2014 — 26 July: Saturday

Today's example of the tendency1 of the perversity of the Universe? An inability to switch the Humax Freesat PVR away from BBC Radio 3 "down one" to Brian Matthew on BBC Radio 2. It had 'frozen' on — lights and display on, but no-one at home — which tends to happen after it's been running 24x7 for a month or so. I don't know whether it was delivering any audio at the time because I was actually listening to NPR, and was merely trying to change the Humax over to Radio 2 in readiness. (And to avoid the irritating pause of the HDCP protocol handshake.)

At that point, I've learned the only fix the Humax responds to (in a negative sort of way) is its Big Red Switch round the back, followed by wait five, and re-boot. The Universe's perversity clicks in at switch-off, which invariably sends the Rotel power amp (but nothing else) a spike that's interpreted as too much input. Hence, a click of one of its relays into protective standby silence, with a red LED coming on and the sound going off. The Rotel, too, then has to be power-cycled before I finally recover my airborne compression waves.

Entangled electrons can be baffling. I'd love to blame HDCP, but the Audiolab A/V pre-amp's signal path was "pointing" at unrelated kit at the time. I never switch kit on or off while its signal is, as it were, in the direct line of audio fire to my ears. [Pause] Time to stew my next patent / potent mixture of plums, cranberries, and blueberries for my cereal topping. Yum.


... I'm almost getting used to this summer heat (it's 26.3C in the living room at 10:21) it still strikes me as far too hot for comfortable country walking. "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and all that.

I'm currently listening...

... to Ira Glass and "This American Life". (Programme 530: Mind Your Own Business, should you care. It's very interesting.) Naturally, therefore, I was also reading the interview with him on Lifehacker. Naturally, therefore, that's how I ended up at a really pretty impressive list of 21 SF books, of which I've read 19 (should you care). Though, personally, I thought (and still think) "Dhalgren" was vile rubbish.

I shall be starting with Paolo Bacigalupi's "Wind-Up Girl", possibly to be followed by Octavia Butler's "Kindred".

Nearly time...

... for XKCD's new book, surely? His analysis of ink molecules made me giggle.

The only form...

... of autocorrect I use (and I suspect it shows) is the Mk I eyeball, loosely attached to the Mk 0 brain / finger / keyboard interface.

Just now, for example, I reached for my phone and bashed my finger pads against the glass to see what wisdom autocorrect might read from me today. I started in the general vicinity of the letter d and then just let loose, trying to tap at random across the characters. The first time I tapped out dcisnence and drew existence. The random string dzyjzynxe produced distance. The third time I went a little longer and beset my keyboard with descinnztsb. This instantly transformed itself into deacon stab. And there it was, a little potted history of humanity: first birth, then exile, and before you know it somebody's gone and shanked a priest.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus in Wired

Well worth reading even if only for the excellent illustrations by David Sparshott.

Since one of my...

... more embarrassing epiphanies (several years into my retirement) I have trained myself out of my paranoid habit of clearing my web browser history each day. The epiphany? Just the belated discovery that I could actually search that history and thus usefully re-discover stuff I half-remembered having found interesting at the time. Web Neanderthal, that's me. So what? Well, this 'view' of what my browsing history currently shows if searching on 'buzzfeed'...

My history of Buzzfeed visits

... clearly shows it is by no means top of my visited sites. I've just heard an NPR news item about the firing of Buzzfeed's "viral politics editor" on plagiarism charges. I would have thought that the job title was custom-made for such a mode of working. But what do I know?

Stephen Carter...

... has a new book "Back Channel" coming out. It's a look at what might have occurred in the White House at the time of the Cuban missile crisis by way of covert communication mediated by a 19-year-old female intern between Kennedy and the Soviets. An intriguing premise that led me to a moment's dalliance with Mrs Google (I should know better by now).

Moments later, I find myself dropping down a large rabbit hole into the first volume of what may (or may not) be a fictional memoir of one William Bertram MacFarland. Which may (or may not) be a less fictional account of the same time, place, and covert communication. The second paragraph of the opening chapter of which explains why his name was not included in the minutes of any meeting.

Kennedy tapes

Nor is it to be found in May and Zelikow's remarkably thick — and I would assert definitely non-fictional — account of those same events.

In much less...

... murky waters, I never realised that Burt Bacharach wrote the theme to "The Blob"!

I'm prepared...

... to concede that Bach's "St John Passion" has its moments, but that doesn't mean I'm in the right frame of mind to listen to it right now. It's too hot! In fact, NPR's "Hot Jazz Saturday night" is more to my taste right now.



1  Its inexorable upward trend, that is.