Friday, 23rd April, 2021

[Day 403]

Another beautiful day today to wake up to. Meg and I were a little delayed because Friday is the day when our domestic help calls around and we took the opportunity for her to work some magic wonders on Meg’s hair which is getting a bit ‘out-of-control’ until we have it done a week on Tuesday. I asked our domestic help to make over Meg’s hair so that when we went to bed this evening, I would feel I was climbing into bed with a different woman (and I think she succeeded.) As we were a bit later that we would have liked, we picked up our newspapers and then tried to occupy one of our preferred ‘top’ park benches but they were already fully occupied. So we made do by sitting and looking over the lake which is, of course, what we used to do at the start of the year. But then, on our way home uo the hill, we ran into both of our closest (Catholic) friends and to cut a long story short, we have invited them both round to have a nice English cup of tea (or something even stronger) next Monday afternoon. We are just hoping, of course, that the weather holds out until then but it is true to say that once we have a high pressure established like this, they tend to persist for quite a few days (I think that low pressure systems ‘bounce’ off them) We do not mind the weather being a tad cooler so long as we do get completely rained off. Actually, we intended to have a similar little ‘soiree’ last Christmas time but evidently one of the COVID-19 lockdowns intervened.

Our domestic help has forwarded me a recipe for rhubarb gin which sounds simple enough to make. According to the recipe, as well as rhubarb some orange peel is involved and a rather exotic ingredient of either a vanilla pod or some vanilla bean base (which I must admit, I have never even heard of) I have been sent the Jamie Oliver recipe and all seems straight forward but I never thought of baking the rhubarb to release ? enhance? some of the flavours. As we have a small clump of rhubarb growing, I might as well as make it something useful and, at least, I have all of he gear such as Kilner jars and sterilising fluid.

Last night whilst I was playing with my new HP computer, I found a way of getting my old DOS statistical software to work under Windows 10. I downloaded a specialist piece of software called DosBox which enabled my old software to run. I had to find out how to ‘mount’ a specific folder after which the software would run. I even found a way to configure it so it utilised more of the screen surface and was centralised. One piece of software I was glad to resurrect was a program I had written called EzeStats After development, this was eventually bundled with a statistics textbook ‘Jon Curwin and Roger Slater with Mike Hart: ‘Numeracy Skills for Business‘(Chapman Hall, 1994) Having looked at this piece of educational software some decades after it was written, I was struggling to remember exactly how I did it. This is what I think I did. I utilised a simple text editor to write the words for one screenful of information. Assuming I could work with 80 characters a row x. 25 lines, each screen could contain 2,000 characters. But each character occupied two bytes – the first was the ASCII code of the character itself and the second was a colour encoding for that particular byte (making 4,000 per screen). I think I then utilised a utility called ‘Paint’ (nothing to do with the Windows program of that name) which enabled you to ‘paint’ the foreground (or ‘ink’) and the background ( or ‘paper’) for each screen. Some screens asked you to choose a character which gave an answer to a tutorial type of question – to capture the responses and to send you to the screen which told you whether you had the correct answer or not, I think I used a batch file which could send you back and forth amongst the various pages. Somehow, all of these pages get stitched together (perhaps via the batch file) and then I think I used a program to take a batch file and turn it into an executable file (.com or .exe) This is how I think I did it all, but it certainly still runs incredibly slickly and I think the entire tutorial course runs to about 40 screens of information, all stitched again into a fast, colourful and incredibly concise little system – I think the total size of the two main .exe files only cane to about 20k in total (and the public domain version of the MicroStats program was only about 37k). Those were the days when memory was expensive and programmers had to make every byte count!