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Thursday. Lurid tale of a screaming journalist being dismembered with a bone saw inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Wednesday. Clever new thin lens.
Tuesday. Back at the start-up firm in the Buda Hills. Lots of tasty pastry in the kitchen there. Meanwhile, outside the East Bloc, here are some women who got themselves a feminist look. Exercise for the reader, identify the one woman where the After pic looks better than the Before.
Monday. Curious, plausible claim that power harms people's brains.
Sunday. Intriguing New York Times archive article about the rising star of then office-block developer Donald Trump, reprinted exactly as it first appeared in the 1980s. Startled by the sheer mass of typos - at least 40 spelling mistakes. "All the news that's fit to misprint" might be a better motto if this article is anything to judge by.
Saturday. Not so much sex with the cow as the miniature horse detail that struck me.
Friday. Interesting piece about the revolving public/private door that EU commissioners go through. Not that working for Brussels is really "public sector". Something more sui generis - working for the meta-state? Fairly early in morning pick up exhausted Michael from airport, after his overnight flight from Johannesburg via Istanbul. I'm in a parked bus asking the driver about tickets back to town when I notice Michael is outside being helped up by a stranger, his suitcase having toppled off the kerb. A very weary thin smile creeps across the lemon-like face of the bus driver as he gazes down on the small mishap in front of his vehicle.
Thursday. Discussion of BBC climate-crisis bias.
Wednesday. Finally someone says the totally obvious about driverless cars - they'll be weaponised.
Tuesday. Finished the Erle Stanley Gardner book I bought secondhand in the ugly sunken 1960s disc of concrete shops next to the Southern Railway Station last week. Doubly interesting because it is a mid-1960s British Penguin paperback in good condition with a price in shillings and pence (not cover shown!), and (although I'm sure I read at least one Erle Stanley Gardener book while chugging through my mother's detective-novel collection) it was a mystery featuring his lawyer hero Perry Mason. I don't believe I ever read a Perry Mason story before. That name's overlaid in my memory by snatches of some 1960s TV series about that character, as a sort of silver-haired solid-chested smoothie moving in the world of commercial jet airlines and chunky desk phones with buttons. I can remember as a boy being startled to find, after watching Roger Moore on black-and-white television as 'The Saint' flirting with sexily sinister girls in mini-skirts, and then borrowing some of the stories from the public library, that Charteris was writing them in the 1930s, then a vanished age of antique strangeness for me. The actual written stories often visited tweedy, wood-panelled gentlemen's clubs, and felt halfway back to Sherlock Holmes. Likewise I now find Perry Mason is a prewar literary character. This book originally written around 1938, features people travelling back from Hawai'i on a cruise ship, a journey with at least one night at sea. Most of the English seems almost normal, with the exceptions of one or two passages of slang. That's when it's suddenly clear that nothing goes out of fashion faster than fashion. For example, on page 18: "Oh, she's a kick. She's an observing kid, and chuck full of life. She's modern, impatient of all sham and pretence, and isn't too affected to show enthusiasm. She's as full of bounce as a rubber ball." 'Observing' instead of 'observant' particularly jumps out. Meanwhile, nowadays using the word 'affected' itself sounds like an affectation. From boyhood I have the dim memory, perhaps not him, of reading that Gardner was once put by his publisher in a department-store window prewar with a chair and desk pounding away on a manual typewriter to produce his latest detective novel under the curious eyes of passing shoppers on the street. The puzzle is nicely worked out, but I had the sense in a few places that he'd learned how to write books very quickly. Not quite on autopilot, but something close.
Monday. Why do Scots and Welsh nationalists yearn to be absEUrbed?
Sunday. Inspiring story: a black teenager from a poor home locates the richest bit of London, and goes up and down streets ringing doorbells, politely asking people there how they got wealthy and what he should do to be like them.
Saturday. In the apartment of film-maker Jessica (she is 2 days back from Atlanta) I fail to get her radiator switched on for the winter, but by chance am there exactly when the senate hearings of Judge Kavanaugh finish. Jessica and I listen to the live vote, punctuated by screaming from protestors in the gallery, and then she kindly downloads 'CQ' so we can watch it together on her big screen while munching very tasty Mexican burritos from the late-night stall on the corner. We both agree the film is not so good (she recalled the negative reviews from the time - around 2001 - but didn't tell me so I wouldn't be put off), and the whole shaggy-dog plot of finding an ending for the film-within-the-film mars the film it's within as well. I explain that the bit from the trailer that made me want to see it was a Frenchman in a turtleneck thrusting his face into the camera and saying "What's the story? What's the structEURE? Do you zink you are clevEUR!?" I expected better music. Felt CQ was (at least started out as) an attempt to mix 'Modesty Blaise', 'The Thomas Crown Affair', and 'Blow-Up'. A combo well worth doing if it had even half succeeded.
Friday. Seems many people still haven't seen the famous Russian menstrual-hygiene ad.
Thursday. I get a super-basic beginner's poker tutorial (I don't even know the card combinations) from kind Eike in the Corvin shopping-mall food court. Perhaps "food attic" is more accurate, since it's the top floor.
Wednesday. With sandpaper & lemon juice, have almost got the stain out of Michael's wooden parquet floor caused by a rubbish bag sitting there and leaking during the 18 nights I was locked out of his flat. The mild fever, coughing, slight snuffle I've had about 2 weeks, soon after getting back into the flat and replacing the broken lock now got me, Gentle Reader might be relieved to learn, to shift off the floor onto the bed, and interrupt the cold-bath regimen.
Tuesday. In almost every large town now, you cannot stand at a kerb waiting to cross the road without standing on an array of little lumps, either from bobbly cement tiles or metal studs poking up through the pavement. While these bobbles are obviously helpful for blind people to know where the edge of the road is, it is a bit odd that now as a matter of course the other 99.5% of the population have to have studs hurting our feet through the soles of our shoes to help the non-seers.
Here's a page for supposedly a new political party in Britain. Seems they are getting no media coverage.
Monday. Still only a few weeks ago in late August, was still so hot that I was sometimes going in the middle of the night for an extra cold bath in Michael's bathroom. The bath is half-concealed in a sort of slot at the back, where if no lights are switched on, it's possible to have a bath lit only by the ghostly blue glow of the idling water boiler's pilot flame or signal lamp. Yet during the day, the unlit bathroom looks completely black.
Interesting story of Chinese industrial espionage.
Sunday. Seems "Africa's youngest billionaire" isn't even a millionaire.
Saturday. World's youngest billionaire is a human tax dodge?
Friday. Cute amateur video on Philip K. Dick's belief the future had sent him messages. One of the best things is it took me to a rather wonderful video of people filming aeroplanes seemingly standing still in the sky.
Thursday. Back at the crypto start-up in the Buda Hills I visited on Tuesday (where I saw the first fire of the year burning in a hearth) in their large rambling sunlit villa, furniture still being moved around and assembled.
Recalling this tune from many moons ago. Apparently it prompted a lawsuit, not from the Pearl & Dean cinema advertising channel, but from Led Zeppelin, the rotters. From about the same time, a meticulously fake-Cockney Swedish studio outfit only spoil their British act by two of the three being just a bit too good-looking.
Wednesday. Latest article at Salisbury Review up: about WW2 soldiers who say the EU was what they fought for.
Tuesday. Prize-winning dog gets excited watching footage of her own competition performance.
Monday. Several large firms no longer demand only graduates. And a shrewd discussion of the gender/racism craze as a guilt-cleansing status game: The Great Awokening.
Sunday. Flashback to flying kittens playing metal in Viking outfits. Masterful use of limited resources.
Saturday. Very worthwhile article by Dalrymple/Daniels on Johnson versus Voltaire: thank you, Guy! Budapest weather cools.
Friday. A few Linux developers getting cross about gender/identity politics. World might fall apart etc.
Thursday. Some historical revisionism on the "Robber Barons".
Wednesday. Facebook to use some kind of "AI" to detect videos that are fake but look plausible. Expect discomfort when the first bit of official footage fails this test. Schrodinger's Cat gets a new story line.
Tuesday. Still getting used to not being locked out any more. Seems that J. Paul Getty had a harem. I don't remember being told about that.
Monday. Up early with Tim & Erika, sitting in dressing gowns on their back patio or deck, as the Americans would say, watching the early warm sun on their garden and a wheeling group of birds in the sky. The group seems to be slowly growing from around 15 birds to 30 birds over the quarter hour we watch, perhaps assembling a team for a big migratory journey. Phone a locksmith that has been recommended by a friend of a relative of Erika, and amazingly an appointment for 3pm today is arranged. Until now locksmiths either said they couldn't do it, "might" be able to days hence, or just didn't call back. When afternoon comes, it takes the two men about 15 minutes to drill through the lock. After several smaller bits fail, in the end they resort to a massive two-handed tool about the size of a vacuum cleaner. Giant yellow sparks spray out of the lock like a firework display. They instal a nice new lock with a smooth, firm turning action. The cash I have on me is just enough. After 18 nights locked out, repeatedly washing one shirt and one pair of trousers, I'm back into Michael's flat. An odd episode, stressful but also strangely like a holiday from being me. Here's an attempt to use Occam's Razor to decide if there's a God. Not too convincing. A bit like Anselm's proof backwards.
Sunday. Anti-depressants might worsen antibiotic resistance.
Saturday. Finish a book I find at Tim's, 'Beauty', by Roger Scruton. He relies heavily on Kant to bring harmonious order, personality, and beauty together. He skips over evolutionary psychology a little quickly, considering it has a lot of information about how and why we find certain people beautiful, but Scruton is after bigger fish. He sees beauty as both a kind of fitting in and a kind of invitation to appreciate the individual in the general. Nicely presented, but the argument's readability disguises its subtlety a bit.
Friday. Tim & I try to see a film on his laptop-based film-seeing system. First 'CQ', which we cannot find, then 'Death of Stalin' which unfortunately keeps stopping, though first few minutes suggests it's good.
Thursday. Curious piece about how high-speed Chinese rail might have been a huge mistake.
Wednesday. Take the bus out to the village of Paty to see Tim & Erika. Still locked out of Michael's flat, tonight is the 14th night. They kindly welcome me to stay for a couple of nights. // Multidimensional maths might model neurons.
Tuesday. This Teacher's Pet speech might be important.
Monday. Finish a book at Robin's, 'The Will To Live: selected writings of Arthur Schopenhauer', edited by Richard Taylor. These are essays collected from several of Schopenhauer's works. The most startling thing is how up-to-date he sounds, with his thesis (that the animal will to live is more important than minds or ideas in explaining the world we experience) sounding very much like post-1970s evolutionary psychology (or 'evopsych', as some call it). Darwin is nowhere mentioned since this is the 1830s and 40s, although evolution in some sense was clearly being passionately discussed, with Lamarck being both praised and mocked by Schopenhauer. He actually suggests that Lamarck is foolish to describe a change in animal structure emerging over long periods of time (exactly the feature that we now find so convincing about Darwin), suggesting rather that the will to live is "outside time". His section on women, full of jibes such as the line that men are often professionally jealous of certain other men within their specialism, but women of all other women because "women only have one profession", is startlingly close in some of the claims (if expressed less diplomatically) in evolutionary psychology. The pre-ghost of what Nietzsche and Freud were to call the unconscious fifty years later is here in some brief sections. He describes a kind of hidden will making the individual animal serve the species at its own expense. Schopenhauer makes the shrewd claim that sexual desire is the real mainspring of most human action, even as we lie to ourselves that it is something more lofty. As Freud slowly fades from sight, Schopenhauer's simpler, clearer claims come back into focus: deeper & sharper.
Sunday. Rather like the look of this book. A probably tongue-in-cheek discussion of theology using game theory.
Saturday. Interesting account of how a peer-reviewed journal buckled to pressure to repress some unfashionable science.
Friday. Men have better sex with emotionally-unstable women? Did they correct for hot/crazy correlation though?
Thursday. Christian arrives, escorting Sophia to candlelit dinner at Robin's. Krisztian, however, fails to attend. Spicy sauce cooked by painter Julia.
Meanwhile in Britain, a banned Iranian TV crew somehow films inside a Labour constituency meeting where a "pro-Israel" Labour MP is losing a vote of confidence.
Wednesday. Machine to
type one-handed. Is it nifty?
Evening drinks outdoors over the river in Buda with Robin, Ernst and his gorgeous chocolate brown vizsla dog, dishy Russian/Greek/Romanian art gallerist Sophia, along with artist Julia and film-maker Erika.
Tuesday. Parrots' economic decisions better than socialists'.
Monday. Interesting article about director of 1st three James Bond films, and his links to
'Agent Zigzag'. Still staying at Robin's on Csengery waiting for money to come through for locksmith to open Michael's door across town.
Sunday. Finish a copy of 'The Moon and Sixpence' by Somerset Maugham, a book I remember seeing lying around among Mother's books, and have been vaguely meaning to read for decades. Maugham's first writing success was in the 1890s, and although this followed twenty years later in 1919, it made me realise how much he remained an 1890s writer. Vaguely modelled on several painters - a bit of Cezanne, a bit of Matisse - the life path of the central character Strickland partly follows Gaugin, in that he leaves finance and goes to Tahiti. A staid, conventional stockbroker until the age of 40, he suddenly abandons his wife and two children in middle-class London, escaping to Paris to begin living alone and painting, facing a new condition of poverty with steely will and lofty indifference. The book is very much about three women who love him, and Maugham stresses the perverse intensity of women's love, their desire to be mastered in particular, in a way almost impossible to openly write in print already by 1930. From another angle an eerie foreglimpse of the libertarian, romantically individualistic 1960s spirit. Right to the end unsure why "moon and sixpence". Perhaps I didn't read closely enough.
Saturday. London busstop ads attack Israel.
Recent weblog entries
Who can translate the next 300 words into
us and there will be revelry.
Languages dying out each week
- who cares?
We do - otherlanguages.org is gradually building a reference resource for over five thousand linguistic minorities and stateless languages worldwide.
Thousands of unique language communities are becoming extinct. Out of the world's five to six thousand languages, we hardly know what we're losing, what literatures, philosophies, ways of thinking, are disappearing right now.
We may soon regret the extinction of thousands of entire linguistic cultures even more than we regret the needless extinction of many animals and plants.
The planet is increasingly dominated by a handful of major-language monocultures like Mandarin
Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese,
English, Swahili, Russian, Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, Bengali - all
beautiful and fascinating languages.
But so are the 5,000 others.
These are groups of people?
Linguistic minorities are communities of ordinary people whose native tongue is not their country's main official language. Swedish speakers in Finland, French speakers in Canada, Hungarian speakers in Slovakia - and hundreds more - are linguistic minorities.
And totally stateless languages are the native languages of some of the world's most intriguing, little-known, cultures. Like the Lapps inside the Arctic Circle, the Sards in Sardinia, Ainus in Japan. Cherokee in the US, Scots
Gaelic in Britain, Friesian in the Netherlands, Zulu in South Africa.
There are only a couple of hundred recognised sovereign states and territories, so 5,000 languages - more depending on how you count - are the native tongues of linguistically stateless people.
How could I help?
You don't need to learn an endangered
language - any more than go to live in the rainforest to help slow its destruction.
A good start is to just tell friends
about websites like this.
Broader public interest makes it easier
for linguists to raise funds and organise people to learn these languages while there's time.
That's right. There are people who love languages and are happy to learn them on behalf of the rest of us, but they need support, just like zoologists, botanists, or historians.
Fewer languages still sounds good to me
Depends what you think languages are for. They're not just a tool for business. We never said you should learn three or four thousand rare languages - or even one. And which ones we make children learn in school, or whether we should force children to learn languages at all, is another question.
Typical scene in a European city;
Chances are, folk here speak some sort of foreign
A century ago - before we understood
ecology, and when we cared less about wilderness, most educated
people would have laughed at the idea of worrying about plants or
animals going extinct. Now we understand how important species diversity
is for our own futures, we are more humble, and more worried.
In the same way, linguistic triumphalism by English-speakers who hated studying foreign grammar at school is dangerously ignorant as well as arrogant. Few of us know what we are losing, week by week.
How many people realise these languages have scientific value?
You can think of these languages across the planet as beautiful cathedrals or
precious archeological sites we are watching being destroyed. That
should be motive enough.
But these five thousand languages may
also hold clues to the structure of the human mind. Subtle
differences and similarities
between languages are helping
archeologists and anthropologists to
understand what happened in the hundreds
of centuries of human
history before written history. And
that is one of our best chances of understanding how human brains developed over the thousands of centuries leading up to that.
Wireless radio can be a great comfort to those unable
to leave the
textbooks in which they live *6
Study of the mind and study of language go hand in hand these days. The world's most marginal languages are actually precious jigsaw pieces from an overall picture of who we are and how our species thinks and evolves. Every tiny language adds another brightly-coloured clue to this academic detective story.
Yet researchers have hardly started sifting through this
tantalising evidence, and language extinction is washing it away right in
front of us.
And worst of all, most people have no idea that there is this
fantastic profusion of cultures across our world, let alone that
they are in danger of extinction. Even just more people learning that
there are still five thousand living languages in the world today (most
of us would answer five hundred or fifty) is already a huge help.
We English-speakers hardly notice English - it's like air for us.
But every other language is also an atmosphere for an entire cultural world,
and each of these worlds has people whose home it is. Each language encapsulates a unique way of talking and thinking about life. Just try some time in a foreign prison, being forced to cope in another language, and you'll realise how much your own language is your identity. That's true for everyone.
Minority languages are a
One of the most basic.
Dozens of millions of people worldwide suffer persecution from national governments for speaking their mother tongue - in their own motherland.
Many 'ethnic' feuds puzzling to
outsiders had as their basis an attempt to destroy a linguistic community.
Would the Northern Ireland dispute be quite so bitter if we
English had not so nearly stamped out the Irish Gaelic language, for
example? Almost nowhere in the world does a language community as
small as the few thousand Rheto-Romanic speakers - the fourth
official language of Switzerland - get the protection of a national
government. Next time you see some Swiss Francs, check both sides of the
But outside exceptional countries like
Switzerland or the Netherlands, speakers of non-official
languages have a much less protected experience.
Speakers of minority languages are often seen as a threat by both the governments and the other residents of the countries where they were born, grew up, and try to live ordinary lives.
They experience discrimination in the job and education markets of their homelands, often having no choice but to pursue education in the major language of the host state: a deliberate government policy usually aimed at gradually absorbing them into the majority culture of that country.
Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, of course *7
Most governments are privately gleeful each time another small
separate culture within their borders is snuffed out by a dwindling
population or a deliberately centralising education system.
The United Nations is no help. It is an association of a couple of hundred sovereign states based on exclusive control of territory, almost all of them anxious to smother any distinct group or tradition that in any way might blur or smudge the hard-won borders around those pieces of territory.
The usual approach by sovereign states is to deny their linguistic minorities even exist.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
*1 image from , with thanks
back up to top of page
*2 "Al-Araby" in written
*3 "What?" in American Sign
Language; image from , with thanks
*4 "Big" in written
(read more); image from , with
*5 image from , with
*6 image from , with
*7 image from
'B?ume', with thanks to
Bruno P. Kramer,
and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag
Friday. In more racist news, turns out
haggises are English.
Thursday. At 8 in the morning, Zeno the Alchemist insists I must replace the door even though the paint is still soft, so we mount it on the hinges back inside the house, smearing and scraping the once mirror finish. Then I return to Budapest with morning train, teach twice, and find I cannot get into Michael's flat. The increasingly awkward
upper lock finally (after some weeks of getting stiffer and stiffer) refuses to co-operate. I spend an hour and a half trying to get in, then walk over to welcoming Robin a mile off, happy to see me even in extremis.
Wednesday. Interior wooden door at Robin's farm still not drying as it should, balanced on two stools outside the studio. Zeno shows me that fresh figs are ripening right now on a bush seven or eight feet to the right of the studio door, there years without me noticing.
Tuesday. Paint both sides of door. Visit seamstress in next village with shirts to be mended. By a ridiculous piece of bad luck, miss meeting Edina in Kunszentmarton. My pocket watch is one hour behind, and Robin's kitchen clock oddly also one hour behind: I go to meet her exactly 1 hour too late.
Monday. Buy paint and brush in Kunszentmarton with Zeno.
Sunday. Travel down to countryside to paint door.
Saturday. Italian Interior Minister describes EU as "filth".
Friday. Chinese banking crisis still threatens.
Thursday. 10 female dancers from an old TV show. Check Pat Davis.
Wednesday. Quasi-Dennettish article about consciousness.
Tuesday. Farsighted RAF man warned of EEC/EC/EU danger.
+ good summary of just how odd the investigation of President Honey Monster is.
Monday. AI calls for a religion, as if it wasn't one already.
For the first time in a flat where (by leaning out of a window a bit) I could see some of the city-centre evening fireworks that traditionally celebrate today's holiday of Hungary's first Christian king. He's the one whose embalmed right hand in a glass box at the cathedral is the obvious inspiration for The Hand in the old Addams Family TV series, as Nina tartly pointed out when she described Hungary to a friend as "a cross between the Addams Family and 'Twin Peaks'". She's right.
Sunday. It seems contraceptive pills masculinise women.
More stuff about time travel. And they don't mean reversing ageing.
Saturday. Wonderful image for that horrid thing: the headache.
Friday. China embraces robot policing.
Poignant piece about coders who regret helping to build Uber and similar firms. Touching, but you'd think they'd have thought of this some decades ago?
Thursday. More magical thinking about strong AI.
Take stopping train out to the Balaton to meet Peter D. in his rural summer retreat, a lakeside resort filled with sporty things, and a gorgeous view out across the water. A prow of big hills juts out into the lake, coloured dusty blue by distance, headed by Badacsony the wine hill. The outline of the four hills is very like a tinted wash from the Turner sketchbook. We play three-a-side volleyball in late-afternoon sun (at one point the six people on our court include three different girls all called Panni), then swim in the lake as the sun begins to go down. An extremely generous apricot schnapps pressed on us by the beachside barman before my train back to town leaves the journey back around the big lake vaguely blurred. But I glance up from my train carriage table halfway along the south coast of the lake as darkness falls and almost gasp aloud. Across the carriage is an extraordinary filmic vision of lilac hills against an ink-blue late-evening sky, for perhaps a minute looking like nowhere I'd ever imagined on earth.
Wednesday. Or would that count as time travel?
Heat still intense and thick. Wherever the sun is shining, it's like when your mother opens the oven door to get the cakes out. I don't know if the desert with the Nazca lines is a hot place or not, but apparently they're exactly opposite to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Tuesday. Perhaps reversing ageing will help the Pussy Church?
A curious memory from the other week down in the countryside at Robin's where I was outside the house near the entrance. Am suddenly hit by a rich pulse of mint aroma. Half a second later, a red, orange, brown and black cockerel charges angrily into a thick patch of mint plants. When some white hens burst clumsily out of the same thickets of herb one second later it's clear the cockerel is chasing them. Amusing for me, but looked pretty serious for them.
Turns out that the actress who started the media feeding frenzy against that fat film producer with stubble actually paid off a sex-offence alleger of her own.
Monday. 'Pussy church' of witches against transsexuals forms in US. Meanwhile, a researcher suggests we all have a psychopath default setting deep in our lizard brains (nice editorial art).
Sunday. Physically weak men more often left wing.
Saturday. Orban's government has decided to shut down 'Gender Studies' at all Hungarian universities. Another cunning ruse to distress some and cause others merry mirth.
Friday. Summer heat still quite formidable, after dark too. Air thick like suet. Go to supermarket about 9pm. Three girls making flutey noises in French come in after me dressed in black shorts and black tops, the un peu sportif, un peu sexy look. I glance them over in what's probably a very ungallant stare, turn round and try again to understand the corner cabinet's strange array of lactose-free cheeses. Suddenly there's a slight extra warmth all down one side. I become aware that the prettiest of the three is precisely next to me, as in less than half an inch from touching, glancing over the same shelves in a vaguely aloof, scientific way. To do this she's somehow crossed about twenty feet of empty shopfloor in a second - it's almost occult, as if I suffered a time slip or black out. I spend the standard two-second window of opportunity pushing lactose and cheese out of my thoughts and pulling up my in-head French-language-remark menu display, by which time she glides off past the cucumbers, radiating cool, disinterested curiosity about other food items. Shaking this odd moment out of my heat-addled mind, I choose some purchases, passing a different lass, boyfriend in tow, leggy with lustrous mid-brown hair cascading down her back like a waterfall. I get into the massive double queue this shop has stretching down two aisles every night from about 7pm to closing at 10pm, a double tube of customers feeding six tills, three along each side wall, resembling a great intestine. After only a few minutes, get to a till, and as I pay for my items literally feel the leggy lass, nowhere to be seen seconds ago, manifesting next to me. The small golden hairs of her bare arm are brushing my bare arm. She's chosen the next till in such a way to squeeze her whole length into a desk gap just a millimetre away from my body, and her boyfriend is the far side of her talking to the cashier. Pesky aftershave.
Thursday. Years since I thought of this book cover.
Wednesday. A chance to hear some ancient Greek music.
Tuesday. Interesting bar chart of how religious denominations voted on Brexit. Muslims & atheists like the EU, Anglicans & Jews not so much: article.
Monday. For the first time since the last century I buy and drink a can of Vimto. Remember the pop group I saw performing at college and one of their songs went "He's the man turning water into Vimto", thought they were good, went up to the bass guitarist afterwards to tell him, and he said that just that afternoon before their gig they'd decided to split up. Is that Vimto for me? Surprisingly pleasant taste.
Sunday. China's creepy future police state project continues.
Saturday. Man in Texas steals baby shark in pram.
Friday. At a Las Vegas hackers' conference, participants break into supposedly-secure voting machines in two hours.
Thursday. Apparently earth's longest maintained set of temperature records, the 'Central England Temperature' dataset goes back to the late 1650s.
Wednesday. Early in morning finished one of those short introductory paperbacks rendered in mashed-up historical illustrations with speech balloons.
The aims are ambitious, to amiably introduce a whole range of topics in the subject (probability, differentiation, logarithms, trigonometry) both in cultural context and without boring readers who are almost certainly not keen on maths (yet). A variety of small scenes cut out of 19th-century novels and prewar schoolboy cartoons are pasted together in a zany manner. In some cases this genuinely makes a concept clearer, but mostly the effect is a manic determination not to be boring. Alongside this, the concern to dethrone European claims to mathematical supremacy and emphasise the algebraic contributions of 10th, 11th, and 12th century Muslims, + some Indian and Chinese thinkers, is probably the strongest undercurrent in the book. Of course to mention that Galois was a republican "in a reactionary era" or that Turing was a gay man who suffered from old-fashioned moral prejudices are good ways to involve readers not immediately interested in the maths. At the same time, hard not to feel the cultural politics are priority 1; enthusing people about the subject and explaining parts of it taking a fairly distant second place.
Meet Jessica off train in Budapest. She pulls a very interesting spread of cards in the cheerfully unspooky environs of the shopping-centre food court.
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