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It's been one of those months, really.

On the positive side, I'm getting psyched up for my first trip out of the country in near as dammit three years. My various foot problems have made it impossible for me to travel for almost all of that time. I'm just hoping that nothing happens to my feet (or any other part of me) while I'm over there. I tried to get travel insurance that included health cover, and the insurance company, once I told them everything that was wrong with me, wouldn't cover me for any preexisting health situations. This means if I get hit by a bus over there, I may be covered. If my feet get ulcerated again, I won't be. Will have to be extra careful.

I'm memorising the installation of my successor as Master of Goliath Lodge. It's been a very interesting two years. You may recall that I was sprung from Kings College Hospital in order to be installed two years ago, then clapped right back into it. I've initiated four men, passed two, and raised three. Another two men were initiated while I was hospitalised for one further meeting. So we've done pretty well. I memorised all the degrees except for the first half of the Third Degree, which is fairly good going. I am now going to be able to sit there with the book as Immediate Past Master and prompt my successor.

Spring has sprung here in London quite early. We have had little rain or snow over the winter so we are officially in drought at the moment. But the blue skies and budding trees are lovely, especially as spring is normally extremely wet.

Our favourite Chinese restaurant at the Elephant, The Well, closed in January and has not, as yet, reopened. I fear that we've lost it. The inferior restaurant in front of the shopping centre is our only decent alternative.

Our friend Mark was diagnosed with diabetes. He's 41 years old, and has other health problems. Sad news. The doctor issued him with a blood glucose meter but didn't tell him how to use it. He called me in a panic, and I told him to come over and I showed him how to use it. He had a hard time stabilising his blood sugar, and was on insulin for a while, but is now off that and on metformin only.

We had two deaths in the parish in the last three weeks: Gwen Bartlett, a Barbadian woman who used to sit behind me in church and wisecrack her way through the service, was diagnosed with leukemia last month and died early in March. Pat Woods, who used to sit to my right and had been pretty much housebound for the past three years, collapsed in her flat and died a day after being taken to hospital. A third friend, Mara Chibnik, who many friends from soc.motss would know, passed away a few days ago after suffering from pancreatic cancer. I'm very sad about all three; may they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Yesterday I decided that rather than sit inside I'd go out and enjoy the day. I got on a bus for London Bridge, then on another one for Wood Green, then on a third one for Southgate Underground Station. The Masonic Temple where my Chapter meets is up there, and I was curious to see what it would be like to bus up there rather than take the Piccadilly Line. It was nearly two hours, mostly because of delays due to road works. There are lots of vibrant neighbourhoods up there, and I may someday soon take the bus again and actually get off and explore some of them. Once I get my Seniors' Freedom Pass in a year or so I may start bussing myself to those far-flung places rather than taking the Underground.

The good thing was seeing someone from Marblehead, who was visiting with his husband for a week last week. When I was living in Marblehead Peter's brothers used to bully me incessantly. Of course, things are different now and 40+ years later, we took to each other quite well. Peter and his husband John now live in Provincetown, and John is a registered nurse, while Peter is in hospitality. John nursed two people whom I knew in Provincetown, Ernie Cooper and his husband. So it's one of those small worlds once again.

Here they are, John on the left and Peter on the right. What lovely men they are! HWMBO and I were really happy to meet them, and I hope to visit Provincetown while I'm in Massachusetts to see them again.

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To non-USans, the name Jack LaLanne will mean nothing at all. However, to USans of my vintage and below, he was something of a TV icon. Physical fitness was his life, and he lived a long one, dying at age 96 of pneumonia. He liked to say, "I can't die: it would ruin my image."

No it didn't, Jack.
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The Grauniad's obituaries yesterday had a set of double-facing noble obituaries. On the right-hand page is the obituary of Lord McIntosh of Haringey, mhose main claim to fame was his loss of the leadership of the Greater London Council to the hard-left Labourite "Red" Ken Livingstone, whom many of you will recognise as later the first Mayor of London.

Among Lord McIntosh's characteristics was the fact that he was a humanist and atheist. The last paragraph of the section of the obituary written by Jeremy Isaacs is the one that caused me to collapse into helpless laughter at the breakfast table, astonishing HWMBO, who wondered what was so funny about an obituary. Lord McIntosh had months to prepare for his own death, seeing friends and generally enjoying himself. The section ends thus:

An atheist to the last, (McIntosh) reviewed the engagements, most in Europe, he would not now keep, glad to escape an audience with the pope in Rome.

A lucky escape indeed.
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Yesterday's Grauniad had an obituary for John Aris, a computer analyst who participated in the first team that applied computing to business objectives: the LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) system, for J. Lyons, then a major food business in the United Kingdom.

Aris began his academic study in mathematics in secondary school, but decided that classics (the study of Latin and Greek) was more interesting and pursued that subject through Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with a degree.

In 1958, when he was recruited to the LEO project, the prevailing wisdom was that only mathematicians were fit to program and operate computers. This opinion was the prevailing one through the mid-1970's—when I attended Columbia University, the Computer Studies Department only accepted people from the mathematics and philosophy departments (philosophy because logic was taught as part of that discipline).

What attracts me to Aris is this quotation:

At the time, the prevailing view was that work with computers required a trained mathematician. The Leo management thought otherwise and recruited using an aptitude test. John, an Oxford classics graduate, passed with flying colours, noting that "the great advantage of studying classics is that it does not fit you for anything specific".

I have found in my life as a Latin and Greek graduate of Columbia, that truer words have rarely been spoken. Aris went on to other major posts in computer companies and retired from active work in 2000. But he should be remembered not only for his participation in LEO, but for explaining why an education in the classics is uniquely fitting for life in the modern world. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
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It is my sad duty to report that Mr. Cheez Doodles, Morrie Yohai, has died at the age of 90. Snack food junkies all over North America will be in mourning today. I would suggest lurid fluorescent orange armbands in tribute to his signature snack, which he invented in the late 1950's.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
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'...I told him, "Julie, don't go!"'
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As you will no doubt be aware, singer Eartha Kitt, Catwoman and wonderful singer, died on Christmas Day. Michael Bedwell has written a wonderful tribute in the Washington Blade, and you should read it for all its Eartha goodness. Thanks to towleroad for the link.
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For those who watch the BBC, wherever you are, you may be familiar with the series Last of the Summer Wine, which has had many characters up and die on it. Well, Nora Batty, a.k.a. Kathy Staff, has died at the age of 80. She is the battle-axe with whom Compo (Bill Owen) always waged a battle for a kiss.

While I haven't watched in ages, I'm certain that 3/4 of England is in mourning tonight for Nora and her wrinkled stockings.

May she rest in peace and rise in unwrinkled-stockinged glory.
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H.M., a man who had no functioning long term memory, has died in a nursing home. Read his interesting story in his New York Times obituary.
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One of the most prominent of Singaporean opposition politicians, JB Jeyaretnam, has died there from heart failure at the age of 82. His interaction with the People's Action Party and its leader for most of its history, MM Lee Kwan Yew, makes interesting reading. He was about to stand again for Parliament, after having been the first opposition party member to have been elected to Parliament after Singapore's independence from Britain. Rest in Peace, JBJ.
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Those of us who are out, gay, and proud of it, or who have been able to take advantage of civil partnerships here in the UK, and marriage in other places, need to recall and honour those who suffered much in order to give us those opportunities. Ken Young, whose obituary is in the "Other Lives" column in the Grauniad today, is one such man. Read his story, and be amazed and humbled.
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I am really sad; the pioneers of the lesbian and gay justice movement in the United States from the 1940's and 1950's are passing away quickly. Del Martin was one of the greatest of them--with her wife Phyllis Lyon she founded the Daughters of Bilitis organisation in the 1950's and thus spearheaded the more radical organisations of the 1960's and 1970's. This is her New York Times obituary, and while I'm sad that she has left us, and send my condolences to Ms. Lyon, I am happy that she lived to be legally married to Phyllis and in that she was yet again a pioneer.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
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From the Salem News:

Louis R. Child

MARBLEHEAD — Louis Richard "Dick" Child, 79, of Marblehead, formerly of Hamiliton, died Saturday, June 28, 2008.

Mr. Child was born in Lynn, the son of the late Harold M. and the late Jennie (Muise) Child.

Mr. Child was a graduate of Hamilton High School, Class of 1946 and of Boston University, Class of 1953.

After serving his country in the United States Coast Guard during World War II, Mr. Child pursued a career as an accountant and had been employed by the J.P. Marquis Seafood Company in Ipswich and the Montseratt College in Beverly. He had been a part owner of Sweeney's Pattern Shop in Ipswich and a Mahogany Boat Manufacturing Company.

He was an avid golfer, a poker player and enjoyed making furniture.

Mr. Child is survived by his niece, Ruth Ellen Hansen of Salem; his nephews, Christian Hansen of London, England, Harold Hansen of Marblehead, and Timothy Child of Goshen, N.H.; and his close friend, Lena Hill of Florida.

ARRANGEMENTS: A funeral service will be held at the Campbell-Lee, Moody, Russell Funeral Home, 525 Cabot St., Beverly (North Beverly location) on Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 11 a.m. Visiting hours will be held on Monday, July 7 from 4 to 7 p.m. Relatives and friends are invited to attend. Interment will take place in the family lot Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton. Donations in his name may be made to the American Heart Association, 20 Speen St., Framingham, MA 01701. Information, directions, condolences at www.campbellfuneral.com
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Few people are aware that one of the first business computers was built to help run a chain of tea-shops here in the United Kingdom. The designer of that computer, which was (according to the article) 100,000th as powerful as a desktop PC today, has died at the age of 92. Those of us who work in computer-related businesses owe him a lot. Next time you have a cup of tea or coffee, raise a toast to David Caminer and Lyons Corner Shops.
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I met Larry several times during my time in Chicago; he was a great guy as well as an effective lobbyist and state legislator. I didn't know that he had retired in 2006.

Rest in peace and rise in glory, Larry.

The Chicago Tribune news blog is here (may require regustration)
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...and as someone (no doubt, many millions of people) has pointed out, one can now pry the gun out of his cold dead hands. The greatness of his acting has of late been eclipsed by his advocacy of the National Rifle Association.
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Those of us who have eschewed McDonald's for years now may not think so, but this man created something that our fellow women and men often eat daily. I wonder what his cholesterol level was.
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I haven't seen any of this in the blogs, but Sam Garrison, Nixon defender, lawyer, and gay activist, has died. Here is a link to the obituary, which, as it's in the Washington Post, required registration, I'm afraid. The best paragraph in it is:

In the 33 years since that summer (of the impeachment hearings), Mr. Garrison divorced, went bankrupt, came out as a gay man, served time in prison for embezzlement and was disbarred. A former business partner conspired to kill him. He recovered his right to vote and his law license, and resumed his legal career.

I guess he kept busy.
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I have the same reaction to this news as was recently seen in Overheard in New York:

Gay man: My great aunt just died.
Friend: I'm sorry.
Gay man: Don't be, she was a horrible old witch.
Friend: Oh, ok. Ding dong.
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In the Guardian was an obituary:

SLAVIN, Patrick, devoted Guardian reader died peacefully on April 29 2007 aged 74. He would be secretly pleased to find his name in this paper. (details of funeral service)

I suspect that if he knew that his name would be in the Obituary column he wouldn't be as pleased as the writer of the obituary thought he would be.

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