2015 — 12 February: Thursday

Big Bro reports both his "nightcap"1 and the peace and quiet of his country home were disturbed by the sonic bangs from a meteor that was widely reported across NZ. I love the little incidental details here...

NZ meteors

... and can only wonder what the hell a "possum plucker" is. It's a big ol' Universe out there, with lots of weird and wonderful stuff in it. But not, I suspect, a surfeit of possum pluckers.

Speaking of...

... "weird and wonderful" takes me to the Lost Book of Mormon:

Throughout "The Lost Book of Mormon," Steinberg marvels at the trials Joseph Smith went through to write and publish his bible. He reported that it took him years and much physical effort to successfully extract his gold plates from Hill Cumorah; once he did, it took him years again to translate them, a process that required hiding the plates in a stovepipe hat, staring at their inscrutable runes through divining stones, and dictating the results to a series of scribes. One of those scribes, Martin Harris, entrusted the first 116 pages of the manuscript — the entire Book of Lehi — with his skeptical wife, Lucy. They were lost forever. "I've always found that part of the story particularly compelling," Steinberg writes. "Even with the direct intervention of heaven-sent angels, with the aid of powerful magic and clairvoyance, producing a book turns out to be an unbelievable pain in the ass. That seems very true to life."

Rollo Romig in New Yorker

How true. [Pause for breakfast] I try to remember to look out for the TLS weekly web freebie in hopes of one day finding one I can understand or, failing that (as I often do) relate to. This week's is on Max Weber. I did, indeed, miss his sesquicentennial. But I can understand, and relate to, the closing paragraph of this review of Peter Ghosh's "new intellectual history" — a book classification that you will find sparsely represented on my shelves, I fear. Snippet:

In our own age, where borderlands between environmental crisis, near-pathological boredom and disaffection with mainstream politics, and tensions driven by religion have if anything become more rigidly crippling than ever, Max Weber looks a more profound guide than we might care to think.

Duncan Kelly in TLS

How true.


... the Pope — having told us last week that hitting a child was acceptable (remarks later necessarily clarified by "the Vatican", I gather) — is clearly on a roll (or on something stronger, perhaps). He now tells us that not having children is selfish. How would he know this? Just askin'. [Pause] Golly, nearly time for my lunch date.

There's an outfit...

... based in Singapore that goes prospecting, not for gold, but for ultra high net worth individuals. I was surprised that all you need is a mere $30,000,000 to be 'awarded' this 'status'. People seeking to, erm, fleece such individuals don't have an easy ride:

Wealthy problems

I shall re-read John Brunner's 1963 SF short "The Totally Rich".

Hard to believe...

... that it's exactly seven years since I clambered up Beacon Hill to try to get a crisper photo of Highclere Castle. Harder still to believe how long since I first heard "A Momentary Lapse of Reason". I've just treated myself to the 2011 remastered edition; it was delivered by that Winged Messenger. [Pause] Mind you, dropping all the way back to February 1987 on about this date, I was reporting a rather pleasing IBM Reader's Comment Form2 (about the CICS Primer) to my friend and co-author Carol:

Finally, on the Primer front again, try this. It's from a systems programmer at Jaguar cars in New Jersey: I find your book a very understandable book, and the source code being in a separate volume is an excellent idea. Why is it that this book is an exception to the rules set by other IBM books? I mean that this book was interesting and full of information, but your other publications are only full of information. [Don't you just love that subtle distinction?!] Please try to make all of your books as good as this one.

Date: 20 February 1987

Those were the days :-)



1  Alcoholic, I assume, unless the shock waves ruffled his headgear.
2  My then IBM manager (the one who [a] caused me to buy a copy of Robert Hochheiser's "How to work for a jerk" while on holiday in Guernsey in August that year, as it happens, and who [b] had ranked me at the bottom of his little team on the grounds of my — in his opinion — inferior educational qualifications!) made no secret of the fact that he thought I didn't need / deserve to see such feedback. He was a very odd chap. Indeed, I twice had to "Open Door" him after annual performance appraisals before I eventually gave up in disgust and simply found myself a more congenial line of management to work in. One Good Thing about IBM back then: there was never a shortage of managers to choose between.