December 31, 2011



Bluuuuh.  I’m even more brain dead tonight than I was last night and I’ve already used the available SHADOWS snippet for the foreseeable future.  It’s a great pity that snippets have a dismaying tendency to give the plot away.*  After all, this blog is Days in the Life, right?  SHADOWS is about 90% of my life right now, days and nights.  


(You know, if you like, you can post us a scene from SHADOWS EVERY night until the book is done – we won’t object 

That’s very kind of you.  I appreciate the vote of confidence. 

although your publishers might disagree with me on that one….)

 Well, self e-publishing is all the rage these days, isn’t it?   We could offer a subscription for a New Robin McKinley Fragment service.  


By then my arms were full of Mongo. “Mongo, you loophead,” I said, burying my face in his fur, “what are you doing here?”

*whispers* They do tend to be loopheads. 

While I do not have your eclectic and inclusive experience of the breed . . . I know.  Mongo is drawn from life.  


And your publishers could perhaps start thinking about a range of objects with Mongo on, in some form (a doodle?) for the launch in 2013? I would so buy a T-shirt or something.  

What a splendid idea.  Thank you.  Speaking of a subscription service . . .  We might think about an extended doodle shop.  Definitely t shirts.  Knitting . . . I mean tote . . . bags.  Mugs.  Fuchsia leather jackets with satin logos.  All Stars.  If there are Blondie and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse All Stars—which there are, I have both—why not Mongo, Ebon and Gulp All Stars?  

            I did wrench a little time free and go to bell practise tonight.  Three-dimensionality is great when you’ve been staring at a computer screen all day (and night).  Although I’ve mentioned before that there’s a strong fantasy element to bell ringing**—it’s just not satisfactorily explained by large hollow chunks of metal, long ropes with fluffy bits and clusters of crazy people—and it may be that bells suit the brain-blasted writer better than certain other occupations—boxcar derby, say, or pearl fishing—which would require the subject to re-engage with reality in a much more unpleasantly comprehensive way.  Bells, you’re tucked up in a nice little initiates-only bell chamber . . . well, usually.  I had the standard annual phone call from Crabbiton this evening, asking if I were available to help ring in the New Year tomorrow at midnight.  It’s not like I’d be asleep.  But Crabbiton is not only a ground-floor ring but the whole point is that the ENTIRE VILLAGE crowds into the church and stares at you.  It’s probably good for my character.*** 

 * * *

* Note:  Casimir is very good-looking.  

** Which perhaps balances the horrible reality of learning method lines.^ 

^ While muttering frantically to yourself:  it’s not maths, it’s not maths, it’s just numbers on a crooked line, it’s not maths.+ 

+ Speaking of maths.  Some day when I’m awake, so, like, maybe April, I want to talk some more about Shape of Brain and the culture chasm between the lit brain and the maths brain.  I had a couple of ha-ha you lit people are so funny from science brains in response to my blog post objecting to ABSOLUTELY SMALL’S doolally Schrodinger’s cat metaphor—in other words I didn’t get it.  True.  But from where I’m standing it’s a bad metaphor, as is the 50 pound boy travelling at 20 mph a bad metaphor.  They don’t engage me with the material, they throw me farther out—like inconsistent characterisation or a howling plot hole in a novel.  Suddenly you’re not reading a story any more, you’re staring at hen scratches on a page (real or virtual) and deciding you’d rather be getting on with your knitting.  Cats in boxes don’t randomly die because you look at them.  When Fayer eventually gets to the photons being in two places at once but collapsing into one state or another if they’re measured it’s fine.  I don’t want to write a term paper on it, mind you, but I follow it okay.# 

            But all metaphors are metaphorical.  They depend on common ground, common language, common assumptions.  Which is dangerous and unreliable, you know?  I know:  I’m an American who has been living in England for the last twenty years and am still daily baffled by this alien culture I now call home.##   How much of my almost  throwing ABSOLUTELY SMALL across the room when I got to the part about the 1000 cats in boxes, 500 of them marked for death###, is not that the metaphor is bad in an absolute sense~ but because I’m reading/listening to it with a lit brain, not a math brain? 

# Being a fantasy writer may be an advantage here, speaking of shape of brain.  So this earnest science bloke says, okay, these particles, they’re sort of like waves, and they’re sort of like infinite waves, and they can be in two places at once, or maybe they can be everywhere at once, theoretically, just so long as you don’t look at them.  Oh, okay, says the never-having-had-a-lot-to-do-with-classical-physics-and-therefore-having-no-mindsets-to-break-but-liking-without-worrying-a-lot-about-cognitive-dissonance-things-the-size-of-pegasi-and-dragons-flying fantasy writer.~ 

~ And, being a fantasy writer, one of the things I am thinking, while this earnest science bloke is digging himself in deeper with this complex and exotic taradiddle of his, is, there’s a difference between looking and measuring.  The problem with the subatomically tiny stuff is that our eyes can’t focus that small, so we have to have instruments that measure.  What happens if you befriend a flower fairy with very good close vision?  I suppose her body heat or her breathing or something would still upset the photons.  Miffy little beasts, photons. 

## Method bell ringing.  Please. 

### My restraint was chiefly because I was listening to it on Pooka at the time, and I do not throw my iPhone across the room. 

~small or large 

*** No.  It’s not. 




Mongo Saves a Little Piece of the Universe, the Piece with Maggie in It


 It’ll need more saving, though, before the end. 

           I need a night off.  Which is to say I’ve been banging away at SHADOWS like a mad thing* and if I had more days like this one I’d make the end of January.  And, in fact, I think I’ve probably got an hour or so of story-telling-brain left tonight, and I want to use it.**  So you won’t mind a minor example of Mongo saving the universe for a blog post, will you?***

            This is only second draft.  It may look different after I find out a few more of the bits I still don’t frelling know.   It’ll also need to be brushed and pressed and its hair-ribbon retied.

 * * *

. . . Army tank?

            Now I could hear—feel—something—the crackles and frizzles and—something-going-wrong-with-the-air—as all the unbent unfolded steel-legged gizmos made contact with whatever was beaming out of the tank.  Whatever the army thought needed to be in a tank to keep safe.  What were they protecting, the thing, or us?

            The new network of the tank-thing and the gizmos were chugging it out, the something-wrong-with-the-air.  I could see two gizmo-boxes from where I was sitting, soldiers standing over them, the lights from whatever feedback they were watching glinting off their faces.  There were almost-visible ripples wandering, weaving down the road, past our bus shelter.  They were like the visual equivalent of being seasick.  I closed my eyes, but I could still feel them, like you feel a boat heaving up and down.  I decided that was worse, and opened my eyes again.

            There was an army guy—in fact, several army guys, but the one in front had more stuff on his cap and his shoulders than the other ones, and he was looking grim and maybe angry—coming toward the bus shelter.  He saw us all right.  One of the guys with him was holding a sort of gun-wand thing out in front of him—oh, her—and she was pointing it at us.  There were three little red flashing lights at the tip.  The flashing was kind of hypnotic.  It looked like it was saying, ha ha ha, got you.

            And suddenly the bus shelter was full of gruuaa.  I was looking at the big angry army guy and as the bus shelter filled up with gruuaa I also saw a medium-sized hairy black-and-white cannonball arc immediately in front of the lead army guy.  Mongo.  I wasted half a second thinking, no, it can’t be Mongo, there’s nobody home now to forget and leave the door open.  But you know your own dog.  It was totally Mongo.

            Mongo dived across the road immediately in front of the army guy staring at me, and broke his gaze.  He looked at the dog, gestured to one of his aides and looked back at me—

            Except that he didn’t look back at me.  He looked toward the bus shelter and then looked confused.  His eyes skated right over the open front of the shelter where Casimir and I (and a very large knapsack and a very large algebra book) were sitting—in a seethe of gruuaa.  The army guy stopped and looked around like he was searching for something he had dropped.  He looked up again, straight at the bus shelter like he was sure whatever it was was in that direction.  Then the woman with the wand-gun said something to him, and I noticed that the blinking lights had gone clear.  Ha ha yourself.  He scowled at the lights, turned away . . . he was missing out the bus shelter, and heading toward the gate into the park.

            By then my arms were full of Mongo.  “Mongo, you loophead,” I said, burying my face in his fur, “what are you doing here?”  But my stomach was telling me something was seriously wrong. . . . 

* * *

* With a brief inspirational session of handbells.  Gemma^ arrived first and, bright with holiday cheer, wanted to know how I was.  Uggggh, I said, I’m trying to write a book in five months.  Usually I need about a year.  A good year.  Christmas?  Yes, we had Christmas.  I know this by the presence of a turkey carcass in the refrigerator.^^  And various amusing objects still scattered around the tree.^^^  Oh, and the tree.   

            Gemma’s a doctor, a GP.  She’s heard weirder life stories than mine# and she works insane hours.  But I had the feeling she was beginning to look a little professional at the end, when I said I had to stop because I had to get back to work, and she said, how much longer will you go on?, and I said, it depends on how long my brain lasts.  A couple of hours I hope.   —If she starts asking me how much sleep I get and what hours I keep I’m in big trouble. 

^ She of the fabulous flower-arranging.  I told her my Christmas garland had been much admired, and she said that her fantasy is to do bespoke special-occasion flower-arranging after she retires. 

^^ And more than the usual amount of chocolate in the cupboard. 

^^^ It’s not slovenliness or bad housekeeping, leaving your unwrapped gifts out in plain sight for a while after the occasion.  It reminds you what they are.  It may even prompt you to write thank-yous.  

# . . . Maybe. 

** Yup.  Done.

*** You’ll just have to wait for the book to find out what gruuaa are.

Singing and leftover turkey


Priorities:  I had a close encounter of an unfortunate kind tonight with a large, turkey-slashing knife, partly, perhaps, because I rarely have close encounters with large, turkey-slashing knives, and am less than adept.  The wretched thing skidded and was coming for me and I had just enough time to think ‘it’s okay, I’ll still be able to type’ before it changed its mind and did not sink half an inch into the ball of my thumb, squirt blood all over the kitchen, and require a nine-fingered sprint to A&E. 


About the woman who starts the flash mob and where she gets the nerve. My 2 sisters and I sang in a choir a generous 1 hour bus ride from home. We sang on the bus on the way to and back home again. Singing in public is easier if you start young enough, and if you have good experiences of it. We were on occasion either applauded, or inspired others to join in. It wasn’t a scary thing. It was exhilarating. 

I take your point (and good for you), but this is not quite the same thing, at least not from where I’m sitting trembling in my seat.  There were three of you, and a bus full of people is still a lot smaller and more organised an audience than that shopping mall food hall with a couple hundred or something* people milling around.**  My empathy keeps stalling on the fact that I haven’t got a soloist’s voice, but I can imagine being one of the other choir members standing on a chair and adding to the uproar.  But that first woman . . . among other things, if I were her, I’d be worrying that they’d clap a bag over my head and be ringing emergency services before enough of the rest of my gang got going to prove that there was method in the manifest madness.


As for the first woman singing in the flash mob – I think soloists are born, not made; I used to have a reasonably decent singing voice, but never ever wanted to be a soloist.  

Again, I can’t (ahem) speak to the singing aspect because I haven’t got the voice to not want to solo with.  But about performance . . . there is not necessarily alignment between ability and attitude in this, as there is also not in so many things.  Think of Florence Foster Jenkins.

             I remember when I was still running occasional writing seminars.  The hopefuls that made my heart sink were the ones who worked like blazes, had totally the right attitude about putting in their hours and honing their craft by experience . . . and who apparently had no talent, no ear, no imagination whatsoever.  I didn’t feel it was any part of what I’d been hired to do to tell anyone this—after all, I could have been wrong—and there’s always something practical and pertinent you can say about someone’s writing if you think about it.  And then there were the clearly talented ones who couldn’t be bothered.  ARRRRGH.  So they’d give you one perfect poem or—usually—two and a half perfect chapters which they weren’t going on with because it was beginning to dawn on them that it was going to be work.***  If you could yank that one person’s natural skill and replant it in the drudge. . . .

            It was one of the greatest shocks of my life when I was sent out on the road for the first time after BEAUTY came out and I was a shiny new thing, and I discovered that I could do public speaking.  What?  Where did that come from?  I was absolutely not made to be able to put myself over in person.  Clearly there is some mistake.†

            I had been thinking about singing performance however which made me rewatch this clip†† from a slightly different angle.  Last voice lesson we got into a mix up with our music again, which is to say that theoretically I have accompanist’s copies of everything I’m working on and theoretically Nadia already has her own copies of (nearly) everything because it’s music she’s accustomed to teaching.  But I managed to leave at home my extra copy of something she’d managed to leave her copy of at home too.  So she sang it with me.

            This has happened a few times before.  I always enjoy it, which may or may not be a good thing.†††   But this time what I particularly noticed was the difference not in our voices per se—which is to say she has one and I don’t—but in our performance.  She invests what she sings, even when it’s something that she doesn’t herself sing.  I don’t invest—even when it’s something I’m (supposedly) working on.  I stand there like a little plank with a sort of weak buzzing noise coming out the top end.  Sigh.  This is sort of a good thing in that I’m developing enough brain-space even while I’m singing to make observations—there is a very strong herding-cats element to singing—but it doesn’t tell me what to do about an observation like ‘eww’.  We’ve talked about trying, about how to relax and stop trying, to let the music move through you—not unlike letting a story move through you, you might think, but I haven’t found the musical on switch yet.  Siiiigh.  Watching these people singing the Hallelujah Chorus this time I was thinking, I bet I can pick out which are the actual choir members and which are the audience singing along.  Okay, maybe some of the choir members are horribly embarrassed at what they’re doing . . . but I don’t think they’d stay members of that group if they embarrassed easily.  Therefore the trying-their-best but plank-like ones are the audience. . . . Where is that frelling ON switch.

            I’ve been trying, this fortnight while I haven’t got Nadia to take things to, various ruses to startle myself into singing with some feeling.  I’ve been singing Christmas carols all my life, so those should be terror-free and familiar enough to take risks with.  I’ve reverted to some of my favourite old folk songs, like Greensleeves (or What Child Is This) and Early One Morning and Ash Grove and Down by the Salley Gardens, which have very simple flowing lines, and come as near to making you flow with them as any mere music can do.  I wander around the sitting room‡ singing, sometimes merely standing facing in directions other than into the piano and the wall behind the piano, and sometimes singing while walking.  Sometimes singing in a furrin language helps—both Non lo diro and Santa Lucia are better in Italian.  Sometimes singing furrin is just more intimidating—Caro Mio Ben and Dove Sei still feel wildly, ridiculously, shamefully beyond my reach—despite the fact that I find them beautiful and respond to them, just not in any way I seem able to let out of my mouth.  ARRRRRGH. 

            There’s one semi-exception to all this.  Generally speaking/singing I sound least pathetic on the simple old folk or folk-style songs.  And Se Tu M’Ami is still technically beyond me—I’m pretty sure I told you Nadia tried delicately to discourage me from tackling it, it’s just every frelling thing I sing seems to be mournful and here’s one that isn’t.  That’s where Santa Lucia comes from—she gave me that one because it’s cheerful.  Too late, though—I was already well stuck into Tu M’Ami.  And of all of them, and however technically calamitous my efforts are, I most get into Tu M’Ami.  With Tu M’Ami I have occasional little glimpses of how the dynamics arise organically from the line of the song.       

             I feel that my perverse streak could take a break here any time.   

Melissa Mead

My maternal grandma used to give me socks. Generally argyle. I came to love “grandma socks,” and now I can’t look at argyle socks without missing her. I still have a couple of pairs of “grandma socks.” They’re getting holey, but I won’t throw them out. 


* * *

* I’m not sure how much you see even in the long shots. 

** Although people in the hall can probably escape more easily if they’re not in a social-uplift mood.  You’d have to be extremely grinchy to get off at the next stop and wait for the next bus.  Grinchy and possessed of a great deal of spare time, bus schedules being what they usually are.  

*** On the whole give me 90% work ethic and 10% talent rather than the other way around, but you do need the 10% talent. 

† The Personality Creation admin is clearly as screwed up as the Story Council.  There may possibly be some delivery system problems as well.^ 

^ ‘If no one is there, please stick it in the kid third from the right’.  

†† This clip, for anyone who doesn’t read this blog faithfully every night 

††† It’s a good thing for a choir member to like singing with other people.  It may not be a good thing for a student to like having a teacher to hide behind. 

‡ Much to the consternation of the hellhounds, who are a bit dubious about my singing anyway, and feel that if I move away from the piano toward the centre of the room I should be going to go sit on the sofa.

Absolutely clueless


Okay I’m having some trouble with Mr Fayer and his ABSOLUTELY SMALL.  Has anyone else read it?  In the first place.  His Schrodinger’s cats.  He suggests 1000 boxes with 1000 cats in them, one each.  The cats—ALL the cats, each and EVERY ONE of the cats—are a mixture of 50% alive and 50% dead.  Already I’m confused.  What do you MEAN 50% alive and 50% dead?   What?  How?  Why?  By what MEASUREMENT (which of course is The Question*) are they 50% alive and 50% dead?  What does this mean to the CATS?  And then, having shut up all these possibly ailing and distressed cats in boxes, which cannot be a positive reinforcement of whatever their level of well-being might have been before you did shut them up in the boxes**, you start . . . opening the boxes.  And by the fact of your opening the box and peering inside the cat magically—yes, I said magically—mutates into a pure state of either 100% aliveness or 100% deadness.  WHY?  THIS IS NOT HOW A CAT IN A BOX BEHAVES.***   Unless of course it DIES of a HEART ATTACK the moment it sees you.  And after the first few hundred boxes you have a nervous breakdown as a result of your sense of responsibility for the deaths of (approximately) 500 out of 1000 cats.  Not to mention the prospect of trying to support the liveness of 500 frelling cats until you can convince the RSPCA to come and take them away . . . and also try to convince the RSPCA that they shouldn’t sue the crap out of you for animal abuse, although, supposing they arrive before you run out of cat food, the vibrant, 100% healthiness of the 500 live cats should at least confuse the issue.

            I don’t think I’m getting out of this example what I’m supposed to be getting out of it.†

            And then there’s the whole ‘absolute’ size thing.  He goes through the business of how we interpret size as relative.  Something is large or small as soon as we have something to compare it to.  A photograph of two rocks with a blank background tells us nothing about the size of the rocks till the background is adjusted to have a piece of human being in it for scale.  I don’t myself see how this is a difference in kind with his ‘absolutes’ of ‘large’ being something you can set up an experiment to observe with a negligible alteration to the thing observed compared with ‘small’ being something you cannot set up an experiment to observe with negligible alterations—‘small’ means all experiments create non-negligible, which is to say substantial, alterations, no matter how clever you think you are, which pretty well futzes your experiment.  How is this not relative?  It’s relative to your ability to create an experiment with this or that outcome.  It’s relative to your size and galumphingness.  If we were the size of photons, we could create a sufficiently sub-photonic experiment to measure photons,†† photons being one of those absolutely-small things.  I get it (I think I get it) that large means you can straightforwardly create useful experiments and small means you can’t, but—to this English lit major—this just means some science bozo is inventing new definitions for ‘small’ and ‘large’.  That’s fine.  The small and large part works.  It’s the stuff around it I’m having some trouble with.

            And then . . . back to reality . . . He says, ‘Imagine that a small boy weighing 50 pounds runs into you going 20 miles per hour.’  WHAT?  How is this small boy weighing 50 pounds managing to run into you going 20 miles per hour?  Turbo-charged roller skates?†††  His parents should be had up for criminal negligence.  Then he says, ‘Now imagine that a 200-pound man runs into you going 5 miles per hour. . . . The small boy is light and moving fast.  The man is heavy and moving slow.’  EDITOR’S NOTE:  that should be slowly.  ‘Both have the same momentum. . . . In some sense, both would have the same impact when they collide with you.  Of course, this example should not be taken too literally.  The boy might hit you in the legs while the man would hit you in the chest. . . .’  Emphasis mine.  He never does mention the boy’s propulsion system.  I’m still worried about the chances of a small boy with negligent parents and turbo-charged roller skates living long enough to grow up and become a famous Olympic sprinter.

            And finally . . . the maths question.  On the VERY FIRST PAGE of the preface Fayer says that all we have to do is develop our ‘quantum mechanics intuition’ which is what this book is for.  He says:  ‘This lack of a picture of how [certain quantum-challenged] things work arises from a seemingly insurmountable barrier to understanding.  Usually that barrier is mathematics.’  To understand these things not immediately obvious to the unenhanced human eye ‘ . . . requires an understanding of quantum theory BUT IT ACTUALLY DOESN’T REQUIRE MATHEMATICS.’  Emphasis again mine.  ‘ . . . the presentation in this book is descriptive.  Diagrams replace the many equations with the exception of SOME SMALL ALGEBRAIC EQUATIONS—AND THESE SIMPLE EQUATIONS ARE EXPLAINED IN DETAIL.’



 I don’t think it’s merely an excess of figgy pudding pressing on my brain here.‡ 

* * *

* See:  absolutely small, which means that you can’t create a means to observe it without also creating non-negligible change to what you’re trying to observe.  This is also a working definition of ‘spitchered’.  

** Speaking of altering what you were trying to observe. 

*** This is much more my experience of cats in boxes:,137590640 

† He says demurely ‘I have to admit to simplifying a little bit here. . . .’  Um.  But it turns out all he’s referring to is the number of live and dead cats.  You probably would not get exactly 500 of the one and 500 of the other.  Oh.  Okay.  Like that addresses any of my problems with this parable. 

†† And if he gets his totally-ignoring-reality Schrodinger’s cat metaphor then I get this totally-ignoring-reality itty-bitty extremely molecularly dense human metaphor.  

††† Aren’t there some physics, speaking of physics, about how fast it’s literally possible for a substantially shorter rather than a substantially taller person to run, aside from talent and fitness and so on?  Which means a small boy—fifty pounds is little—is even more unlikely to be going 20 mph.  Without turbo-charged roller skates. 

‡ EMoon:

Where is the digestion I had in my 20s, when immense amounts of anything I liked could be ingested without discomfort or weight gain or…whatever? 

The one . . . the one thing to be said for having spent the last forty frelling years fighting my own personal daily battle with my waistline is that when I hit menopause and the diet wars became dirty, scorched-earth and take-no-prisoners, I was to some degree ready.  I mean, I wasn’t ready, I’m appalled at how little I get to eat^ and how much I pay for it when I stray a spoonful of brandy butter over the line.  But I am used to the mindset of Calories Are the Enemy, and most of my menopausal friends weren’t, aren’t and won’t be.  I’m not utterly without, you should forgive the term, form in the matter of assuming all food is guilty until proved innocent.^^  This is not to say I won’t eventually get old and tired and say THE HELL WITH IT.  I WANT TO EAT TOAST AGAIN.  WITH BUTTER.  AND MARMALADE.    But at the moment—and this is a conversation I have had with myself at least every winter solstice holiday period for several years now, and at various less predictable times dotted about the calendar, and the situation is getting relentlessly more extreme—I’m still thinking about my rather ramshackle skeletal system, its weight-bearing capacity, and the hurtling of hellhounds, and I figure I can live like this a while longer.  Which is, I repeat, not to say there will not come a day when I decide on toast.^^^  But preferably after SHADOWS—or the PEGASUS trilogy—has made me a multi-zillionaire and I can afford to replace my entire wardrobe. 

^ And how much less than that I do in fact eat, so I can keep my CHOCOLATE and sugar in my tea. 

^^ And in this courtroom, it won’t be proved innocent.  

^^^ One might almost say ‘plump for’.

Boxing Day


In which we take all the boxes, the bags, the ribbons, the wrapping paper, the already-broken bits, the totally unidentifiable shreds of whatever and the stuff that should go straight to Oxfam and bundle it up somehow and start making vague plans to have a Major Dump Run in the near future.

I think I’m suffering Caloric Hangover.  Or that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.*  I started ABSOLUTELY SMALL on Pooka on the morning hurtle** and it’s like . . . what?***   Oh, gods, frelling science again.†   I thought it was going to be the last lost volume of THE BORROWERS.

I’m also still listening to Christmas carols while hellhounds and I lie on the sofa admiring the view††† and reading about roses and maths.‡  This year’s favourite album is an old Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band one:  Gold Frankincense & Myrrh‡‡ which I slap back into the player every time Peter is out of the room for a bit.‡‡‡  The lyrics are included.  Maybe I could try singing along. . . . 

* * *

* Mmmm.  Christmas pudding with brandy butter.  Mmmm.  

** The drawback to frelling holidays is that TOTALLY FRAUDULENT sense that you HAVE MORE TIME TO DO STUFF.  Of course in the present situation what I haven’t got is more time, but there are only so many hours a day I can spend on SHADOWS without a total systems crash, and trying to defibrillate wetware can be tricky.  So I spent some quality time this morning, while I was testing the amount of caffeine required to get us on line, putting 1,000,000,000 pairs of All Stars back on their shelves^ and hoovering up the ankle-deep shed geranium petals in the cottage attic.  And in consequence found myself eating lunch at 3 pm again.  Drat. 

^  Yes.  I have All Star shelves. 

*** I’m also having some trouble with the narrator, who I think in an attempt to sound properly serious and scientific instead sounds like your old chemistry teacher who really wanted to fail you.  

† Although I suspect Fayer of having forgotten, or rather of never having known in the first place, what it’s like being an ordinary dumb^ non-science person.  In my day one of the few things I ‘learnt’ about the scientific method was that it was lofty and detached and had no contact either with individual subjective humanness^^ or with whatever was being studied.  The scientist stood at the correct distance with his (or occasionally her) clipboard and took cool objective notes.^^^  Then they discovered that inconvenient business about how the simple fact of observing certain things—teeny subatomic particles, say—changed them, and what do we all do now?   In this 2010 book Fayer mentions in passing at the beginning that ‘of course we interact with what we observe’ . . . and then keeps going to make his real point about the ‘absolute’ difference between small and large.~  WAIT A MINUTE.  EVERY SCIENCE TEACHER I EVER HAD~~ IS STANDING IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM AND GIBBERING.

            And if that’s not bad enough, he starts with Schrodinger’s damn cat.  But @juliagertrud posted the perfect answer to all things Schrodinger’s cat on Twitter a few days ago:

And I’m delighted to hear that Schrodinger himself called it ‘burlesque’.  

^ I’m still going to get back to you on the not-calling-myself-dumb thing.  But not tonight.  

^^ ‘I ate too much Christmas pudding last night.’  ‘Is that really cute lab tech trying to catch my eye?’  ‘If I don’t pick up my dry cleaning soon they’re going to give it to Oxfam.’

^^^ This is, just by the way, one of the reasons I bailed on the scientific method.  There is no such thing as objectivity.  Except in a pure, philosophical, Plato’s-cave sort of way, which is of limited use down here on the ground. 

~ Which seems to be—but I haven’t got my hard copy of the paper book here to check, and this is probably another one I’ll have to listen to twice—that ‘absolutely small’ means that you can’t set up an experiment that won’t disturb it to a disruptive degree.  ‘Large’ means that you can set up an experiment that will not be derailed by the fact that you’re observing it.   I think this is deeply cool (supposing I’ve got it right).  It’s like you grew up with north, south, east and west and if you ever said well what about in or out or Middle Earth you were given detention.  And someone is now telling you no, it’s vortex, gron, megabat, dibbleworthy and trout, and it’s more like Middle Earth than it is like north and south.  Oh.  Okay.  Give me a minute.  I think I’ll like this.  If maybe you could just give me a bucket of ice water for my head. 

~~ This would be up to fifty years ago, remember.  Fifty years ago we were still hunting mammoths with spears. 

†† Diane in MN wrote:

May your computer come to the miracle step of its flowchart and return to normal function. 

How I love Sidney Harris, who decades before xkcd^  was telling us science was funny:

. . . And who clearly also has dogs.

            But we will not discuss my computers the day after Christmas.^^ 


^^ The fact that there is a blog post is all you need to know on the day after Christmas.  

††† Didn’t get any tinsel up today however.  Hoovering the attic was enough.  But Georgiana did come for tea and trained Peter and me rigorously in Kindle use.  I had to go download a couple of new things onto Astarte afterward just so I didn’t feel all hopeless and retro.  I wonder if I can convince Peter that his Kindle needs a name? 

‡ Now there is a combination to fry the eyeballs and turn the brain into pancake batter. 

‡‡ Which I bought that year, 2001, when we saw them live at South Bank . . . and I was too chickenlivered to ask for an autograph.  Yes.  Really. 

‡‡‡ When I was first over here we had to negotiate how long and how intensely I was allowed to play my Christmas music.  Generally speaking I play it nonstop from Peter’s birthday through New Year’s and stop, and Peter promises not to kill me.  Although we do get the MESSIAH all year. 

Susan in Melbourne wrote:

To which I offer, but you’ll have to watch, not just listen. 

My favourite is this, and I can’t remember how I first saw it, but it may well have been someone on the forum:

Which you also have to watch as well as listen.  One of the things that makes me catch my breath every time is that very first woman standing up and singing.  In the circumstances where does she get the nerve? 


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