2009 — 21 December: Monday

Another jolly cold and midnight clear. I'm trying hard, but my success at culling the contents of my bookshelves is so far nothing to write home about. Now that I'm one-third of the way through the Seinfeld saga, I've taken a slight detour into Chuck Lorre's "Two and a half men" for a change of comic pace. Later today, in what should be an even greater change of pace, I'm being treated to a performance of the Ukulele Orchestra of GB at the "Point". I last heard this outfit in one of the Proms earlier this year.



Minus 33C in Southern Germany, Christa, can you believe it? Cool. Here (at 08:56) it's a balmy -2C while Bro could (at 20C) even now be contemplating an evening dip in his pool, I guess. I've just heard from Ute and Bob in the Canaries. Still soldiering on, as one does.

Can you hear the Thunder(bird)?

I've just replied to the first email this morning that came in after I'd upgraded my email client to v3 a few minutes ago (and then watched, not entirely qualmlessly, as it re-indexed my entire email archive). Still, it's now settled down and seems to have done its thing. As of 10:18 that's still a patch of slick black ice on my drive. Ice belongs in a glass.

Alien muscle-ology... dept.

So that's how you can tell (in the absence of a black hat):

If you look closely, you'll see that the Na'vi have a little muscle running down their necks. We've got them, too — it's called the sternocleidomastoid muscle — and it's a uniquely mammalian feature. Ours make a very distinctive V-shape, and when creature designers want an alien to seem attractive and familiar to its human viewers, they often slap one on. "Even C3PO has it, in the form of little pistons on his neck. Watch Star Trek: The good guys always have them, and the bad guys don't. It's a classic alien designer trick."

Nina Shen Rastogi and Stuart Sumida in Slate

Equally alien

Back in 2001 (not the film) one Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to every Catholic bishop regarding the "more serious offenses". Eye-watering stuff, I tell you. The bit about priestly fiddling is (I assume) covered by this sentence: "A delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of 18 years." (Source.)

It's now 13:52 or so. The weather remains spectacularly unappealing but, at least, the phase of the current precipitation has changed1 (probably temporarily) from solid to liquid.

Shoot me before I get this bad:

Bound by conventions of neither spelling nor grammar, nor by the need to put anything (plot, theme, typeface, anything) in context, the customer reviewer is so enthusiastic about his own opinions that he not only reviews diffusely and emphatically (showing no fear of the Caps Lock key), he reviews just about every person2 or thing he comes in contact with.

Meghan Daum in LA Times

Aah! The allure of CAPS LOCK.

Oh, bother!

Just had a call from my trusty Welsh chauffeur. He says if the snow continues, and if the forecast warm front fails to materialise, he's going to exercise his privilege of calling off our little concert outing as the roads would be no fun at all. Poxy winter! It's 16:30 and rather horrid out there at the moment. Mind you, it sounds (on the skylight) a lot more like rain than snow.

Meanwhile, I've been reasonably gainfully employed for several hours now writing a series of email cards to my various chums. I drafted a somewhat generic "round robin" but have adapted it for each recipient as I work my way through the address book. If I turn out to be a stay-at-home this evening, I should be able to finish this little task.

Failure of words... dept.

I was somewhat scarred, in my late adolescence, by seeing footage of the liberation of some WWII Nazi concentration camps shot, if I recall correctly, by one Alfred Hitchcock. Now I read (to my utter astonishment) that moves are afoot within the Catholic world to "beatify" Pope Pius XII who, if I recall correctly, failed to do much (if anything) about those camps at the time. All he needs now is a miracle! (Source.) It's enough to try the patience of a Scientologist.


... and Ukuleles are go!



1  The phase change has just (14:50) gone the wrong way. I think I detest snow.
2  Montaigne (who was smarter than the average Pope) wrote: "Those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound and offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him." By that definition, IBM managers were a loving bunch. It's very nice not to have to undergo any more of the (often, ridiculous) rain dances that supposedly constituted annual performance appraisals. My own personal favourite was the time I was criticised for "lunching with the wrong set of people". And, yes, I did an "Open Door" on that one.
(There's a fascinating assertion here that that would ruin your IBM career.)