPS, I can see what Nick’s been saying about John’s body shape. His head and neck don’t seem that off, but he’s definitely got Fat Hands.

  • Alex B

    Well done on losing 3/4 of a stone, John! You may say ‘oh, it’s only 3/4’ and so on, but in a way it doesn’t matter, you’ve managed to show people around you that you’re ready to change, if that makes sense. Rather than just saying “Meh, I’ll start after Christmas.

    Oh, and wasn’t the guy who received the first Noble Prize Mr. Simon Doff? :P

  • Jambe

    I can’t help but giggle when I hear of people losing stones. Misplaced your pet rock, did you? Got a diamond saw to quarter it only for a bit to scamper off? Ungrateful bastard, that stone.

    I’m honestly somewhat embarrassed by my country’s refusal to abandon imperial measures (we’re AMMERRUKAH, so the rest of the world can SUCK IT, etc). There’s talk of how miles and acres are tied to the nation’s character, blah blah, but I’m almost rabidly anti-nationalistic. Slavery was also tied to the nation’s character at one point — so what? SI is simply more intuitive, anyway.

    About forests: most of Indiana’s 36,000 square miles was forest before settlers arrived. The only appreciable virgin forest left in the state is an 88-acre stand in the Hoosier National Forest. I don’t like what we people do, sometimes. Do we really need all these people on the planet, necessitating that sort of land modification?


    Have either of you seen thundersnow? I saw it in South Bend once. It was eerie.

    Also, gaming may be a right-wing activity among folk 30 or over, but below that I don’t think so. My generation seems more liberal than conservative and gaming is almost a cultural norm for us. It’ll be a cultural norm for virtually everyone in the younger generation, I’m sure.

  • Arthur


    All things that are connected to the “culture of a place” are not inherent evils, and comparing units of measurements to slavery seems obviously going significantly too far. We tried switching to the more international units of measurement in the ’70s and it was an utter failure because, ultimately, people honestly didn’t know what a kilometer was in comparison to a mile, and so it gained no traction. Dan Ackroyd did a pretty great sketch on SNL during that time about the Metric Alphabet that pretty well encapsulated how much people didn’t like it. Ultimately it seems entirely ok that the US didn’t move to metric units. It works fine in the US, and if a US company or person needs to make something clear to someone who uses the metric system, they can just list both with one in parenthesis. Some things are just too ingrained in a place to change without a huge amount of effort, and some things are just too minor to put a huge amount of effort into it. Switching to the metric system was both of those things.

  • Coulla

    Alcoholism! Nick, I am scared for you.

  • Jambe

    How did I “go too far”? Slavery is simply an example of an issue oft-defended by fallacious appeals to tradition.

    Metrication isn’t a huge issue, I’d just rather use the best system. Customary systems obviously work — the point is SI works *better*. It’s the system of the scientific community for good reason.

    The “character” and “tradition” arguments are indefensible. The adoption-rate issue would end in a generation and largely subside much quicker. The cost issue is real, but it’s not as if we couldn’t handle it (my Congress spends by the billion at the drop of a hat, after all).

  • Arthur

    It was too far because the output of one is slightly less elegant determination of weights and measures, the output of another is the death of six million people.

    I don’t think Pound and gallons are defended due to tradition or character, I think they’re defended because they are what American’s already know. The Cost/Benefit analysis of switching to another system isn’t just what is best, but the increased benefit weighed against the amount of effort that would be required. The outlay for the majority of Americans is significant to switch to metric. It is not merely learning the metric system, it is that most people can eyeball feet, gallons, and pounds almost instantly. This visual memory would need to be unlearned and then relearned in the new measurements. More problematically, most people would not see a significant advantage to switching to these measurements because while they are exact, most people to not need the level of precision that the metric system offers. There is indeed a reason scientists use metric system, and it is because they need to know weights down to the milligram. For everyday activities, ounces will work just as well as grams.

    So the switch to the metric system offers a low level of benefits (for most, essentially no benefits) with a high level of cost learning the new system. Really, it’s like languages. It would be great if everyone spoke the same language, but it would be prohibitively hard to convert the entirety of the world to esperanto.

  • Gassalasca

    Regarding Bits of Fry and Laurie, and whether people remember it – I remeber it very well, mostly on the account of having watched it for the first time some 4 years ago. I believe it is the most underrated comedy programme ever produced.
    Interestingly, I haven’t got round to watching House MD yet, but from what I’ve heard it’s right up my alley, so to speak.

  • Nick Mailer

    Gassalasca: I don’t believe “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” is or was underrated. It’s praised and acknowledged by most comedians as a prime example of the genre. Perhaps it didn’t have the popularity of the later “Fast Show” and the like, but this doesn’t mean it’s underrated.

  • Gassalasca

    Oh God, I got the name wrong, how embarassing. Though, in my defence, it was rather early in the morning. -_-

    When I said underrated, what I meant was closer to ‘the best show that no one watched’. I believe that comedians in UK have watched it and liked it, but it really never got the mass following, especially outside the UK, that it deserved.*

    It might be to do with the fact that, by the early nineties, the sort of wordy, not insulting your intelligence, public school Oxbridge comedy, to a certain extent in the vain of Monty Python, was out of fashion.

    *To illustrate – in my country, to put it in blunt terms, everyone knows all Only Fools and Horses and ‘Alo ‘Alo gags; the more intelligent half of the population knows every Blackadder gag and are generally familiar with the Flying Circus; virtually nobody’s even heard of A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

  • EthZee

    John! Nick! People are talking silly things about copyright!

    Please respond to this program! It annoys me for some reason.

  • Jambe

    You needn’t make my example into an ethical issue, Arthur. Yes, slavery was bad. Spare me the moral-mongering! You can think customary measurement isn’t defended with appeals to tradition if you want. Doesn’t chance the fact.

    You overestimate the average persons’s capacity and need for, er, estimation. Virtually everything in this modern world of ours comes pre-measured. At worst, you watch a readout (gas) or look at a label (measuring cup).

    Now, again, metrication is not a big issue. The status quo is workable. I’d just rather make the expenditure to change things to the best available system. The generation accustomed to customary units will be gone in 80 years.

    A Bit of Fry and Laurie was great in my estimation, but in my experience most Americans don’t appreciate it (or British humor in general). People from this area don’t appreciate subtlety so most wordplay is lost on them (if it’s not a fart joke, you’re up a creek). Locals tend to think the accent is effete, so there’s a boundary to appreciation in the simple manner of speech. But this is a conservative “traditional” area — the folk here think attending a Dave Matthews concert indicates sophistication (I happen to like some DMB, but that’s another topic).

  • Jambe

    Also, yes, Rum Doings certainly does provide gemutlichkeit. The lady friend and I often listen to it (along with other similarly easygoing podcasts) when eating at a park, relaxing at home, on a long drive, etc. It’ll spark conversations and laughter, and not even immediately — sometimes one of us will bring up a Rum Doings topic later in the week.

    It’s sometimes on in the background when I’m drawing or sculpting, too. Even when I’m absorbed in work and not paying attention to the words, it seems worthwhile. Good ambiance, I suppose.

    Good show, you two.

  • Nick Mailer

    EthZee: I started to listen to that programme but had to turn it off because its self-serving tautologies breached my pain barrier.

  • George

    I’m a young-un but I and most of my friends know of ‘A Bit Of Fry And Laurie’, because we are fancy and/or sophisticated young gentlemen/ladies.
    Glad to hear that John knows which Blackadder series was best. 4 was too serious, 3 was gloriously silly.

  • Arthur

    “I’d just rather make the expenditure to change things to the best available system. The generation accustomed to customary units will be gone in 80 years.”

    But that isn’t true. We already tried this in the US and it failed for exactly the reasons I stated. We’re not discussing a hypothetical, we’re rehashing something that already didn’t work.

  • Gassalasca

    @George – everyone knows that while III and IV had their moments, overall, Blackadder II was the best. -_-

  • Jambe

    It didn’t work in the past therefore it can never work.


  • Arthur

    Jambe, what are you suggesting would be different this time around? A historical precedent is a slight better than nothing.

  • Vagabond

    Jambe, in America sadly I think the answer is yes. I mean they waste hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars a year because a significant portion of the population refuse to allow the penny to be taken away (despite it now being made of 2 cents worth of raw materials) and you want them to measure things differently?

    Arthur, I’d suggest that you want to change over as a society because you get conversion errors causing issues at the interfaces between scientists and the rest of your society. Eventually it’s not going to be smacking a space probe too fast into a planet that is the most serious event that problem has caused.

  • Xercies

    I like Blackadder 4 because I have studied the first world war a bit and i have to say its one of the best satrisations of that war ever made and will be ever made. its so dark and true that its brilliant. It doesn’t have the siliness i guess of the previous ones but the satire it does have of the war makes up for it.

  • Gassalasca

    ^Agreed. Over the years it’s become my favourite as well. But I still think that generally the second one is better.

  • Nick Mailer

    Xercies: most of it was plagiarised from “Oh What a Lovely War”, particularly the ending, which was basically a direct lift.

  • George

    Though having declared my undying love for series 3, I just remembered the ‘Speckled Jim’ episode, and now I’m confused.