December 27, 2011

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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