2008 — 9 December: Tuesday

Tonight's picture is pretty self-explanatory:

Christa, Peter and Big Bro in 1984

Wonder if Big Bro has the picture he was taking? I suspect this was in 1984, and (indeed) within a few minutes of this one. I'd obviously succeeded in coaxing Junior to get in front of some cameras.

G'night, at 00:52 or so. Next big adventure should be lunch with niece #1 if the trains run on time (and the creek1 don't rise).

Acting on information received...

... I intercepted the boot process this morning and disabled the onboard audio in the BIOS setting. Simple logic (and Mike) suggesting that this would force things down only the "Creative" path in case the problem was an interrupt conflict. I was therefore disappointed to observe (and not hear) unchanged behaviour. Signal apparently goes in, and apparently gets recorded, and apparently takes up disk space, and can be monitored going in via the external sound card's headphones, but nowt plays back subsequently, despite visual evidence of further signal moving around (level meters, for example). Most aggravating.

That's quite enough hi-tech for the moment — after all, it's only 08:39 so I shall have to further soak the problem in tea and see if any inspiration strikes. I'm obviously doing (or not doing) something trivially simple. Let's hope the train rendezvous later this morning is even simpler. It does rely on a mobile phone, which is a bit of a drawback for me.

Christa obviously knew...

... that "smiling gets you an average of one extra friend, which is pretty good considering that people only have about six close friends". (Source.)

Well, this made me smile:

Talk about the pottan calling the varmvattenkokare black. A Swede and Scandinavian, nurtured on a diet of one-note melancholics like Kierkegaard, Ibsen, and Strindberg, indicting the land of Henry James, Zora Neale Hurston, Saul Bellow, Sandra Cisneros, and William Least Heat-Moon for insufficient scope? The capo of an Academy that has slipped the Nobel Prize to 14 fellow Scandinavians, among them the widely read Björnstjerne Björnson, Henrik Pontoppidan, and Erik Axel Karlfeldt — while tapping one Chinese writer, one Turkish writer, and one Mexican writer — charging America with blinkered vision?

Carlin Romano in The Chronicle Review


Simon Gray (author of "Smoking Diaries") was a classy writer, but I've just wept having heard the last couple of minutes of today's BBC radio extract from his last book and I honestly don't think I could face reading it. (Gray's lung cancer was not, it seems, what actually killed him.) Ironically, the first news item in the broadcast immediately following is the protest by tobacco shops at proposals to remove cigarettes from display... "A recession is no time to be clobbering small businesses" is the gist of their argument. Of course, the National Health Service takes a different position.

In training for a Rendezvous

Michelle has just rung — she was just boarding her train at Waterloo. It's almost exactly a year since I last saw her, says she's wearing a black cap that says "NZ" on it, and predicts she'll be hungry by the time she arrives. Traffic looks no problem. Sun is shining. No frost to worry about. Cool! Lis assured me this morning: "she is very laid back and will take it as it comes LOL". (My sister-in-law does a lot of LOL.)

We lunched at Brambridge and she's now (15:29) working her way through some of the music collection on "shuffle" on the iMac with a second cuppa and a second biscuit before...

Niece #1 at the iMac

... I decant her onto the Waterloo train. Nice to catch up.

Glad I'm not a commuter!

Safely decanted, though I must say the rush hour traffic around the Parkway station is something to behold. At some point today the intrepid driver now typing passed the 12,000 mile mark "for real" (that is, not including the 14 miles initially on the car as delivered to our drive, and the eight miles or so on the day of Christa's funeral when Junior firmly decided it would be better if he drove just for that particular day). It's now 17:01 and the nerves are politely suggesting another cuppa would be welcome. I think the nerves are correct. Sorry the tea trip didn't work out, Peter!

I must say, after a visitor has left, the house nowadays always seems distinctly empty. 'Twasn't ever thus, dammit. The inner man has been fed; the (disgraceful) state of broadcast so-called entertainment has been assessed, and found wanting,2 so good ol' Winamp has once again been unleashed for my background audio delight while I move on to whatever it is I do next. As I said to Michelle, if I run the music on the iMac I'm forever getting up to see what's playing whereas this way I can keep a gentle eye on the scrolling titles. Fabian's "Hound dog man" has just been followed by The Who's variant of "Hall of the Mountain King"...

Glad I'm not a computer!

I see Microspit has just decided there are six new patches to play with. Isn't it odd how the "Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool" never zaps the operating system? And I just love the way "You must restart your computer for the updates to take effect" — how deliciously tedious. Aah, that little frisson as you wonder if you'll ever see the desktop again. Still, that's one minor-league advantage to having some sacrificial PCs around; you (I) never put the updates straight on to the main PC.3

Interesting question asked, and partially answered, here. (I've just been revamping the selections I keep on "my" BBC home page, and found this in the dot.life blog just before it dropped off the bottom, as it were.) Interesting comments on the HD channel one year in, too, including the vexatious question of the godawful and totally unnecessary DOG. Plus this on the complexities of the audio channels that accompany the HD video. Fascinating. Well, I think so.

This is from a review of a Julian Barnes book I've been aware of, but also quite consciously avoiding:

Not, as we should say nowadays, a fun book, Nothing To Be Frightened Of, despite Barnes's repeated efforts at gallows humor. Nor, because of the heavy freight of depression it carries, is it a book that can be read at just any time. I found myself not wanting to read about death at night; nor could I bear to begin my day by reading it fresh out of bed in the morning. Because of its dolorous subject, Nothing To Be Frightened Of reads as if twice its actual length. It is a book that would make a fine gift for someone one doesn't really like.

Joseph Epstein in The Weekly Standard



1  I've just switched off the radio, and can now hear the rain thudding on the skylight.
2  With the laudable exceptions of the extended interview with David Gilmour on his houseboat, of course, and the Annie Lennox-hosted history of Amnesty International.
3  It was a glitch with the even more horrid Vista that sabotaged my first two attempts to lobotomise it last week. In the midst of rebooting with the Ubuntu disk, Vista was hanging on to request a keystroke (or something) to complete one of these rather-too-automated updates. I only realised this after the second failure, when I decided I'd better let the machine reboot in its own sweet time so I could assess exactly what progress, if any, I'd made with the Linux installation.