I am tired. I am tired. I am tired of this lurgy.* I am also garblattingly tired of schlepping plants indoors and then back outdoors. We may or may not have had a frost last night—I think we didn’t quite, but it was near enough to be putting towels on the windscreen** and I certainly brought an awful frelling lot of frelling plants indoors last night. And slapped them down on a plastic sheet on the sitting room carpet. My dahlia cuttings haven’t even arrived yet and I can already pretty much fill up the sitting room carpet. This may say more about the size of my sitting room*** than the number of my tender young plantlings . . . but it’s still way too much haulage of leaking pots ARRRRGH.† And then you get to do it all over again in reverse the next morning. BORING. BORING BORING BORING. Especially the part about tripping over hellhounds, who want to go out themselves. I haven’t yet dropped a pot and sprayed the kitchen with wet compost and terra cotta shards . . . but it could happen. Especially when I’m already kind of seeing double from the lurgy. And I had to bring the little green frellers all in again tonight. . . . with Chaos standing in the middle of the floor looking outraged because we wasted good hurtling time last night doing the same stupid thing. I couldn’t agree more.††
Meanwhile I’ve spent a lot of time on the sofa, reading. I’ve thrown several books at the wall in the patented hellgoddessy way, and there are at least a couple that I will probably tell you about later, but the one I finished today which is perfect for someone with a lurgy, is TO BE A CAT by Matt Haig. It’s a kids’ book, the hero is having his twelfth birthday on this the worst day of his life, and it’s written in rather deceptively simple language. But it’s full of good stuff for any age with a sense of humour.
Barney Willow’s parents divorced a couple of years ago, which was bad enough, but what was really awful is that ‘ . . . two hundred and eleven days ago (Barney was counting) his dad disappeared altogether. He’d never seen him since, except in dreams. . . . This was the first birthday he’d had without his dad being there.
‘If that wasn’t bad enough it was also the first birthday he’d had at his rubbish new school. And school meant Miss Whipmire, the head teacher from hell. He didn’t know if that was her exact address, but it definitely shared the same postcode.’ And then there is the bully, Gavin Needle, who thoroughly has it in for Barney, and Miss Whipmire, who seems to hate Barney even more than all her other students, blames Barney. Even a best friend named Rissa Fairweather who lives on a barge (with no TV although her mum does make fabulous carrot cake) and loves astronomy can’t entirely make up for these defects.
And the title? Things get so bad for Barney that he wishes—really really hard—that he was a cat so he didn’t have to be Barney Willow any more.
You can guess this does not go well.
It’s a cracking good story anyway and all the stuff that I, as a cranky elderly person who has read many, many, many evil-teacher stories before, and even a certain number of magical-cat stories, was sitting there thinking, well, what about—? are all answered satisfactorily. But the best part (to this cranky elderly person who has perhaps spent too much time reading) is some of the throwaway stuff:
‘He saw books with spines as tall and wide as doors, large names on them: William Shakespeare. Leo Tolstoy. Mark Twain. Voltaire. Barney had no idea that all four of these very famous dead writers had, at one time or another been cats. Or that one of them had even admitted to having been a cat. (That one was Mark Twain, who had written very brilliant books about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, who were both boys but acted more like wild and adventurous cats and were based on Mark Twain’s own early years as a tomcat . . . ) . . . most of the really brilliant people who have ever lived have been cats . . . because many of the great cat geniuses, in cat form, get very fed up of not having the kind of wiggly thumbs and fingers that let you write a book.’
Also, Rissa is totally cool. ‘This isn’t just weird, she told herself. This is over the hill from weird.’
And I love the illustrations.††† There’s also a little repeated series of a leaping cat in the lower-right-hand corners of the pages so if you run your thumb over the edges really fast so they fan down, it looks like a cat really is leaping.
Also . . . you know there’s the whole business of how much blood and gore are suitable for kid readers. I can’t deal with horror in most of its graphic modern incarnations, but on the other hand the whitewashing of fairy tales because they’ll be too distressing for children makes me crazy because it is utterly wrong-headed. There’s enough real blood and real death and real cruelty in TO BE A CAT to give it an edge that—particularly as it’s also so funny—it would be less engaging and effective without.
I liked it a lot. I recommend it.‡ And I know Matt Haig is a big deal for some of his other books, but this is the first one I’ve read. I’ll have to go look him up now. I need more books on The TBR Pile.
* * *
* It’s all Hannah’s fault! She left it here! And her grovelling from three thousand miles away does not appease me in the slightest! . . . Moan.
** You would not believe the racket an ice-scraper makes at mmph o’clock in the morning
*** Made a good deal smaller, of course, by three walls of bookshelves
† It’s like how many ways can you confound yourself? We haven’t had rain in months so of course you’re watering everything by hand. And the best way to be sure you’ve watered thoroughly enough is if it oozes a little out the bottom end. This is not a problem outdoors.
†† I have no idea how I’m getting hellhounds hurtled, but the odd and surprising truth is that I am. This is one of those absolute confirmations about coping with ME—whatever your level of capacity is, you have to use it frelling DAILY or you will, by the gods, lose it. And if you do use it to the absolute last whisker there will (probably) be some left even when you’re going through a bad patch, or a lurgy. I wonder if they’ve done any studies of people with ME or similar having holidays? I’d say the ten days or a fortnight doing nothing kind of holiday is positively harmful to someone like me, but this is probably one of the many, many things that varies with the individual. I think the trick is recognising where the last whisker is. You go over your limit and you will pay. But if you don’t tap yourself out, tomorrow you will have less to tap.
††† By Pete Williamson http://www.petewilliamson.co.uk/books.php
‡ This is not an April Fool.
I’ve wasted some time trying to annotate it a bit from my own life. Linda Grant is only a year older than I am; the world she’s talking about is the world I grew up in too. But this kind of thing is—still—one of my hot buttons, and I’m tired, having had my head down for a protracted period over SHADOWS* today, and not feeling 100% after the friendly weekend visit from the ME either. So I keep getting to the gibbergibbergibber *&^%$£”!!!!!! point, hitting ‘delete’, and starting again. I would do more political stuff in the blog if I didn’t have such a short fuse—but I arguably don’t have a fuse, I just go from jolly la-la-la to global meltdown in the wink of an eye. And I don’t have the time or the strength to support that kind of blog.
So, if you haven’t already read what Linda Grant says, read it now, and assume that I’ve got stories to go with most of these. Arrrrrgh.
* * *
And then, speaking of How the World Changes, Sometimes in Ways That Don’t Make You Entirely Happy even if You’ve Known It Was Coming:
This has been all over the place—I had like six tweets with links to six different articles in the space of half an hour. I’m interested that they’re saying that Wikipedia is generally considered reliable; I use it, but if and when they have to start charging for it, I’ll stop using it, because their hands-off policy on editorial bias is not okay with me, on the subject, for example, of homeopathy, which article is pretty blatant about saying it’s bulltwaddle. It isn’t. But any alteration toward the positive is smacked down at once.**
But I grew up worshipping the Britannica and—I’ve told you this story—with my tiny advance for BEAUTY, my very first published novel, I bought . . . two bookcases and a Britannica.*** And I’ve been buying the yearbooks ever since. That’s a lot of yearbooks. Peter will be delighted if these stop, which I assume they will too. But . . . the passing of an era, oh. . . . I am less nostalgic for the paper encyclopaedia than I might be because the instant-update online thing is completely persuasive. But the fact that this is the way world now is—pretty well incredibly different than thirty-four years ago when I bought my Britannica—is a little vertiginous. And I still want a copy of the—eleventh edition, is it?—for what I suppose amounts to nostalgia. But I have an old two-fat-volume eighteen-sixty-something Pears Cyclopedia which I love to bits†. You’re not going to get the same picture of the contemporary world thirty-four years from now from a daily updated on line encyclopaedia, even if it keeps chronological records—although perhaps the world will have changed incredibly again by then.††
* * *
Third link, and returning at last to the frivolous, where I am (perhaps) less likely to get myself in trouble:
Um. I kind of liked the first trailer, although I was seeing it on a laptop screen and not in a theatre. It wasn’t totally in my face trying to bully me with how clever it was and how much money it had spent on its special effects—even if how our hero woke up on Mars was a little obscure to me. Has anyone actually seen this epic-disaster-epic? I’ve seen three or four reviews, each one breathless to outdo the last in bludgeoning this film-like object into paste. But then I’m one of these old people who has read Burroughs’ John Carter books and hasn’t seen every science fiction and fantasy movie since STAR WARS. I might be the deluded director’s target audience.††† I wanted to like this film. Didn’t Michael Chabon write the screenplay?!? The Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist who takes comics and SF&F seriously?‡ I still do want to like it, although it begins to look like one of those feats painfully accomplished for inclusion in GUINESS WORLD RECORDS: I ate 1,000,000,000 chocolate chip cookies at one sitting! I LIKED Andrew Stanton’s John Carter of Mars!
My problem, from looking at the trailers, however, is that the hero looks like a git. Sigh. So I’m not the target audience after all. . . .
* * *
* Yes. It and I are running late. Now shut up and go away. I’m busy.
** Note that the Britannica online is pretty negative too . . . and also just wrong. However. This is another of those political swamps I stay out of to maintain my fragile mental health.
*** Which was as far as the tiny advance would reach.
† Although it was already pretty much in bits when I bought it for $1 at a garage sale twenty years or so ago
†† But if ‘incredibly’ is going to involve plugs in the back of my neck, I’ll pass.
††† It is possibly relevant that I hated THOR. If I stick to the minority opinion, then I have quite a good chance of liking JOHN CARTER.
‡ And wrote The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which is better than Kavalier and Clay
My stomach is better. But that may be because the ME came roaring in and took over, which is what it does. In this case I think I’d rather be bone tired than sick and dizzy but I’d really rather not be either. But merely tired usually permits lying on the sofa covered in hellhounds* and reading and this is clearly to be preferred over eyes that don’t focus and running to the bathroom a lot. However aside from the considerable entertainment derived from watching Oisin packing up his fancy electronic organ and its 1,000,000,000,000,000 feet of wiring and its 1,000,000,000 component parts this afternoon for the wedding he’s playing tomorrow in a tiny organ-free church, and which I’m sure I could spin out into 1000 words if I had more available brain**, I have done nothing blogworthy today, so I thought I’d suggest a few books for you to read the next time you’re trapped on the sofa with hellhounds.***
WONDER, R J Palacio
Anyone plugged into the kiddie lit world will already know about this one; it’s making a big splash on both sides of the Atlantic right now. It’s about a boy named Augie who knows he’s ordinary—on the inside. “ . . . But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go. . . . I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. . . . Next week I start fifth grade. Since I’ve never been to a real school before, I am pretty much totally and completely petrified. People think I haven’t gone to school because of the way I look, but it’s not that. It’s because of all the surgeries I’ve had. Twenty-seven since I was born. . . . I’m much stronger now, though. The last surgery I had was eight months ago, and I probably won’t have to have any more for another couple of years.” Even that little snippet should give you an idea how immediately convincing and appealing Augie’s voice is. WONDER is about how that first year in an ordinary school goes for a boy who is only ordinary on the inside. (And then again maybe he’s not so ordinary on the inside either.) The majority of the book is told by Augie, but several other people take their turns: I particularly like his sister, Via.
Here’s an interview with Palacio: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/19/rj-palacio-interview-wonder
MOCKINGBIRD, Kathryn Erskine
This came out in 2010 and was a National Book Award winner, Young People’s Literature. The back flap about the author begins: ‘As a resident of Virginia, Kathryn Erskine was devastated by the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Kathryn was driven to understand how community and family—particularly families with special-needs children—dealt with this violent event, and how our lives might be different if we understood each other better.’ . . . Um. So, this is to tell any of you who either have or would have instantly put the book back on the shelf before you caught a fatal dose of worthiness, that it’s a good read and a good story—that the moral rises gracefully and organically from the story. And furthermore, it’s funny, although most of the laughing hurts. Caitlin, the ten-year-old narrator, has Asperger’s. Her mother died when she was three years old, but her older brother, Devon, has always explained the world to her—but now her brother is dead too, as the result of a horrifying event like the Virginia Tech shootings, and her father (and small blame to him) has gone to pieces. It’s Caitlin who has to figure stuff out, and help both herself and her dad figure out how to go on without Devon.
“ . . . The librarian won’t let you take the Physicians’ Desk Reference home even if you hide it in the middle of thirty-two books. She says you have to leave it in the reference section so others might enjoy it. I don’t think I should have to leave it in the reference section just so others might enjoy. I know I will enjoy it. But she says that’s not the point. She never does tell me what the point is but Devon says sometimes you just have to do what a teacher or librarian says even if you think it’s stupid. Also he says you shouldn’t tell them out loud that you think it’s stupid. That’s a secret that stays in your head only.”
IN THE SEA THERE ARE CROCODILES, the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari, (by) Fabio Geda (translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis †)
This came out last year. All three of these books nail you with voice right off: ”The thing is, I really wasn’t expecting her to go. Because when you’re ten years old and getting ready for bed, on a night that’s just like any other night . . . with the familiar sound of the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer from the tops of the minarets, just like anywhere else . . . I say ten, although I’m not entirely sure when I was born, because there’s no registry office or anything like that in Ghazni province—like I said, when you’re ten years old, and your mother, before putting you to bed . . . says, There are three things you must never do in life, Enaiat jan, for any reason. The first is use drugs. . . . Promise me you won’t do it.
“The second is use weapons . . . never pick up a gun, or a knife, or a stone, or even the wooden ladle we use for making qhorma palaw, if that ladle can be used to hurt someone. Promise.
”The third is cheat or steal. . . . You must be hospitable and tolerant to everyone. Promise me you’ll do that.
“Anyway, even when your mother says things like that . . . and starts talking about dreams . . . if you hold a wish up high, any wish, just in front of your forehead, then life will always be worth living . . . says all these things in a strange low voice . . . it doesn’t occur to you that what she’s really saying is, Khoda negahdar, goodbye.”
Enaiatollah is an Afghan boy, from a tiny village. His mother has brought him to Quetta, a town on the Pakistani border . . . and left him there. Alone.
You get that far, and you have to read the rest, don’t you? You have to find out why, and what happens.
People are different. No they aren’t, they’re the same. And Enaiat’s mum has the right idea.
* * *
* Who are, fortunately, willing to trade an abbreviated hurtle for more sofa time.
** Yes I have been applying myself to SHADOWS. At one-quarter speed. Siiiiiigh. At least when you’re watching someone else coil up 1,000,000,000,000,000 feet of wiring no one is measuring the speed of your watching.
*** I’ve found that knitting over hellhounds is not really very satisfactory. Well, you can knit squares. But very long leg-warmers trail over said hellhounds and cause restiveness.^ Or possibly this is merely an indication of my lack of experience. Or my lack of spinal flexibility. Although speaking of squares . . . I’m going to have to start carrying around two knitting projects in my knapsack. I’m getting tired of fixing the mistakes in my leg-warmers that I made while knitting at stoplights. I still have to look at what I’m doing for ribbing.
^ And yes, I am severely tempted to design my own hellhound coat with attached leggings. But that will have to wait till I know enough what I’m doing to do . . . something that no one who knew what she was doing would do.
† Because translators don’t get enough credit. Says the woman working on (maybe) her second hundred words of Japanese.
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: http://www.cafepress.co.uk/+womens_dark_tshirt,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.
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’.
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itQVDA6_TME&feature=g-user-u&context=G2ac07aeUCGXQYbcTJ33bJuwRQr7QRamAJkMSiCooYTc_y_vBnibw
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: http://www.leasingnews.org/Sidney_Harris/probability.gif
. . . 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 http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=ZCFCeJTEzNU, 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?