Monthly Archives: March 2006

Ah, what a day. I feel exactly like Bertie

“Do you… work, Mr. Wooster?”
“What, work as in honest toil, you mean?”
“Hewing the wood and drawing the old wet stuff and so forth?”
“Weeeellll, I’ve known a few people who worked. Absolutely swear by it, some of them.”
“Boko Fittleworth almost had a job once.”
“How would you ever support a wife, Mr. Wooster?”
“Well, it depends on whose wife it was. I’d say a gentle pressure beneath the left elbow when crossing a busy street normally fills the bill.”

Cook, shower, clean a bit, post a bit in your blog, have a nap, then a 15-minute tutorial… life is good. 😀

Something I find especially irritating.

Popular books on science that sacrifice rigour and accuracy in the name of being accessible. I find Electric Universe, by David Bodanis, to fall squarely into this category. I don’t think I really learned very much about electricity, although I did come across several interesting biographical tidbits about the various people involved in the history of electricity. Bodanis’ writing, while sometimes clear and lucid, too often moves into the poetic – he constantly repeats phrases such as “the ancient charges break free” and “the metal’s loose outer electrons moved back and forth under that unstoppable power from below” (thank you, Mr. Bodanis, but we got the idea of moving electrons the first time round – did you really need to repeat it ad nauseam?). But those are minor sins compared with factual inaccuracy. I think a popular book on science needs to be more scrupulously exact and precise than an advanced text, simply because readers coming to a subject for the first time are far less critical than experienced readers. Poetic flights of prose are all well and good, but statements like

“Switch on a car’s ignition, and 50 amps’ worth of electrons – 300 quintillion electrons – pour into the spark plugs each second.”

So sorry, Mr. B, but those 50 amps are going primarily into the starter motor of the car, not into the spark plugs. 50 amps going into the spark plugs at a typical 30,000 volts would mean a battery power output of 1.5 MW – about equal to 500 domestic hot water heaters. Quite impressive for a battery, even for a short time.

Sadly, however, the reality is that we’re actually getting 50 amps at 12 volts – a mere 600 watts, or close to one horsepower. Still not shabby, but a far cry from 1.5 MW.

Perhaps I’m just nit-picking needlessly, but I honestly do feel that a book that sets out to educate and inform has a responsiblity to keep strictly to fact, not to bring poetry to the table. Not that good writing is not a desirable trait – in fact, it’s one of the most vital. But good writing need not sacrifice clear understanding, which this book seems to do.

Zargen fargen bargen heating system at Inwoods

No hot water again! I wake on late; weekend morning, and I’m thinking “Hmm, good day to have a nice long shower and get all clean and sparkly once more, after which I will have a late breakfast of eggs and toast” – but does the heating co-operate? Hah. It chooses this day to fail again, leaving us with no hot water, but apparently the central heating still works. Net result: I shiver through what was meant to be a sensual delight, cursing the bloody heater over my head in quite fluent fashion, ruefully observing strange contortions of various anatomical features. Nothing quite like an unexpected cold shower to produce twisting away from the stream of water, in a desperate endavour to both rinse and avoid freezing. Most fascinating. Yes.

In other news, are you going to do your bit for global warming and jump?

*removes tongue from cheek*

So just how close was I to being mugged, anyway?

Firstly, going out was a mistake. I did it because Ann asked, but I should really have trusted my instincts and stayed at home. Then the wine was a bigger mistake. I only had a glass and a bit, because I was driving, but that was enough. I don’t remember ever being steeped in misery quite as quickly as that in my life; it was as if something came and took me over, and I was helpless to resist. Rather sad, but true. So when the pool party started up, I really couldn’t stand it, and I went out for a walk, up the high street.

It was actually quite a pleasant walk, all alone in the wind and rain, the streets completely deserted. When I got up to HSBC I figured I might as well pop in for a little cash, seeing as I had run low. Just as I got up to the glass doors, I noticed that there were four people – three men and a woman – sitting on the floor, and one of them got up to ask me for a light. Something in the way he asked set off an alarm bell in my head, and when I said no, I didn’t have a light he held the door open and invited me into the ATM. That was when the alarm got really loud. Step into a closed space with three scruffy looking characters, pull out my bank cards, and draw cash from the ATM? No thanks. That was exactly what I said to him, and walked away – somewhat more swiftly than I had walked there. I did glance over my shoulder once or twice, but that was just paranoia. I’m pretty sure nothing would have happened, but the way the warning tingled down my spine, I think it’s better not to have taken chances. Close? Maybe, maybe not. But as Hil pointed out, I’m not really a risk taker. I think there’s sensible risk and completely idiotic risk, and this fell into the second category.

I walked back past the cathedral, all sombre and silent in the floodlights, the rain streaming steadily off the eaves and gargoyles as it has for centuries past, and then along the river, watching the swans apparently swimming in their sleep to stay in one place, and ended up at the Abbey mill, where I perched on the courtyard between the pillars, listening to the water sluicing over the stones and rushing away into the darkness under my feet, feeling quite utterly sorry for myself. Self-pity is a dangerously seductive morass; getting in is trivial, getting out quite different. Somewhere, there’s always a little voice in my head laughing at the idiocy of it all, but yesterday it was drowned by the fury of the flood; remembering the letter, the walks, the laughter, sitting in the sunshine on the bench not ten steps from where I was standing.

Then, of course, Val had to go and ruin it all by calling and coming out after me – all I wanted to do was be left alone, and I would have worked through it. I always do. I’m just glad he didn’t find me until a few minutes before we left, and Arne turning up was a lucky coincidence; saved me from having to talk and explain things.

4 hours of sleep, and classes all day…

May the Lord give me strength. The only upside is that I don’t have Global Issues today, that having been sidelined to have that meeting about social justice.

I have read the letter so many time I can almost recite it; doesn’t help with the anger and the hurt. I’m torn between composing a really nasty stinging reply, and having the satisfaction of having actually said that all out loud, but having nowhere to send it, and just trying to shut it out on the other hand.

Getting advice on life from someone nine years your junior is an interesting state of affairs; it’s definitely a fresh take on a subject on which I am rapidly becoming a cynic, and it’s good to be jolted out of complacency at times.
Portrait of Zoe

It’s astonishing how much it’s in the head

Things which I wouldn’t even think twice about while sitting on or near the ground suddenly become nerve-racking exercises when done perched on a branch 10 meters in the air. I know I’m safe, sitting there with my legs astride the branch, but when I unhook the rope from around my waist, there’s this faint tinge of terror that goes through me, a physical and mental shiver, a flicker of mortality running down my spine.

As Richard said, it’s all in the head.

I know I’m going to hell for this…

I can’t think of someone I want to have a discussion with less than Jing. The finest living example I know of someone who argues from a stand and never, ever budges, never listens to what you’re saying, never even attempts to examine what he is saying, never even bothers to see if what he’s saying makes sense. Gah. Why do I let myself get upset by this? Waste, waste, waste of time. I’m glad I gave up teaching him – that was an exercise in pure, unadulterated frustration. He didn’t come to learn – he came to recite stuff at you.

In other news, women who bathe in perfume should be outlawed. I must admit I’d rather have perfume-bathers than, say, never-showerers, but if after a few minutes of dancing my hands and shirt are suffused with perfume that I don’t particularly like, it’s a little trying. That is all.

Yes! 80s Trash! Bring it on!

I’m currently headbanging to “Sweet Dreams are Made of These” by Eurythmics, and I have to admit I have a strange fascination with look-what-the-cat-dragged-in 80s music trash. I just love it! Wham, Duran Duran, Robert Palmer – that trash/grunge pop sound just seems to appeal to me. Yes, I know I’m weird; however, if you’ll excuse me, I have to do a bit more headbanging before bedtime.

Astonishing realisation!

Age of Empires II bores me. I tried playing a game this afternoon and rapidly realised I wasn’t into it at all. This is tragic! The only game I ever really played, and I’m no longer sucked into its miasma. Death, where is thy sting?

Perhaps I should delete it from the drive; I’m trying to scrape every last bit of space I can for the damn pictures, which appear to be breeding like.. um.. something that breeds in a hurry. Humans! That’s right – my photographs are breeding like Homo sapiens; I already have over 4 gigs of RAW and JPEG files on one DVD, with another one about to be filled. Perhaps I should be a little more discriminating about what I keep; but it’s a learning curve. I can already see improvement in technique from the first few mundane shots, and even if the percentage of keepers is low, it is going up. Especially the macros. This is my current desktop:
Wood shavings

Outside perceptions of Brockwood are interesting

Such as when Helier’s tutor, a woman who lives as close as Alresford says “I thought Brockwood was a school where if the students didn’t want to go to class, they just didn’t”.

Er… what? Where on earth did you hear that? Alternative doesn’t necessarily imply total slackness, you know. No wonder everyone around thinks it’s the hippy joint.

In other news, Mr. MacNamara seems to have departed, and while I mourn the manner of his departure, I certainly don’t mourn the added sleep I get.

Sleep that depends, however, on APs not calling at 7am to leave “Just calling to find out if you were awake” messages. I mean, hello? If I wasn’t awake (and I was) I would have been woken up. Thank you so much for shattering my dreams.

Sleep that also depends, crucially, on a quiet mind; and that is something that appears to be in short supply lately. I go to bed with my mind whirling, even after sitting quietly for a while, and as Theoden says, “Dark have been my dreams of late.” Well, not dark so much as troubled and confused, and leave me feeling vaguely unrested when I wake up. Not satisfactory.

Autumn leaves last  year