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Scientists are mapping the habits of brain cells that take a powder when they think nobody will notice:

Researchers discovered that contrary to popular opinion the brain is not always entirely asleep or awake but parts of it can go “offline”.

This they claim accounts for the feeling of being “half asleep” which causes forgetfulness and small errors such as misplacing keys or putting the milk in the cupboard or the cereal in the fridge.

The team at the University of Wisconsin, who measured electrical waves in the brain, discovered that some nerve cells in tired yet awake individuals can briefly go “offline”.

Professor Chiara Cirelli, a psychiatrist and author of the study, said: “Even before you feel fatigued, there are signs in the brain that you should stop certain activities that may require alertness.

“Specific groups of neurons may be falling asleep, with negative consequences on performance.”

I would say that this makes me feel a bit better about my own practice of walking around in a perpetual haze, except that I forgot what I was going to say.

Might explain Anton Chekov’s problems, too:


Ol’ Robbo can’t help but noticing that more and more of the blogs he reads seem to be quietly sliding under the table.  (In fact, it’s high time to update the port-swiller blogroll to reflect the latest members to sink beneath the surface.)

Fortunately, no matter what else happens, there will still be at least one spirit out there still willing to stick with his cups:

I intend to maintain this foolish blog whether anybody reads the contents or not. In that respect I shall be like an ancient scribe on Lindisfarne, painstakingly illuminating the first letter of my treasured gospel, yet well aware that its probable fate is to be Viking toilet paper. My fellow monks have already mostly departed for Facebookland with St Cuthbert’s bones wrapped in a thin tweet, but I still keep the blog candle burning in this lonely chapel window, however low the flame may be.

A glass of wine with you, sir!

Terry Teachout on the fiscal woes in the world of  High Cultchah:

High-culture unions that fight to hang on to an untenable status quo are shooting themselves in the head. Labor leaders invariably respond to managerial cries of disaster-around-the-corner by arguing that their members should not be made to suffer today for the managerial mistakes of the past. But in the end, it doesn’t matter who made the first blunder. Everybody in the culture business, union leaders included, has been guilty of chronic myopia when it comes to outmoded business models. The point is that there is no longer any alternative to root-and-branch fiscal reform. What’s more, managers and board members now know this. Increasingly, they’re willing to shut up shop altogether–or, like the Philadelphia Orchestra, declare bankruptcy–rather than purchase short-term labor peace, as they did in the past, by agreeing to contracts that they can no longer afford….

Seems to me that one could transpose this analysis to just about any branch of the economy or guv’mint these days.

Fellow Tory curmudgeons marking the day by fretting for the future of Great Britain may take some solace in the fact that this is the anniversary of the birth, in 1769, of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.  Along with Pitt the Younger, Churchill and Thatcher, the Iron Dook ranks in ol’ Robbo’s mind as one of the outstanding figgahs in Brit military and political history.

All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called “guessing what was at the other side of the hill.”  Now that’s the stuff to give ’em.  Or, if you prefer, “Publish and be damned!”

It’s been a bit since I last read Elizabeth, Lady Longford’s double biography, Wellington: The Years of the Sword and Wellington: Pillar of  State.  It seems to me that the grumbles which the Royal Wedding seem to be producing in me are a sign that it’s high time to dip into them again.


In answer to the question everyone is asking this morning, no, I did not watch the WillsKate (or whatever they’re calling it) Wedding.  Really not much interested in all the “People’s Princess v. 2” ballyhoo.

Regular port-swillers might be somewhat surprised by this.  After all, anyone paying the slightest attention to my ramblings over the years might deduce (correctly) that I am both an Anglophile and a royalist.  So, what gives?

Well, I’ll tell you:  It’s more out of sadness at the current state of things than anything else.  The fact of the matter is that I am extremely gloomy about the future of the Sceptred Isle.   A pair of world wars and sixty-odd years of socialism kicked the stuffing out of her, and I am afraid that modern cultural nihilism and virulent, radicalized immigration will prove to be her death-knell.   As for the House of Windsor, I begin to think of its post-Elizabeth generations as being about as relevant as the last Emperors of Rome in the days before the Goths dissolved the Imperium.

Of course, I wish Prince William and Catherine all the best. (Indeed, I am far more interested in the actual marriage than I am in the wedding.)   And of course, I sincerely hope that I am quite wrong about the fate of the Kingdom.  In truth, I know next to nothing about William, apart from the fact that his father has permanently beclowned himself and his mother was a lunatic.   And I know nothing about Kate apart from the fact that in most photos she seems to be wearing too much mascara.  I certainly detest that plucky-middle-class-gal-to-shake-up-stuffy-royals meme floating about the intertoobs.   And I think that if the pair give into the temptation to try and cast themselves as the new, hip, relevant, 21st Century face of the Brit monarchy (living together all those years certainly doesn’t help), well, you may as well sell Buck House to the Hilton chain here and now, because that will be the end of things.

If Britain really wishes to survive, in my humble opinion, the first thing she has to do is to start believing in herself again.   And as the living embodiment of the Kingdom, the Monarchy has to do the same thing, not by blowing hither and yon in populist or multi-culti winds, but by returning to its core values: tradition, decorum, solidity.   Whether, when William eventually ascends, this pair can do so remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Your Quote of the Day:

Those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians.

– Margaret Thatcher

Take that, you Jacobin dogs!

Yesterday turns out to have been “Take Our Childs To Work” Day.

By a total fluke of timing resulting from the fact that she is on spring break and we didn’t really know what else to do with her, it so happens that I did take the eldest gel in with me to the shop.  (And why, for the love of God, I neglected to have her bring along her iPod or some similar electronic device, I haven’t the foggiest.  Watching the Pater edit briefs gets mighty boring after a while.)

Throughout the course of the day, I had occasion to introduce the gel to various colleagues.  The introductions usually went something like this:

Self:  “Gel, this is my friend Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith, this is my oldest daughter, Gel.”

Gel (sotto voce): “Hullo.”

Colleague: “Hi! Oh, please call me John.”

Upon which I would fix my colleague with an icy, indignant glare.

Not really, of course.  However, I certainly felt like it.  I strongly disapprove of this kind of familiarity between the young and their elders.   And I get especially irritated when it is encouraged in the face of my very clear signals that I don’t want it to be.

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