Haydninvienna (Richard) hopes for a better tomorrow

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Haydninvienna (Richard) hopes for a better tomorrow

Dic 31, 2020, 3:16pm

New thread title is less striking than I'd like but at the moment I'm all out of creativity, what with counterpart credit risk and all.

So best wishes for a brighter 2021. May your new year be filled with good times, good friends, happy family, and good reading.

Dic 31, 2020, 3:51pm

>1 haydninvienna: Happy New Year!

I think the thread title is perfect. It is certainly honest, despite counterpart credit risk.

Dic 31, 2020, 4:06pm

Happy 2021!

Dic 31, 2020, 5:04pm

Thanks guys. I really am feeling a bit burned out by it. I now have close to 200 pages of deathless prose on credit risk and counterparty credit risk, and the scariest part is, I’m starting to understand bits of it.

Dic 31, 2020, 5:43pm

>4 haydninvienna: That is the true danger sign.

Editado: Dic 31, 2020, 7:20pm

Actually, >4 haydninvienna: I think the real danger sign is whether or not you're dreaming in the vocabulary of counterpart credit risk.

Dic 31, 2020, 11:00pm

Happy New Year!

Ene 1, 8:04am

>1 haydninvienna: I hope you have a wonderful 2021!

Ene 1, 8:52am

>7 Karlstar: >8 YouKneeK: Right back at you!

>6 jillmwo: Not so far, fortunately. Last night I may have overwhelmed it with cava anyway.

Back with Helen Suzman (In No Uncertain Terms), and on page 127, quoting a letter written on 9 October 1971, she says "Hold thumbs for us". Is this the first example of this expression in the wild?

Ene 1, 8:59am

Happy New Year!

Ene 1, 9:21am

Happy new year to you >9 haydninvienna: and to Mrs H.

Ene 1, 9:49am

>9 haydninvienna: I doubt it. My mother used it often, at least a decade earlier.

Ene 1, 11:27am

>12 hfglen: Interesting. I'd never heard or read it before the GD.

>11 jillmwo: Happy new year to you both (and your family) also.

Ene 1, 11:30am

>4 haydninvienna: Oh dear.

Happy new year! I hope 2021 is better.

Ene 1, 11:41am

A second chapter to the tale of the bookcases that I was going on about in my last thread: I may have mentioned that I ordered 2 40cm ones, which didn't arrive with the rest of the order. I checked IKEA's website and it said that the rest of my order was still being assembled. This was the state of things for a couple of weeks, until I finally got sick of it and started looking for some customer support. Nada. Zip. Zilch. SFA. The phone support is non-existent and email is limited to predefined queries which didn't exactly fit what I wanted. Their Twitter account is still open but getting a specific answer in the storm of complaints about lack of customer support looked difficult to say the least. In the end i gave up and resorted to an old technology: I wrote them a letter, enclosing printed copies of their order acknowledgement and the delivery docket. They didn't reply directly but I have now received notice that I will be refunded £55 for 2 bookcases and the applicable VAT. So I re-ordered what I wanted and have been notified to expect delivery next Thursday.

Ene 1, 11:53am

On the off-chance that you remember my post last year about the last Qantas 747 drawing a huge kangaroo in the sky off Sydney(https://www.librarything.com/topic/322035#7224360), here's where the same aircraft (VH-OEJ) had been just beforehand: https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/9796369 .

Ene 1, 1:21pm

>15 haydninvienna: Are you thinking they'll arrive this time? How much are they charging you for shipping?

>16 haydninvienna: I do remember and that's a great photo!

Ene 1, 2:00pm

>15 haydninvienna: Welcome to the world of e-Comm gone wrong. Also, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes are designed, in my not uninformed mind, to minimise the cost of ACTUALLY interacting with a customer, something to be avoided at all costs.

I have used this Groucho Marx quote before in referring to CRM:
"Sincerity is the key! If you can fake that you've got it made."

It took me a short time to realise that the term, "Customer Service", neither contains nor implies the word/concept "GOOD".

I wish you good fortune with your 40cm Billy bookcases.

Ene 1, 2:01pm

>4 haydninvienna: You have my sympathy. Just before Christmas a "kind friend" wished a colleague on to me, with a problem that consisted of over 300 pages of "rejected names" (about 1000 published, duff names that don't comply with the rules) in wheat and its allies for checking please ASAP. I am beginning to see daylight at the end of the tunnel.

Ene 2, 4:03am

Wishing you well for 2021 - may the year head upward from here.

Ene 2, 4:34am

>19 hfglen: Any money involved (that is, are you to be paid)? If not, that's true devotion to science.

About the bookcases: my letter was very courteous and didn't call them any of the rude words I'd been thinking, although I did describe the chatbot as "useless", which is true. I had in mind though that the next step might have been a little walk down the road to the local county court registry to file a small claims complaint, for goods sold but not delivered. If I could figure out how to serve it in these uncertain times, that might have got their attention.

Ene 2, 5:39am

>21 haydninvienna: That appears to have been an opportunity for Continued Professional Education.

Ene 2, 7:05am

>21 haydninvienna: From limited experience with the small claims court, once you've filed the paperwork, that's usually it. It's done by letter. I recall assisting my late mother in making a claim, and some years later she had a judgement against her. Beyond handing in the papers, post was the only contact made.

Ene 2, 8:49am

A belated happy new year to you! Your successful interaction with Ikea seems like a good start!

Looking forward to following your reading and other adventures this year.

Ene 2, 10:16am

>24 Sakerfalcon: Thanks Claire,you too.

And I started the year’s fiction with something that might interest you: Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer. I think I’ll give Kalpa Imperial a shot because I liked Trafalgar a lot. Bit like the love-child of Stanislaw Lem and R A Lafferty with Borges (of course) officiating. Actually also a bit of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, but with action (in every sense). In short, just the sort of thing I like. Maybe it really is unique. There’s even a mention or two of strelitzias.

Ene 2, 1:02pm

Happy New Year!

Ene 2, 9:47pm

Happy New Year, Richard! I hope all your books in 2021 are wonderful.

Ene 2, 11:00pm

>25 haydninvienna: I haven't read Trafalgar, but I did enjoy Kalpa Imperial. Renee Gladman's Ravicka books seem like they might have a similar vibe. Alas, they aren't available in the library system. I'll have to purchase them someday in order to see if they are readalikes.

Ene 3, 2:00am

>27 clamairy: Thanks clam, and the same to you.

Ene 3, 7:51am

>25 haydninvienna: Trafalgar is on my TBR pile! I bought the recent Penguin edition of it last year in a brief window while bookshops were open. I will definitely move it up the pile.

>28 libraryperilous: I really want to try the Ravicka books too, but they are just a little bit more than I want to spend on something that is a largely unknown quantity.

Ene 3, 8:18am

>28 libraryperilous: >30 Sakerfalcon: Hmm, the Ravicka books do look interesting. You might have guessed from the references to Borges and Calvino, and my liking for The Night Circus, that I enjoy the dreamy, other-worldly stuff.

Ene 3, 11:16pm

Happy New Year!

Ene 4, 11:57am

Happy New Year Richard!

>25 haydninvienna: I am just catching up with threads and already you hit me with a BB. You are picking up bad habits from Peter...

Ene 4, 12:33pm

>30 Sakerfalcon:, >31 haydninvienna: They sound so interesting, kind of a dreamy dystopia. Unfortunately, Amazon and Google Books don't preview pages available. If I ever find them in a library system or a used bookshop, I'll snag one. As Claire notes, they're a bit pricey to be so mysterious.

Ene 5, 9:04am

Has an unexpected trip into Bicester this morning to post some mail, and found that Cole's Books was open for collecting orders. I hadn't ordered anything but I asked the nice lady at the desk outside if I could buy a book if I could tell her exactly what I wanted. Of course, she said. So I bought A Promised Land by Barack Obama, which I've been meaning to buy for a while, but would rather buy it from a real bookshop. (I paid £25 for it. I could have had it for £17 from Tesco, but I'd prefer to help keep Coles in business.) While she was getting it I spotted The Philosophy of Cheese on a table in the shop and bought that as well. (Hm, no touchstone for that one, and I seem to have the only copy. I would have thought that every GD-er would need a copy.)

And I ordered Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer as well.

Ene 5, 3:22pm

For any one who wondered about the little exchange about Maddy Prior in -pilgrim-'s thread, this is what we were talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY3MnQRVmOc&list=PLtShVDTGGyKBt2m-Qelb-5ha7Z.... No vision, unfortunately.

Editado: Ene 5, 10:48pm

>36 haydninvienna: Thanks, that helped!

Ene 6, 8:06am

>37 Karlstar: Do you agree that "vehement" is a good description?

At the moment I'm reading The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow. It's about the group of manufacturers, scientists and writers that gathered around Lichfield and Birmingham in the late 18th century, including Erasmus Darwin (physician, inventor, writer and grandfather of Charles Darwin), Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley and James Watt. There were others; ten of the Lunar Men became Fellows of the Royal Society. They met at each others' houses on the nearest Monday to the full moon each month, so that there would be moonlight for the journey home. It's a lovely book, full of memorable characters, especially the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, with his inventions, his charities (he was famous for treating poor patients for free, and was invited to become physician to King George III but declined) and his enormous appetites. Erasmus Darwin seems to have had a pretty good idea of evolution well before his famous grandson.

But (and you knew there was going to be a "but"): it joins my ongoing series of 300,000,000 about the decay in editing. On page 205 I found this:
The second was a sidereal clock: this is a 'star clock' rather than a solar mean-time clock; it measures time between successive appearances of the same star on the observer's meridian (apparently astronauts use sidereal time because it is more accurate).
Up to where the parenthesis opens, that's fine: the sidereal day is indeed the interval between two crossings of the meridian by a particular star (actually, the point on the celestial sphere called the vernal equinox). However, the point of a sidereal clock is that its "day" is shorter than a standard day. The standard ("solar") day is the interval between two crossings of the Sun across the observer's meridian, and because of the revolution of the Earth round the Sun, the solar day is about 4 minutes longer than a sidereal day. (Obvious when you think about it: in going once around the Sun, the Earth has turned one more time relative to the stars.) This is why a particular star rises earlier every night, and it's also why we get the whole messy business of leap years, because in 365 days that 4 minutes adds up to a little more than a day, so that the seasons slowly drift out of alignment with the movement of the constellations. So "sidereal time" is neither more nor less accurate; it's just a different way of defining a day.

According to the Internet, the International Space Station operates on Universal Coordinated Time, as aviation on Earth mostly does. I think the Apollo missions operated on whatever was the current time in Houston.

The sidereal clock was built by John Whitehurst, another of the Lunar Men.

Ene 6, 8:59am

Interesting. With the libraries closed again due to lockdown, I'm again reduced to re-reading my own collection. And the other day was mildly surprised to see, in the National Trust Guide, Matthew Boulton's name in connection with the collection in one or another stately home. Makes sense when I read the Wikipedia entry, but I've now forgotten which stately home.

Ene 6, 1:42pm

>39 hfglen: Boulton was apparently big time in metalware, as big as Wedgwood in pottery.

Ene 6, 3:32pm

Gotta pass this on, from The Lunar Men again: Wedgwood's wife Sally telling him that he "... must buy no more books 'till I build another house and .. first to read some of those I already have".

Ene 6, 5:35pm

>41 haydninvienna: Now there is a coincidence. I got basically the same message from my wife last Sunday.

Ene 6, 10:33pm

>38 haydninvienna: Yes, it does. >41 haydninvienna: The Lunar Men sounds great, I may have to look into that one.

Ene 7, 4:03am

>43 Karlstar: Despite my little gripe above about the sidereal time. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

Ene 7, 6:52am

>41 haydninvienna:, >42 pgmcc: My husband surprised me the other day by switching from "too many books" to "we need more shelves".
If you just wait long enough... ;-)

On the "holding thumbs" it is old Swedish. According to folk lore one could stop the ill spirits from wreaking havoc by holding on to them, keeping them in place, and the figure of speech means just that: bringing luck by keeping the meanies in check. The history is disputed, some trace it back to Roman times, but I think that might be wishful thinking.
The Germans sometimes says "die Daumen drücken", with the same meaning.

Originally it is a gesture that has evolved into a figure of speech: in Sweden it is used for non-verbal comminucation.
("Fingers crossed", as used in Norway, Denmark, and the anglophone world, here means "I'm lying". It's a gesture done behind one's back, nixing whatever it is you are saying.)

And btw - happy new year!

Editado: Ene 7, 7:17am

>45 Busifer:
("Fingers crossed", as used in Norway, Denmark, and the anglophone world, here means "I'm lying". It's a gesture done behind one's back, nixing whatever it is you are saying.)

It is only in the last twenty years or so that I have come across the "I'm lying" meaning of "Fingers crossed". As I grew up I was only used to the term "Fingers crossed" having the same meaning you describe for "holding your thumbs". Perhaps my growing up in Northern Ireland blocked me from the "I'm lying" meaning of the term. After all, nobody in Northern Ireland tells lies so there would be no need for such a meaning.

My husband surprised me the other day by switching from "too many books" to "we need more shelves".
If you just wait long enough... ;-)

I had a similar occurrence on Sunday. The five bookcases I put into my wife's office, "The West Wing", are filling up with her books and other items. I had been hoping I could get some of my books out of boxes and onto shelves where they could be browsed more readily.

On Sunday my wife said I had too many books (grounds for divorce right there) and that I was not to buy any more books until I got rid of some. I suggested that we continue the recent trend we have followed of reclaiming the use of our rooms from keeping them for our offspring who have left by turning one of the north facing bedrooms, the smallest room, into a library and I could put my books there. She protested that this would not happen, despite my being aware that she had already discussed this idea with my son. (Knowledge is power. Intelligence gathering is never wasted.)

My wife has been enjoying the novelty of using the repurposed dinning-room as a "den" and her newly cleared office as somewhere to hang out.

Politician that she is, she shifted the discussion to, well, if we are going to do that you will have to disassemble the big bunk-bed in the other room and move the bed in the small room there, so that I have one guest bedroom.

The deal was done. She is now happy that we will have one guest bedroom and a reading room upstairs. :-) I can get four Billy bookcases in there in addition to one bookcase that is already there. That should be sufficient to clear some boxes that I can then use to put new books in. :-)

As you said, Busifer, If you just wait long enough... ;-)

Editado: Ene 7, 7:25am

>45 Busifer: >46 pgmcc: I now know both meanings of the crossed fingers, but I had the impression that crossed fingers meant "I'm lying" (or "I'm not really promising") when the fingers were behind one's back.

And in the continuing saga of my Billy bookcases, the 2 missing ones were delivered this morning.

Ene 7, 7:24am

>46 pgmcc: "After all, nobody in Northern Ireland tells lies so there would be no need for such a meaning."
Made me laugh!

And good on the new library! Knowledge is indeed power, and good on her for using her political skills on some deal-making that benefits all parties concerned :-)

I so wish we had extra rooms, but living within the city proper makes space premium.

Ene 7, 7:26am

>47 haydninvienna: So you will now have four? The two missing and refunded, and the two newly ordered?

Ene 7, 7:30am

>49 Busifer: Now I have 6 8cm ones and 2 4cm ones in that room, plus another non-IKEA one I pinched from another bedroom. Basically all the walls covered except for the space under the window.

And given a sufficient income, I could stand to live in Stockholm. Or Dublin for that matter.

Ene 8, 10:36am

The new bookcases are now assembled and I’ve been rung by the movers to suggest delivery next Tuesday. Excellent timing.

Another book, and it’s a jewel: Travel Light By Naomi Mitchison. The tale of Halla, the princess, who was cast out as a baby and adopted by a bear and then a dragon, saw Constantinople and negotiated with the Emperor, and didn’t marry the hero. As good (in my opinion) as Tolkien, but only 135 pages. Praise from Amal El-Mohtar and Ursula Le Guin, if that helps. I think I took a BB on this from somebody on LT, but can’t remember who.

Just in case, the Christianity is front and centre but not as propaganda: plenty of churchmen appear but most are corrupt, and the faith is seen from outside; Halla is never said to be a Christian.

I seem to remember that Mitchison knew Tolkien and C S Lewis, and she seems to have been one of the early fans of LOTR. The death of Halla’s dragon mentor Uggi made me look sharply at the date of first publication because it reminded me of The Hobbit, but it won’t be giving too much away to say that Uggi is a much more amiable creature than Tolkien’s dragon.

The introduction seems to think it’s a children’s book. It isn’t, or if it is it’s one of the kind that Lewis said were the only good ones—ones that are good for adults as well. Serious stuff—there are battles, people die, there is cruelty and injustice and corruption, but justice is done in the end. In case I’m not being clear enough, I loved it. If you’re a fan of Tolkien, it’s more than worth a try.

Ene 8, 10:44am

>51 haydninvienna: That does sound tempting.

Ene 8, 11:16am

>52 -pilgrim-: I say again, I thought it was terrific.

Incidentally,I notice that I’m good at saying that “I’m reading ...” but not so good at saying “I’ve finished ...”. I did finish In No Uncertain Terms by Helen Suzman, and The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow.

Of the first, I can say that she must have been a very remarkable and very tough woman—Margaret Thatcher could probably have taken her correspondence course in determination—and she reminded me that in all places and at all times, no matter how bad things seemed, there have been decent people.

Of the second, it was good right to the end. What a rich and strange crew of characters though. I mentioned Erasmus Darwin above. Matthew Boulton was an entrepreneur, who started making “toys” (trinkets, not playthings) and was by turns a builder of steam engines (in partnership with James Watt), a canal promoter, a manufacturer of elaborate and beautiful “beautiful things” (one of them the sidereal clock: there’s a photo of it in the book) for the houses of the wealthy, and finally the operator of a mint, striking copper coins, medallions and tokens in what was, for the time, huge quantities. Wedgwood was, as you would expect, pottery. He worked out that although there was prestige in selling beautiful things to the ultra-wealthy, there was more profit in selling good, well-designed ware to the middle class. Even that was beautiful. The book discusses the Frog Service made to special order for Catherine the Great. Although the base was Wedgwood’s everyday “cream ware”, there were 1,500 pieces in the service and every one carried a different design, which had to include a frog.

Then there was the Dissenting clergyman Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen without actually realising it, and who got into trouble for his religious views—his house was sacked by the mob and he left for America. And the Scottish doctor and academic William Small, who had taught at the College of William and Mary, and whose pupils included Thomas Jefferson. Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander appear also. Half of the scientific great and good of Europe were among their correspondents—Linnaeus father and son, and Lavoisier.

It occurs to me to wonder why there are London books, and Edinburgh books, and Oxford books, but not much in the way of Birmingham books, nor Glasgow books. Novelists evidently don’t care for trade. C S Lewis says somewhere that there are few poets or novelists of “work”—the only one he could name was Kipling.

Ene 8, 11:22am

>51 haydninvienna: I adored Travel light when I read it a few years ago (too long ago for me to have fired the BB that hit you!). It is a lovely little book. I should reread it.

Ene 8, 1:37pm

>54 Sakerfalcon: The LTer who fired the BB was either Niko (https://www.librarything.com/topic/298273#6633239) or wandering_star (https://www.librarything.com/topic/280064#6595857), probably the latter. But from Niko's comment: "It's a crime this didn't become a well-known children's classic alongside Narnia or E. Nesbit's work and the like.". I agree.

Ene 8, 3:22pm

>51 haydninvienna: Travel Light is going to be a BB for me. I read and enjoyed Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman a couple of years ago. Nice shot, Richard!

Ene 8, 4:41pm

>56 ScoLgo: I try. And I’ve been thinking for a while about giving Memoirs of a Spacewoman a go, so ...

Editado: Ene 9, 4:02pm

>46 pgmcc: (Knowledge is power. Intelligence gathering is never wasted.) So the espionage activity is not just your day job then. Just as I had suspected.

And >51 haydninvienna: I'm going to check with a friend who specializes in children's lit to see if she has a copy of Travel Light. I am intrigued.

Ene 9, 5:18pm

>58 jillmwo: You know how difficult it is to keep one’s work from spilling into one’s private life.

Ene 9, 10:58pm

>51 haydninvienna: As good (in my opinion) as Tolkien, but only 135 pages.

Haha, I'm interested! Going to check Travel Light out...

Ene 10, 4:24pm

And changing track with a sharp jerk: now reading A Promised Land

Ene 11, 6:20am

>55 haydninvienna: I met wandering_star for dinner at the South Bank Centre a couple of years ago, before she and other LT friends went to a concert. I can well believe she is a dangerous BB shooter.

>56 ScoLgo:, >57 haydninvienna: I too want to read Memoirs of a spacewoman. Now which box is my copy in?

Ene 11, 6:34am

Este usuario ha sido eliminado por spam.

Ene 12, 10:17am

Well, the better tomorrow may just have arrived, in at least one way. The movers turned up this morning, on time, did their stuff, and left, all within an hour. They brought the right number of boxes (all, apparently, the right ones), unpacked the ones I asked them to unpack, and took the trash away with them. My new bookcases are now almost completely full (not quite, there's still room for a few more books).

This is the first time for almost 15 years that the whole collection has been under one roof.

Ene 12, 10:41am

This is the first time for almost 15 years that the whole collection has been under one roof.
CONGRATULATIONS! I envy you. I have only managed to reduced three locations to two, with losses on the way...

Ene 12, 10:45am

This is the first time for almost 15 years that the whole collection has been under one roof.
That sounds like cause for celebration! And what better way to celebrate than buying more books?

Ene 12, 10:54am

>64 haydninvienna: That sounds like heaven.

Sounds like you have too much shelf space. As Sakerfalcon said, you need to buy more books.

Ene 12, 11:09am

>64 haydninvienna: Excellent, happy news!

Ene 12, 12:19pm

>65 -pilgrim-: >66 Sakerfalcon: >67 pgmcc: >68 libraryperilous: Thanks all. I must admit that after the collection got split up in 2006 there were a good few losses, but the only one I really miss is a laboriously acquired US edition of The Satanic Verses from the time of the fatwa, which I have never read nor particularly wanted to—I just react badly to book-burners. Someone at a LifeLine Book Fair back in Canberra may be in for a small surprise.

Ene 12, 12:21pm

>67 pgmcc: Like I need persuading! You always were a master enabler, Pete.

Ene 13, 5:31pm

>64 haydninvienna: Congratulations!

Similar congratulations to >45 Busifer: and >46 pgmcc: on more space for books.

Editado: Ene 15, 10:16am

Already started on the task of filling the remaining space. My order for Kalpa Imperial came in, so I picked that up, and at the same time, finally weakening, I bought Piranesi. One minor weirdness: I entered Piranesi in My Books using the app on my phone. When I looked at the work page, the title is shown as “Piranesi: ‘Spectacular!’ The Times”. What kind of nonsense is that?

ETA: I just clicked on the touchstone and a page with that title is indeed what I get. I assume the “title” comes from Amazon somehow.

Ene 15, 11:14am

>72 haydninvienna: I have been tempted by Piranesi but have not weakened yet. I enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but was not ecstatic about it. I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

Susanna Clarke was the Guest of Honour at Phoenix Convention III. I had the pleasurable job of collecting her and her partner, Colin Greenland, from the airport and bringing them to The Ashling Hotel near the Phoenix Park. They are a lovely couple.

Ene 16, 3:17pm

>64 haydninvienna: first time for almost 15 years that the whole collection has been under one roof.

How luxurious and how splendid! You must be wallowing in the abundance while rediscovering and crowing over long "lost" copies.

Ene 17, 1:47pm

>74 jillmwo: I don't know about wallowing, but I'm definitely feeling pleased about it.

Still going with A Promised Land, which for obvious reasons I'm not going to say too much about other than that it's well written, and Mr Obama knows how to tell a story (probably not by native talent, since he mentions several times how he had to learn not to give over-detailed wonkish answers to questions). The thing I find fascinating though, having never been a policy-maker but having for many years worked close to them, is how much effort had to go into getting support for a measure from his own side. Where I came from, Ministers would introduce bills in Parliament, and since a minister is a member of the government and sits in Parliament, he or she can normally expect complete support. I have to keep in mind that the President does not sit in Congress and cannot rely on the support of even his or her "own" party.

And as to rediscovering lost treasures: I still have a copy of Paul Brickhill's The Dam Busters, which this flying-mad boy was given as a birthday present in 1958. Which is connected to Mr Obama's book, in a sideways kind of way. I was thinking about how far Mr Obama's book might have been ghost-written. He certainly credits his editor, but a lot of authors do that, and there are famous cases like Thomas Wolfe: I gather that there are those who suggest that Look Homeward, Angel was "really" written by Maxwell Perkins, his editor. I'm going to assume that Mr Obama really wrote every word, guided by a skilled editor, in line with the comment above about how he had to be taught to answer questions. But another of Paul Brickhill's books was Reach for the Sky, a biography of the legless fighter pilot Douglas Bader. (Yup, read that too.) After the book became a best-seller, Bader (no shrinking violet he) apparently wanted a cut of Brickhill's royalties because he had had to live the life first. So I got wondering: there's a kind of spectrum from a hypothetical Bader autobiography really written by him, to an autobiography written by him but heavily edited, to a ghostwritten autobiography, to a properly acknowledged biography.

Ene 17, 2:09pm

>75 haydninvienna: And then there is the distinction between the authorised biography, in which the subject cooperates in exchange for some editorial control, and the unauthorised, where the author includes or omits whatever they want (within the bounds of the libel laws).

Ene 18, 10:24am

>64 haydninvienna: Congrats on having all the books under one roof!

Editado: Ene 18, 10:55am

>72 haydninvienna: >73 pgmcc: >76 -pilgrim-: How do you organize paperbacks vs. hardcovers? I tend to use the top 2 or 3 shelves for paperbacks and the lower 2 for hardcovers, if possible, then try to keep the same letters of the alphabet in the same bookcase, but that's not always possible.

Ene 18, 11:52am

>78 Karlstar: I will send you photographs when I have filled the bookshelves. If there is any system there I will let you work it out. :-)

Ene 18, 12:00pm

>78 Karlstar: I do not sort alphabetically, but thematically. Fiction too gets sorted by genre, and only then alphabetically.

And I try to avoid buying hardbacks (from both cost and space considerations), so I do not have too many problems with series being split between different size volumes.

The bottom shelves get the big, heavy volumes, the topmost ones the paperback series. The middle ones - the ones that I find easier to reach, get the non-series items, that I cannot predict when I will next want to access.

However I am still living with most of my books either inaccessible (due to travel regulations) or in crates. I am still in the rental accommodation that I expected to be temporary "whilst I sold my house".

My reading this currently includes much more electronic reading than I have ever done before. Otherwise it has two streams - the books that I intend to keep, and disposable volumes that I can take into a hospital, knowing that they may not be kept afterwards (and generally requiring less concentration!)

I wanted to slim down the inherited part of my collection, but getting them out of storage is an incredibly dusty job, which is not really compatible with current breathing issues.

So my current circumstances are hardly an ideal illustration!

Editado: Ene 19, 12:14pm

>79 pgmcc: Please do!

>80 -pilgrim-: If you folks don't mind, I'll explain my organization over on my thread so I stop hijacking Richard's. (edited for punctuation)

Ene 19, 3:30pm

>81 Karlstar: Jim, I hijack other people’s threads enough, so I’m not going to complain about someone hijacking mine. I’m putting off the job of organising the books—don’t want to face all that carrying and sorting.

Still going on A Promised Land, which is a good read in many ways but it’s long. So I picked up Kalpa Imperial as a change of pace. I’m not sure how to describe this. The nearest I can come is that it’s kind of like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, but not really. It’s a series of loosely connected tales, told by a storyteller in the market of a vaguely-Eastern-sounding place, about the great empire, its cities, its wars and peace, and the emperors and empresses who ruled it. (I just realised that it kind of reminds me of the “Arabian Nights”.) I’m not sure that “Kalpa” is the name of the empire, although I don’t recall any other: the word is Sanskrit for a very, very long period of time, and it appears that the Empire has indeed existed for a very, very long time. But it’s not a history, properly speaking, although one of the quotes on the back cover calls it “The elaborate history of an imaginary country”—the tales don’t connect and there isn't any chronology. What Gorodischer is really doing, I think, is meditating on power, who has it and why, and what the uses of it are. Sakerfalcon, I recall that you were a bit meh about it: did you find the lack of any connected story a problem?

Ene 20, 8:16am

>82 haydninvienna: I haven't read it yet, Richard, although I have started it now! I'm really enjoying it so far. I like the random nature of the stories (it means I can dip in and out of the book without feeling like I need a recap), and I agree that they are connected by the theme of power rather than chronologically. So far my favourite story is The natural history of ferrets. Invisible cities is a good comparison; another might be Hav which is one of my absolute favourite books.

Ene 20, 11:12am

>82 haydninvienna: I sympathize completely! This job would be easy if I would just stop finding scifi/fantasy authors with names that start with B and C randomly shelved. CJ Cherryh especially keeps popping up long after I've moved on to the H-L range. I feel like I'm doing a bubble sort through 1700 books 1 book at a time.

Ene 20, 11:35am

>84 Karlstar: The idea of a bubble sort occurred to me too.

Ene 20, 12:56pm

>84 Karlstar: Sounds like us when we moved and merged 2 libraries, weeding out duplicates and print copies of ebooks...

When we moved, I got loads of the larger size (in the UK) flat sturdy cardboard boxes; those 'fitted' two rows of mass-market paperbacks. Trades and hardcovers when into smaller boxes. My library was already sorted (I'd had a big cataloguing push the year before for the London Worldcon), and it was a matter of sorting Paul's books and getting them in alphabetical order, along with the trades and hardcovers.

Then it was a matter of fettling the old book cases to fit in the converted garage (lower ceiling), and slotting everything in. We did another weeding at the start of lockdown, and condensed down further. (I have 2 flat boxes in the car along with a shopper of trades waiting for the charity shops to reopen.)

Eventually, I will clear the bookcases out of the hall and bedroom, and off the landing... I must go through the sitting room bookcases too - those are general fiction, crime fiction, graphic novels and art books, and the classics. Hopefully that will gain sufficient space for the romance novels to come out of the bedroom.

Ene 20, 3:22pm

>86 Maddz: Those sound like conveniently sized boxes. I'm still trying to work out how the collection is going to wind its way out of the library and upstairs. In the old house V-Z was condemned to the basement, here I think it is going to be upstairs where no one but me will see them.

Ene 20, 4:26pm

>87 Karlstar: They're standard-sized UK supermarket produce boxes. The great thing is that they also have lugs in the bottom so they stack safely. I've been using them for years; you just have to make sure you get ones that are sturdy enough and deep enough (some types are on the flimsy side and can be too shallow).

Ene 22, 12:08pm

Finished Kalpa Imperial. Sakerfalcon, if you haven’t read it all, wait till you get to the last story, “The Old Incense Road”, in which you will find a story-within-a-story which mixes up the Big Bang with the Trojan War and a few other things.

Ene 24, 5:50pm

Kudos to you for buying A Promised Land at a real bookstore. I did the same at the only bookstore near me. I then bought a copy at Costco to give my sister for Christmas. And then used one of my audible credits for the audiobook so our former president can read his book to me. I'm about 1/3rd in and loving it. He has such a self deprecating sense of humor.

Editado: Ene 25, 3:54pm

>90 clamairy: Rather than finish A Promised Land, I read Dreams of My Father (which I also bought in a real bookshop). An astonishing book. Rather less humour in this, but still a brilliant book. I'm not going to say much else about it, but it'd definitely be on the short list for most memorable read of 2021. Now I'll get on with the other book.

Ene 25, 5:55pm

>91 haydninvienna: I read that one back in 2007 or 2008. I've never forgotten the effect it had on me. Glad you decided to read that as well. (I thought it read like prose poetry in places.)

Ene 26, 10:10am

Now finished A Promised Land. Memorable. Long, but gripping. His description of his successor is almost worth the price of the book on its own. (Clam, can i say that?)

>91 haydninvienna: He really does write well—and he comes across as a thoroughly decent, likeable human being, who clearly adores Michelle and their daughters.

Ene 26, 11:26am

>89 haydninvienna: I will look forward to that!

Ene 26, 3:08pm

>93 haydninvienna: Why not? You didn't actually share what he said, so there is nothing to edit. LOL

Ene 27, 7:02am

I had the day off yesterday, so read The Audacity of Hope. It's a much quicker read and much more policy-oriented, so you get less of Obama the human being. Still interesting and still impressive.

I still have Becoming on the shelf, but I think I might take a rest from the former President and First Lady, and take up Piranesi or The Starless Sea next.

Ene 27, 7:40am

>96 haydninvienna: I will be interested in your views on Piranesi.

Ene 27, 12:28pm

>93 haydninvienna: I read an excerpt that contained his spot-on description of a well-known senator. I imagine the book is littered with acute portraits of famous Washingtonians.

Ene 27, 5:27pm

Saw this Tweet from Obama while I was timeline surfing and thought it might be of interest. He answers a book club's question about the title of one of his books.

Editado: Ene 28, 3:36pm

>99 libraryperilous: Thanks for that. Assuming that the commentator who said "Such a class act" wasn't being sarcastic, I thoroughly agree.

I remember that Mr Obama used to post lists of his reading. Here is one compiled list: https://www.listchallenges.com/books-barack-obama-has-read-and-recommended.

And for something completely different: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/recreate-the-menu-of-pompeii-ancient-pub.

>97 pgmcc: You might have to wait a bit for Piranesi, Peter. I started The Ten Thousand Doors of January instead (it was a BB from 2wonderY, and it's been sitting on the shelf since September last year).

Ene 28, 2:35pm

>100 haydninvienna: I have that on my shelf as well, so I will be interested in your views.

Ene 28, 3:06pm

>101 pgmcc: BTW Pete—Carlo Rovelli has another collection of essays out: There Are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important than Kindness. I know nothing more about it than that.

Ene 28, 3:32pm

>102 haydninvienna: Stop it. I am in enough trouble as it is.

Feb 1, 4:23pm

Stuck on The Ten Thousand Doors of January (only temporarily, I think) and started Piranesi. So far: beautifully written, as you would expect, mostly in a weird pastiche of eighteenth-century English, with many (but not all) nouns capitalised—I haven't worked out why yet—but with occasional, obviously deliberate, wrong notes, like the reference to the smell of petrol in "Piranesi's" strange world; in "Piranesi's" dialogues with the "Other", "Piranesi" speaks pastiche and the "Other" speaks ordinary modern English, although the great work in which the "Other" is engaged doesn't exactly fit into our world. Like a blend of Borges and Italo Calvino: there seems to be quite a bit of this going around.

Feb 2, 9:28am

You are pushing Piranesi higher up my TBR pile. Borges and Calvino are two of my favourite writers.

Feb 4, 3:41pm

I wanted a change from fantasy, so picked up Moondust by Andrew Smith. And put it back down again. I see from the blurb that it's "in search of the men who fell to earth". Maybe so, but in the first few pages there's quite a bit about 10-year-old Andrew Smith, including TMi about one of his friends' genitalia. Interested in the likes of Neil Armstrong as I am, I don't need to know about Andrew Smith, no matter how fascinating a character he might be. Nor do I need to be told about 1969—I was there. DNF about 10 pages in.

Feb 5, 5:18am

>106 haydninvienna: The biographer who finds himself not interesting than his subject seems very common nowadays.

Ouch. I would much rather read your description of "what it was like in 1969" than his - because I have (sort of) met you. Personal context only works if you have some acquaintance with the person (such as their views on completely unrelated topics).

Feb 5, 11:51am

>105 Sakerfalcon: Push it right to the top, I suggest. I finally finished it this afternoon. Very strange, indeed, but not what I expected. It is indeed beautiful in its own way, but the bits of quotes on the back of the jacket give a somewhat misleading impression. I wonder if the lines about suffering a sea-change into something rich and strange, from The Tempest, lie somewhere in the background. I will say no more other than that I enjoyed it, and that Susanna Clarke can write like nobody's business.

Feb 5, 1:13pm

>108 haydninvienna: That is one book that I did not buy in a Kindle deal, because In know that I want a physical copy.

Feb 5, 1:19pm

>107 -pilgrim-: You wouldn't find my recollections of 1969 very interesting, I fear. Mainly angst about whether I'd get drafted and end up in Vietnam getting shot at (I didn't, but I knew people who did). Australia was nearing the end of a long period of conservative governments and the big wave of immigration from Asia hadn't started yet.

Feb 5, 1:28pm

>109 -pilgrim-: As I put it back on the shelf just now, I was thinking how beautiful the book was. It's a gorgeous dust-jacket, although the jacket is misleading too, in a way. Only thing is that like most "hardbacks" now, it's actually an ordinary glued paperback with a hard cover, and my copy at least didn't open well. Still, you definitely do want a physical copy. I have read, but don't own, Susanna Clarke's other short book, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, (also recommended, if you haven't read it) and that's another beautiful cover.

Feb 5, 2:04pm

>110 haydninvienna: Well, that was genuinely interesting, because my memories of the Vietnam War are very vague. I was not aware of the extent of Australia's involvement.

Feb 5, 2:56pm

>112 -pilgrim-: Obviously the Australian commitment to Vietnam was on nothing like the scale of the US one, but something like 60,000 Australian army, air force and navy service people did some time in Vietnam between 1962 and 1973, mostly army of course. I did some time in the Army Reserve in 1979-80 and there were still plenty of people around wearing a Vietnam service ribbon. Vietnam is a significant piece of mental furniture for Australian men of about my age, as Iraq and Afghanistan will be for my sons' cohort.

Feb 6, 9:10am

Another bit of hope for a better tomorrow: I've just had my first Covid vaccine shot. I got rung by my local NHS practice to make the appointment at the beginning of the week. They are obviously pushing them through as fast as possible—no nonsense about turning up at the doctor's surgery, they are using a shed at Bicester Airfield (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicester_Airfield), which used to be an RAF airfield but is now a heritage centre. Lots of volunteers doing traffic control. Fortunately today is one of the nicest days so far this winter, but the prediction for the week is more snow and cold.

I have fond memories of that airfield. There is still a gliding club operating from it (and I have flown in one of their gliders), and then there was the time a few years ago that one of the remaining flying Mustangs landed there one Saturday afternoon. I went down to see the landing, and helped to push the Mustang into a hangar afterwards. Didn't wash my hands for a week.

Feb 6, 9:17am

>114 haydninvienna:
there was the time a few years ago that one of the remaining flying Mustangs landed there one Saturday afternoon. I went down to see the landing, and helped to push the Mustang into a hangar afterwards

Am green with envy, again.

Feb 6, 9:19am

>114 haydninvienna:
That is great news. Well done. The UK is making great progress on the vaccine roll-out.

It was lovely that the location was somewhere significant in itself and also to you.

Feb 6, 9:27am

Este usuario ha sido eliminado por spam.

Editado: Feb 7, 7:49am

>115 -pilgrim-: >116 pgmcc: Thanks both of you.

Normally I work on Saturdays but I'm taking there afternoon off in honour of the occasion. And I've just had one of those moments. I was looking at the Wikipedia front page for today, which has one of those "did you know" teasers about Jorge Luis Borges' very short story "The House of Asterion". I clicked through and read Wikipedia's summary and thought how like some bits of Piranesi it sounded. (I read the story years ago.) So I went and got my copy of the collection Labyrinths, which contains that story. Reading it, I came upon this:
It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose number is infinite)* are open day and night to men and to animals as well.
*The original says fourteen, but there is ample reason to infer that, as used by Asterion, this numeral stands for infinite.(footnote in text)

I remember that somewhere in the Susanna Clarke corpus there is a country squire or nobleman with a great house that he named something like "Castle of Towers Without Number" in dog-French, but there were actually 14 towers. I thought it was in The Ladies of Grace Adieu, but I don't have a copy. Piranesi thought there were 15 people in the world, so himself and 14 others, only one of whom was actually alive.

I'm taking this as evidence that there is some of "The House of Asterion" in Piranesi (along with a lot of other stuff of course).

Feb 6, 6:16pm

>118 haydninvienna: You have been pushing me to buy both The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Piranesi. I am still heading that way but have not quite fallen over the threshold.

What you did prompt me to do was go searching for a copy of Labyrinths that I believe is in the house. I did not find it where I thought it was, but I did find my Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. It has The House of Asterioin and I shall read it tonight. It appears to be quite short.

Feb 7, 7:51am

Re the reference to The Ladies of Grace Adieu in #118, I found this in the Goodreads quotes:
With characteristic exuberance Tom named this curiously constructed house Castel des Tours saunz Nowmbre, which means the Castle of Innumerable Towers. David Montefiore had counted the innumerable towers in 1764. There were fourteen of them.

Feb 7, 8:29am

>120 haydninvienna: You are making a strong case for the mystical nature of the number fourteen. I did hear once that many people get the name of being a genius, not because they are very smart, but because most people cannot count over fourteen.

There is a book I have, and cannot remember the title at the moment, which is about the numeracy of people around the world and the different ways people think of numbers. There is a report on an isolated South American indigenous tribe where there is the concept of one and the concept of more than one, i.e. no concept of two, or three, etc... I will seek out the book later and report the title. Perhaps fourteen is a general limit where many people can count up to fourteen and after that is infinity, or "I couldn't be bothered counting more", or, "Oops! I lost count again."

Feb 7, 5:42pm

>121 pgmcc: My son used to count, "One, two, three, a bunch."

Feb 7, 5:55pm

>122 MrsLee: Genius!

Feb 9, 11:56am

Finally finished The Ten Thousand Doors of January. Another one that, if anyone has it on their TBR, should move it up. Lots of beautiful writing and a couple of pretty nasty villains. I notice there's a quote from Amal el-Mohtar in praise of it: I still have This is How You Lose the Time War on my TBR. But I made some more progress with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell along the way, so perhaps I should finish that next.

Feb 9, 12:07pm

>124 haydninvienna:
Moving it up my tbr pile now.

Feb 9, 12:48pm

>124 haydninvienna: I love This Is How You Lose the Time War. Despite its short length, it's a story you can read slowly and savor. Also: "Adventure works in any strand—it calls to those who care more for living than for their lives."

I DNFed The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I can understand why lots of readers like it.

Feb 9, 2:47pm

>124 haydninvienna: I had The Ten Thousand Doors of January on my reading plans for this year already, so I won't pull it up, but I am happy to read you enjoyed it and I look forward to trying it!

Feb 9, 3:03pm

Well, I did start on This Is How You Lose the Time War and what do I see on page 91 but "Blue" recommending Travel Light to "Red". I'd recommend it too.

Editado: Feb 10, 3:25pm

>126 libraryperilous: I have now finished This Is how You Lose the Time War. I'm thinking of it as being more poetry than anything else. There's not much story for its 198 pages, but who cares? Lots of lovely writing. I've been known to say in the past that "beautifully written" counts as dispraise, but not this time. Interesting that of the comments on the back, the one that "gets" it the best seems to me to be the one by Martha Wells.

ETA My reading slump of last year seems to have ended. In 6 weeks this year I've read 12 books, as against 46 for the whole of last year. Of this year's 12, 7 were by women and 3 of the others were by Barack Obama. I don't know what any of that proves.

Editado: Mar 4, 5:51pm

A little jeu d’esprit by Mark Vanhoenacker—you might remember Hugh and me praising his Skyfaring a while back. This little book is called How to Land a Plane (ideally a 747, of course). It’s simply a description of just that, with a bit of Mark’s commentary about the beauty and joy of flying. And he says something that I have thought many, many times “For thousands of miles and a dozen or more hours, over deserts and mountain ranges and entire oceans, its vast, shining wings are pushing and pushing against nothing more than the invisible air”. This has always seemed to me a wonderful piece of applied physics—400 or more tons of metal and plastic and people held aloft on a river of air.

Edited to correct my grammar!

Feb 12, 7:10am

>130 haydninvienna:
Very evocative.

Feb 13, 2:37pm

I want to have a little vent about something totally non-literary.

At dinner tonight Mrs H and I were debating cream with our apple pie. She wanted double cream, not the thin stuff. I assumed that what we had was double cream but it was quite pourable. After going round and round the point for a bit, I looked at the labels of 2 different products we had in the fridge. One was labelled “double cream” and it was indeed quite thick—spoonable but not pourable. Mrs H was happy with that. I then looked at the other one, and saw that the ingredients list included buttermilk, vegetable oils and various additives, but no actual cream. This one was pourable but too liquid for Mrs H. Then the penny dropped. The thin one was labelled “(BrandName) Double”. Just that. Underneath in much smaller letters was “A delicious alternative to cream”. Blargh. This stuff is kept in the dairy case in the supermarket with real cream but it isn’t. According to Wikipedia, “double cream” in the UK must be at least 48% milk fat. Really, wanting us to read a label that closely in the supermarket is a bit too much like sharp practice for me. Sorry, (BrandName), but you’re sprung now. Not only will I not buy your imitation cream, I won’t buy anything else you make.

Editado: Feb 13, 3:15pm

>132 haydninvienna: I would be on the picket line with you on that.

I have done a lot of work in the supermarket retail area. I have been fortunate enough to see the industry from the manufacturer, distributor and retail positions, also from the supporting systems angle. One of the tricks that annoys me is how big supermarket chains, and I have on big one in mind that is present in Britain and Ireland, The approach to stocking branded products, and these would be high volume goods, would be stock the market leader, the second leading brand, and your own-brand. Have your own brand product in similar coloured packaging to the market leader. On the shelves the market leader will be allocated space to the right with the second brand next to it and your own brand following. Over time you squeeze the space for the second brand and increase the shelf space for your own brand. While there is still some space for the second brand you switch your own brand to the prime position and the until then leading brand to where the own brand was.

I have seen a number of leading brands being eventually de-listed by this supermarket with their own-brand taking up the lead position.

Feb 13, 3:10pm

>132 haydninvienna: Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who are lactose-intolerant, so I either have to go for the fake stuff or lactose-free. Otherwise, I have to faff around with lactase pills, although clotted cream is not too bad for me.

Editado: Feb 13, 3:23pm

>134 Maddz: Son who Cooks is lactose intolerant also. But I’m not sure how much lactose there would be in the fake stuff. I’m not so much objecting to the stuff being ersatz, more to the deceptive labelling. The supermarket website calls it “Double Cream Alternative”, which I find slightly less objectionable.

ETA: >133 pgmcc: having seen your edit, and the description of the supermarket, I’m pretty sure we have the same chain in mind. I wouldn’t have a problem with the house brand, which as far as I know is also the real thing. The real-cream product was another chain’s own brand, but it is definitely the real deal. (The other chain is smaller but also operates in both the UK and Ireland. Know who I mean?)

Feb 13, 3:38pm

>135 haydninvienna: You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Editado: Feb 15, 4:16pm

Another piece of classic fantasy: Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. This book apparently fell so far into obscurity that when Ballantine republished it, they could not find the author to negotiate for the rights. Fortunately it is no longer obscure, having been taken up by Neil Gaiman among others. IIRC Neil said that he wrote Stardust (which I have also read) as a kind of riff on the same idea. Anyway, Lud-in-the-Mist really is a lovely little book. Bet you weren’t expecting it to be a murder mystery, though.

Feb 15, 4:23pm

>137 haydninvienna: Ooh! at your spoiler

Feb 16, 6:05am

>137 haydninvienna: I need to read this. Someone else already talked about it this year and I said that then too. I should take my copy off the shelf and leave it where I can see it.

Feb 16, 11:09am

>139 Sakerfalcon:. You do indeed need to read it.

I forgot to mention that in one of the books (might even have been Lud-in-the-Mist) I read recently I found a bookmark: a US$1 bill. I have no idea why I would have done that. However, another of my current bookmarks is an Australian $5.

Feb 16, 11:47am

I note Hugh’s comment that Youkneek wanted to see some of out home environments. Bicester is not photogenic at the moment but how about this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosden#/media/File:Ambrosden_TurnerArms.JPG. The white house next to the pub was ours for a few months. It’s an old building re-done and some of the floors weren’t level, the drains were dodgy etc. But hey, living next to a pub! And one evening Mrs H was having a kip on a sofa in the downstairs sitting room with the French windows open and a hedgehog wandered in and had a look round.

Feb 16, 1:24pm

>141 haydninvienna: Were you in the habit of keeping a stash of tasty mealworms beside the sofa? Our Spikelet hasn't made it into the house yet, mostly because it's food dish is at the end of the garden.

What we do see up by the house are the field mice - they have a nest under the shed, and every few months I have to renew the chicken wire over the holes in the shed floor. They also got into our window bird feeders - I have a photograph of one departing rapidly when I spotted it on the kitchen window (it climbed the olive tree then balanced along the bungee stopping the feeder from blowing off in high winds).

Feb 16, 1:43pm

Here's one visitor:

My gardening supervisor:

And here's Spikelet (at the bottom of the shrub in the centre of the picture):

Feb 16, 5:26pm

>141 haydninvienna: Very cool, I could see where living next to a pub might have been quite convenient! And non-level floors sounds sort of like a built in exercise opportunity.

>143 Maddz: Is it wrong that my first reaction to seeing the mouse in the bird feeder was, “Awwww, how cute!”? ;) There was some amusement in our household many years ago, just before I moved out of my parents’ house, when a mouse showed up in our house. We were playing a game or something at the kitchen table. I was facing toward the laundry room and my mom was directly across from me, facing away from the laundry room. I saw a mouse peeking through the doorway. I don’t think I’d ever even seen a mouse outside of a pet store before, but my instant reaction was to say, “Oh look, it’s a mouse!” with an “isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw?” tone of voice. My mom turned around and repeated the exact same words, but with a tone of complete horror, then jumped out of the chair and ran across the room past my side of the table. I'm not sure who was more terrified, my mom or the mouse who vanished shortly thereafter.

Feb 16, 9:39pm

>143 Maddz: Great photos all, but the mouse in the feeder is the best.

Feb 16, 9:53pm

So cool!

Feb 17, 5:10am

>143 Maddz: >144 YouKneeK: Thanks guys. Never seen a fieldmouse here (I'm probably 100 km or so from Maddz).

Feb 17, 5:13am

Here's something for those of us who have complained about a reading slump: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/social-distancing-boredom-covid-19-public-he.... I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
Certainly, many of us have lost the focus, or mental acuity, of the Before Times, Westgate says. In addition to a deadly pandemic that has brought city shutdowns and remote schooling, there have been civil rights protests, political unrest, a crippling recession and myriad other stressors both big and small. Those disturbances, which hobble our ability to stay mentally sharp, can lead to dullness. When boredom is defined this way, the busyness of, say, parents of young children provides little protection against feeling blah. In fact, Westgate and others have found that both understimulation and overstimulation can short-circuit one’s ability to pay attention.

Meanwhile, many of our lives have come unraveled. Research by personality and social psychologist Samantha Heintzelman of Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey shows that simple routines, like getting coffee from the same café every day or a standing lunch date with a friend, actually imbue life with meaning. “We’re in a collective loss of routine right now,” Heintzelman says. That is to say, the social distancing guidelines aimed at protecting us from a deadly disease have also stolen the seemingly little things that give life meaning (SN: 8/14/20).

Feb 17, 7:43am

>147 haydninvienna: Another to add to the list: male sparrowhawk this morning. Took my breakfast things out to the kitchen and wondered what was sitting on the table (the one in the hedgehog picture). It was a sparrowhawk eating breakfast (something grey so we think a wood pigeon squab or a dove). Paul said all that was left was a bloody shred and a pile of fluffy feathers.

I've got a photo but need to get it off the camera and I don't know how good it is. We've seen it before, but the photo was off the phone (digital zoom not optical).

Editado: Feb 17, 9:10am

>144 YouKneeK: my instant reaction was to say, “Oh look, it’s a mouse!” with an “isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw?” tone of voice
I did that in a meeting at work once. Absolute pandemonium ensued. I was well pleased!

>143 Maddz: Lovely photos. You are lucky to get to see wild mammals up close. I get foxes screaming every night, grey squirrels, and I once saw a badger (it was during a very dry summer so I think it had ventured into town looking for water). I have had some sparrowhawk sightings from my window, including seeing one catch a female blackbird while the male did a frantic broken wing display to try and lure it away. Nature red in tooth and claw indeed. I hope your photo comes out well.

Editado: Feb 17, 10:26am

I see red kites (or so I think) fairly regularly here, and I was amazed to learn that they were almost completely wiped out in England within my lifetime. The ones around Oxfordshire now are transplants, and are apparently thriving. I wonder what Gerard Manley Hopkins would have thought of that.

>150 Sakerfalcon: I was well pleased: does pgmcc have you in line for saboteur training?

Feb 17, 10:51am

>151 haydninvienna: I couldn't possibly comment.

Feb 17, 11:16am

>152 Sakerfalcon: Perfect response. Keep them guessing.

Feb 17, 11:28am

I can identify with this quote, pete - "Research by personality and social psychologist Samantha Heintzelman of Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey shows that simple routines, like getting coffee from the same café every day or a standing lunch date with a friend, actually imbue life with meaning."

A couple of my neighbors and I are getting together once a week or every other week for wine and cheese chats. We switch houses sometimes, but it's here quite a bit. We connect and laugh and that's a bright spot in our days.

Feb 17, 5:14pm

>150 Sakerfalcon: LOL, I bet that was funny. I should add that to my to-do list! Was an actual mouse required or did you manage to create pandemonium by merely suggesting the presence of one?

Feb 18, 7:00am

>155 YouKneeK: No, there really was a mouse! They come into the buildings in cold weather, encouraged also by the students not disposing of food waste properly. It certainly improved the meeting!

Feb 19, 5:37pm

Mice are like deer. Unbearably cute, and both cause devastating damage.

Editado: Feb 21, 9:16am

>150 Sakerfalcon: Sadly, the photo failed. I thought I'd successfully taken it, but when I went looking on the SD card it wasn't there - just some very old photos (me at Paul's company Xmas dinner many years ago, and a couple of the runner bean wigwam 2 or 3 years ago). Trouble is, I so rarely use the camera the battery tends to be low, and I forget what I'm supposed to do.

Oh well, better luck next time - my previous sparrow hawk in garden was taken on my phone so the digital zoom sucks (that was a female we think): .
You can just see the hawk at the foot of the yellow plant tables standing in a drift of light-coloured feathers. She's got a dark back and lighter-coloured breast.

Feb 21, 9:29am

>158 Maddz: Someone, I don't remember who, told me to not use the zoom on the phone camera, but simply take the image and enlarge it after. I have had more success that way, but I am in no way clever at photography. :) I like your image of the sparrow hawk. It is somewhat impressionistic, almost looks like a painting.

Feb 21, 10:38am

>159 MrsLee: It was cropped from the original, then sharpened in Graphic Converter.

Feb 21, 10:59am

>160 Maddz: See, and now you are already way beyond my knowledge! :D I do love seeing a little bit of your backyard. The hedgehog photo was very exciting! The best we get are opossums, and they are to hedgehogs what the Joker is to Mr. Rogers.

Feb 21, 11:28am

>161 MrsLee: Translation please? I presume the Joker is a Batman reference, but Mr Rogers???

Feb 21, 12:29pm

Most interesting bit of wildlife here at present (apart from the kites) is squirrels. Grey ones. Fortunately, no nests in our roof so far.

I note also that no-one picked up on the reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins in #151. Just as well, because it was wrong. Hopkins’ “morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin” was a kestrel, not a kite. Sigh—getting old sucks sometimes.

Feb 21, 1:22pm

>162 Maddz: Mr. Rogers was an incredibly sweet and gentle man with a PBS children's show called "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood." He taught gentle lessons on things that children cope with like death, terrorism, community workers, careers, and always, always, being kind to others. A precious memory for at least a couple generations.

Feb 21, 3:03pm

Just started The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. This is actually my second copy—I bought one in a charity shop in Townsville in (I think) 2017 and promptly left it in an airport lounge. But now I open the book and on the first page of the actual story I find this:
... his parents assign him a so-called authorial godfat-
her. The latter ...
Yes, they hyphenate “godfather” like that.

Feb 21, 6:18pm

>162 Maddz: yes >164 MerryMary: describes him well, although I was referring more to the look of the creatures than their nature. I don't know what nature hedgehogs have. Opossums are pretty cool until you get them in a tight spot and then they open their mouth and scare the bejeebers out of you. Fearsome looking.

Feb 22, 2:38am

>166 MrsLee: Hedgehogs tend to roll up in a ball and present you with spines instead of vulnerable bits (although that works as well as can be expected when encountering traffic while crossing roads). We tend not to see them very much - they're mostly nocturnal, but we encourage them into the garden as they eat pests.

Feb 22, 6:55am

>165 haydninvienna: I obviously didn't notice that terrible hyphenation when I read the book some years ago. But on seeing your post I had to check my copy and sure enough it is the same. What abysmal editing! That is worth of Peter and pilgrim's conversation about "things that throw you out of a book".
I hope you enjoy it despite that. I remember liking it a lot.

Feb 22, 8:27am

>168 Sakerfalcon: Yes, exactly. Can’t blame the author though. I bought this copy in Vienna, in the English-language shop Shakespeare & Co (no relation to the similarly named ones in Paris or Prague). The assistant there told me that they had had Walter Moers in the shop recently for a book signing, but no pictures—apparently he doesn’t like having pictures taken.

Feb 22, 2:04pm

>168 Sakerfalcon: Incidentally,how did you do with the jumbled-up authors’ names?

Feb 23, 5:52am

>170 haydninvienna: It must be about 15 years since I read the book, so I'd have reread it to remind myself of them. As I have the sequel sitting unread on the shelf I really should reread City of dreaming books and then carry on.

Editado: Feb 25, 3:49pm

Despite the terrible hyphenation, I enjoyed The City of Dreaming Books very much, in the end. Walter Moers is clearly as mad as a hatter, but in a good way. I have The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear somewhere as well, but maybe not straight away.

Feb 26, 6:11am

Further to #172, I decided that I should have a rest from fantasy for a while, and then this Ask.Metafilter thread popped up: https://ask.metafilter.com/352535/Judge-y-and-Gossipy-Narrative-History#inline-5.... It mentions two books by Simon Winder: Danubia and Lotharingia, respectively about the Habsburgs and Germany. I’ve been interested in the Habsburgs since “discovering” them at uni 40-odd years ago (although I was doing law, there was a requirement to take some non-law units, and some pressure to take “Government and Society in the Early Modern West”, basically the history of Europe between the rise of the Tudors in England and the end of the Thirty Years War). So I hopped onto Amazon, read the “look inside” for Danubia and was instantly hooked, and ordered both. Should be here tomorrow. After Danubia I might have another go at The Man Without Qualities, which I started many years ago and never finished, and perhaps The Good Soldier Švejk, which I actually have read.

Feb 26, 6:33am

>173 haydninvienna:
I live your sense if determination.

I loved The Good Soldier Švejk. I read it about 1980 and was bowled over by it.

Have you read The life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin? If you liked Švejk I think you would like Chonkin.

Feb 26, 6:37am

>174 pgmcc: I listened to the radio adaptation of Chonkin, and thought it superb. I found the book itself a bit slow in places (although I was much younger, and so may not have been getting all the references/ jokes).

Svejk has been on my TBR pile for far too long.

Feb 26, 6:39am

>173 haydninvienna: I read "gossipy, judge-y narrative history" and immediately thought of Suetonius...

Feb 26, 7:19am

Another fan of Svejk here! And Chonkin is on Mount TBR, a BB from Peter of course!

Feb 26, 7:28am

>176 -pilgrim-: I always remember the Suetonius character in Sphynxes Wild:

'Magic passes, but gossip goes on forever'

Editado: Feb 26, 8:45am

>174 pgmcc: The Man Without Qualities is about 1200 pages, so some determination may be necessary. As to Chonkin, I seem to remember a Goon Show episode in which Private Eccles guarded something for 20 years because nobody stood him down. I wonder if there’s a connection.

ETA >176 -pilgrim-: Or 1066 and All That, which leaves you in no doubt who were the Good Kings and Bad Kings.

Feb 26, 9:53am

>178 Maddz: Ha, amazing quote.

Feb 26, 12:52pm

A little change of pace: The Eve of Saint Venus by Anthony Burgess—yes, that Anthony Burgess. A little literary jest based loosely on the Silver Age Latin poem Pervigilium Veneris. Lots of wordplay and some rather peculiar adventures involving a wedding. I enjoyed it, but the LT rating isn’t great. Too bad.

Feb 26, 2:20pm

>179 haydninvienna: I would not be surprised about a link to The Goon Show. I am sure many of their ideas were triggered by other stories. The sequels are good fun too. I have not read the last one yet.

Feb 26, 6:44pm

I spent today having a lovely time rearranging books in my study. By coincidence some of the books I came across were The Good Soldier Švejk and The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin. I also have the sequel to Švejk, The Red Commissar and the sequels to Chonkin, The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin and The Displaced Person. I have not read The Displaced Person yet, but I did read The Further Advetures... and The Red Commissar.

I also read Voinovich's The Fur Hat which was a wonderful satire on how the animal skin used in making a fur hat indicated the social standing of the wearer. The protagonist in The Fur Hat is an author in the Soviet Union and he receives an award which involves him receiving a fur hat. He feels very honoured by this until he realises the hat is made of cat skin.

You can see an image of my Hašek and Voinovich books on my thread here

Mar 1, 4:19am

Mar 1, 8:25am

At my own risk ... what follows is a mix of thoughts from Simon Winder and my own extrapolation from therm, so don't blame him for all of it.

Danubia and Lotharingia have arrived and I’ve started with Danubia. I’m not enormously impressed with Simon Winder’s writing style: his sentence construction is less careful than I’d like and the slanginess and generally flippant tone get tiresome after a while. But when Winder drops the flippancy there’s some interesting stuff.

The British Isles and France have defensible natural boundaries; the old Habsburg Empire didn’t. That fact has enormous consequences. First, there were the Ottomans. Most of south-eastern Europe was intermittently swept by warfare in which no quarter was given, and losers would be either killed outright or taken into slavery. Consequently, large areas of the countryside were never reliably productive nor even populated. We Anglos tend to forget how much of the landscape that we know is the result of centuries of human intervention and management. (Tolkien gets this bit right: the comfortable, settled Shire compared to the chaotic wilderness outside it, the unknown guardians of its borders, and the horrors that made the guardians necessary.) The wild landscape of Transylvania is what you get in a forested land where human intervention is lacking for decades or centuries at a time. And of course there was the Thirty Years War, which similarly depopulated much of what is now Germany. Finally there were the repeated barbarian incursions from the east: more slaughter, plunder and crop-burning. You could garrison the marches, of course, and they tried, but the difficulty of trying to maintain a watch for decades at a time, all along a boundary hundreds of miles long, for an enemy that might never appear, is obvious, especially when the fastest speed possible for a message is that of a man on a horse.

I did wonder why one of the more capable Habsburg emperors didn’t try to form a military coalition against the Ottomans. However, I can see lots of reasons why not, beginning with the fact that the Emperor wasn’t actually that popular anyway. Second, destroying the Ottomans would remove a counterbalance to the Russian Empire. The Ottomans were a threat to the Russians as well as to the Habsburg Empire, and thus took up Russian resources that might have been deployed in expansion westwards. Also, taking on the Ottoman Empire meant either fighting all the way down through the Balkans to Constantinople or a sea invasion. The sea invasion might have been worth a shot given that the Habsburgs and their sometime allies had command of the sea after the Battle of Lepanto in 1572, and it was tried in 1915, but didn’t go all that well. As it was, the Ottoman Empire hung around until it was broken up at the end of the First World War.

Why did the wars continue for so long? The main reason must have been simple incompetence, hardly a failing unique to the Habsburgs. Second, the Habsburg Empire was usually broke, and then as now fighting a successful war took money, lots of it. Emperor Charles V died 36 million ducats in debt, and his son Phillip II defaulted on his bankers at least four times. I believe that much of the Habsburgs’ military success, such as it was, was won with borrowed money. (I wonder how many of the Emperors declared bankruptcy.) Armies of the times customarily lived off the country (that, is fed themselves by plunder: and of course the campaigning season was the time when the harvests were being got in) and were often left unpaid (more plunder). Since many of the soldiers were mercenaries, if they weren’t paid they simply deserted.

It’s not all the Ottoman Empire’s fault either. The Thirty Years War was a direct result of the religious turmoil of the times, starting with the Defenestration of Prague in 1618, when two of the (Catholic) Emperor’s envoys to (Protestant) Prague were unceremoniously thrown out of an upper-floor window into a dung-cart. It’s possible to blame Martin Luther for a lot of the wars in Europe from 1517 on, but Emperor Ferdinand II’s unflinching response to the Defenestration didn’t help.

Winder points out also that however horrific the destruction in what was until 1991 the Federal Republic of Germany, after the end of WWII it could be safely rebuilt, without serious risk of disruption by invaders; whereas after 1945 in the eastern zone of Germany and the rest of eastern Europe the barbarians came again. (J S Bach was music director of 5 churches in Leipzig: the Thomaskirche, the Nikolaikirche, the Neue Kirche, the Peterskirche and the Paulinerkirche. All but the Neue Kirche survived the war, but the East German government destroyed the Paulinerkirche in 1968. The other survivors are still there and the Neue Kirche has been rebuilt—I’ve actually attended a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the Thomaskirche. Wandering around Prague or Budapest is almost surreal: the grimness of the communist period overlaid on what survives of the imperial splendour, and then overlaid again here and there by scattered bits of modernity.)

Overall, the book isn’t rigorous history, more a long essay on topics that interested Winder and also interest me. The best bit is his obvious love for Haydn—there is a short essay on Haydn’s career, whereas Mozart and Beethoven are mentioned only in passing. Then he has quite a bit to say about the virus of nationalism, which looked at one way was what destroyed the empire. His discussion of this reminded me of Keynes’ saying that
Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
If you substitute “thinker” for “economist”, it’s true generally.

Mar 2, 10:29pm

>185 haydninvienna: Interesting stuff, thanks.

Ayer, 2:24pm

I haven't posted in the thread about the group read of The Silmarillion, but I did actually read it—I bought my copy in 1977 and had never read it. It has an odd kind of resonance with the two books by Simon Winder that I mentioned above. The three of them taken together tend to suggest to me that the human experience through most of recorded history is of continual warfare. The period since 1945 until now is probably the longest period in European history during which none of the major European powers of the time is at war. And then, as a result of another Ask.Metafilter thread, I got curious about the logistics of warfare. I had had the impression that in the 17th century an army in the field was expected to live off the country—that is, to take what they wanted from the locals. Turns out that it was basically true until at least 1914. If an army stayed for too long in one place, it would exhaust the local resources and had to either move on or starve. The reason that long sieges were rare was that if an army stayed in one place for too long, as it would have to do to besiege a fortress, both the besiegers and the besieged would starve. When the Germans marched through Belgium in 1914, they were still largely dependent on the countryside for provisions, particularly horse fodder. The successful Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 was as much as anything a triumph of logistics. I got all this from Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, by Martin van Creveld. A fascinating book, if a somewhat limited one. It threw a new light for me on the march of the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith.

Ayer, 4:08pm

>187 haydninvienna: Glad you read it, I'm sure there will be opportunities to post coming up, if you wish.

It always amuses me when some fantasy writers completely ignore logistics. 1,000,000 person army? Sure, why not? Completely ignoring those people need food, medicine, shelter, etc. Living off the land is limited and time consuming. Most don't even bother with inventing magical solutions to these problems.

I've read that the US Expeditionary Force in World War I had to do quite a bit of road building and railroad repair just to keep the army equipped, logistics was a huge problem. That sounds like a fascinating book.

Ayer, 4:47pm

>188 Karlstar: Just to out myself as an extremely tedious person, have you ever wondered about the economics of an interstellar society? There were mentions recently in the Science Fiction Fans group of the “Demon Princes” books by Jack Vance. In those there is a galaxy-wide currency called the SVU. I once tried to figure out how that would work and all I got was a headache. (Paper notes, which were ridiculously easy for Kirth Gerson to forge in ridiculous quantities!) Similarly with the galactic economic collapse in James Blish’s “Cities in Flight” stories, brought about by a collapse in the price of germanium. That’s just wrong in all sorts of ways.

There was a panel discussion at a convention called “The Economics of Star Trek”, in which the participants included a prominent economist and a journalist from the Financial Times. And I remember that someone actually tried to work out the economics of the Empire’s Star Destroyers.

Ayer, 11:19pm

>189 haydninvienna: Definitely! I keep wondering how Elon Musk is going to keep things going on Mars. He doesn't have enough money to support more than a very small number of people there, as they'll have to import every single thing. Sure, eventually, maybe they'll capture some asteroids and trade precious metals for commodities, but what about talented people, computer chips, medical equipment, etc. If we had FTL, that makes trade in the solar system possible, but it would have to be near instantaneous to make star to star trade possible. Even then, what would they trade?