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As I Please
In 1947, in his column of that name, George Orwell wrote:

The other week,..., Mr Harold Nicolson was consoling himself as best he could for having reached the age of sixty.  As he perceived, the only positive satisfaction in growing older is that after a certain point you can begin boasting of having seen things that no one will ever have the chance to see again.  It set me wondering what boasts I could make myself, at forty-four, or nearly.  Mr Nicolson had seen the Czar, surrounded by his bodyguard of enormous Cossacks, blessing the Neva.  I never saw that, but I did see Marie Lloyd,....

He also mentions Little Tich, Edward VII, Pétain, and Queen Mary.  I wondered what I might say in the same spirit to celebrate my recent semisesquicentennial.

Mostly, I think of important pieces of engineering that have become obsolete --- some of them with astonishing rapidity --- in my lifetime:  Steam locomotives.  Radios with tubes that had to warm up.  Wind-up phonographs, watches, and clocks.  Slide rules.  Milk delivered in bottles.  Long-distance telephone operators (you dialed a special number and ordered up your call; you got a return call when the connection was set up; everybody in the house was hushed).

As to personages, I was acquainted with Richard Feynman and Linus Pauling, I once shook hands with Clement Attlee, and I saw Flanders & Swann perform in London.  When I was little, Michael Blankfort and Leo Rosten were friends of the family.


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