2009 — 26 November: Thursday

The first part of the evening's excitement was to note (while driving North on the M3) the lorry not moving in the fast lane on the other side of the crash barrier and a motley set of flashing blue lights (plus a lengthening tail-back). The second part, a few minutes ago (after a lovely meal and a showing of Chris & Don — highly recommended portrait of Christopher Isherwood and his "long time companion" Don Bachardy that both Mike and I bought recently but which neither of us had yet turned up the necessary round tuit for) was to observe a "20 mph" limit sign at the entrance to the Southbound M3, so I've just returned by the more leisurely route.

I don't think I ask for too much from my Freeview PVR, so why can't it record sound as well as (static) picture when I leave it to catch an SF story I would otherwise have missed on BBC7 while I was out enjoying myself? Blasted technology. I assume "U81" is some form of meaningful error message, but its meaning is lost on me... The Freesat PVR, meanwhile, had no trouble capturing a "Shaun the sheep" episode in hi-def that I wanted to see just 'cos I knew it was an Aardman production.

Right. Time (00:23 or so) for a final cuppa and some more of that sleep stuff. Want to be bright-eyed for my lunch date in a few hours. Oh, and it's raining again, on and off. G'night.

Glorious sunshine

Are we allowed more than one Indian Summer per year? I'm vaguely wondering if I want to nip out on a supplies trip before whizzing up to Easton for lunch. If (like some of the protagonists in Asimov's Foundation trilogy) I procrastinate long enough, the decision will make itself. I must ponder further! It's 10:04 and the first cuppa is being much enjoyed.

As is a quote that I do not recall:

I am grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.

Mark Twain, quoted by Ben Yagoda, in Jonathan Yardley's review in the Washington Post

I have high hopes of the invented recall that may be on display in one of yesterday's so-far-unreported deliveries. Let's see if I can remember where I put it. First, breakfast.

Right. As I commented in an email1 earlier today, "My next read (after the last three pages or so of P&P) is going to be Something sensational to read in the train by Gyles Brandreth, (the cheerful pullover-wearing Tory ex-MP) whose politics I loathe but whose writing amuses me". And last weekend Peter looked at me very askance when I mentioned the incoming Susan Hill to him... "Dad, you're going to read a book written by a writer describing books she's never read, or forgotten, or wants to re-read? Fine!" The film (a Dutch one I'd never heard of) is pure serendipity.

DVD and books

Trouble is, of course, I need a new set of bookshelves.

Lunch, having been...

... lunched, and shops having been shopped, I shall take my main co-pilot out (in the now rather grey, and frequently showery afternoon weather system) for a spot of brew somewhere. My chum Graham, who isn't a barber, is in fine fettle, I'm happy to report to any who know him. Meanwhile, further email reveals that I can count among my acquaintance the great-grandson2 of a leading Victorian mycologist, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke. This, Nick Goodall tells me while, via his own enquiry and on the evidence of yesterday's picture, Eric Janke3 asserts that our fungal encounter was with a Clouded Agaric.

Another opinion has been opined: "Clitocybe Phyllophila. Edibility unknown, but the Clitocybes are a very bad lot, most esp C. Dealbata, which is also a good look-alike for your specimen". Thanks, fun guys!

Glowering darkly

Fulminating, even. It's now 17:39 and I've already made and devoured my evening meal, having been too mean to treat Graham to more than a simple sandwich in the pub. I've also been listening in astonishment to the latest batch of revelations (isn't that a chapter in the bible?) about Catholic priests fiddling with Dublin children, politicians fiddling the evidence of the presence or even existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the collapse of my Borders bookshop chain (which will doubtless have some of its branches cherry-picked), and whatever else is deemed to constitute "news" on this dark November evening.

Back to Jane Austen, methinks. Or should I linger longer here? (PDF file.)

Neither. I decided to search for, and read the rest of, the SF story my Freeview PVR failed to capture for me yesterday. The story is Understand by Ted Chiang (you can read it here) and it strikes me as a worthy member of a set that includes (for example) Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" or Disch's "Camp Concentration". It is, of course, a neat trick to convey the thought processes of a far higher intelligence at work. (Consider the examples of Wilmar Shiras' "In hiding" or Olaf Stapledon's "Odd John". Or [my personal favourite of these Übermensch tales] Beresford's "The Hampdenshire Wonder".)

Drip, drip

According to Ofwat the average UK household water bill is around £340. But, by fitting a water meter, I reduced my bill from £575 in 2007 to £64 currently. I still find this hard to believe, but I'm not complaining.



1  My correspondent was telling me of a word new to him ("aestivation") that he'd learned from an author (Henry Porter) unknown to me. On the other hand, I was taught his new word sixteen years ago when I foolishly announced to my colleagues in the IBM Lab my intention (as the "Mole") to hibernate (ie, go on holiday) for a couple of weeks in the summer when "obviously" the verb should have been "aestivate". Such an erudite gang.
2  Nick omitted both a "great" and a hyphen, he tells me. So that's "Cubitt-Cooke" and "great-great-grandfather"...
3  Who is, I seem to recall, the chap who persuaded me to read a long list of words when training some voice recognition software many years ago. As I said, such an erudite gang.