Last year I started to write a review of Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller”. I read it while we were in Germany for Christmas. We’d visited Bremen and also undergone the bizarreness of Christmas in another language - the same motifs played out in different words and different customs. I’d tried to write the review in a similar structure to the book but, in a testament to Calvino’s writing I couldn’t pull it off.
“The mind may give up its desire to improve on creation and function as a faithful receiver of experience.” John Cage
After enjoying The Overstory, I wanted to read more of Richard Powers’ novels. Orfeo was also long listed for the Booker prize. Perhaps more of his novels would have been had the prize been opened to American authors earlier.
Orfeo is about Peter Els, a seventy year old composer who accidentally alerts Homeland Security to the existence of his home laboratory, in which he has been trying to recode the genetic material of a bacterium to include a piece of his music.
I’ve listened to music in slightly different ways to normal in the last nine months, but it’s still been a decent year for music. When I checked out my Spotify Unwrapped and my Last.fm reports, I had listened to more 2020 music than I thought.
December Album of the month had to be “We Will Always Love You” by the Avalanches. One of only three albums that I bought physical copies of this year, it combines my favourite musical genres and has a novel take on the spacey-sounding album: like something beamed into space about how great humans are.
Recently I’ve had cause to dig out some old photos. If I’m honest it’s made me sad. Sadder than I was expecting. There’s a quote from Nan Goldin that once felt like a warning but now just sounds like a sad statement of ongoing affairs:
“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”
I decided to create my own deck of creativity cards. I was sick of all the adverts for similar products on Instagram. You know the kind. They’re covered in pictures, patterns, and buzzwords. You shuffle the cards and draw them one at a time. As you place each card on the table, the brain’s natural desire to tell stories, create patterns and produce meaning takes over.
I made a deck without too much thought for form or consequence.
“He keeps biting me on the leg” says Ingrid one day as I mill around her desk during the new water cooler moment that is a comfort break on a Microsoft Teams call. I pat Martok, one of our cats, and he rubs up against me, pretending that he might nibble at me too.
I experience this regularly. It used to be at half five, then at five, and these days at half past four.
This post explains some of the modifications I made to a minimal Jekyll theme to get this blog as I wanted it. This blog (currently) uses the excellent Sidey theme by Ronalds Vilciņš. His site looks eerily similar to this one, at least at time of writing.
The theme is pretty minimal in terms of features (and appearance) but it scores well on the Google Page Speed test. The features I added have increased the build time, but have not affected the speed of the site in terms of the page speed test.
While sprucing up this blog a bit during lockdown, I fell into reading my old posts about South America. I enjoyed it, mostly for the memories, but also because the current lockdown is warping my sense of time and space. Hours feel like weeks, but then I blink and a month’s gone by. I find myself traipsing similar orbits each day around the house, and then perhaps over to the supermarket or the park.
Over the course of a week on holiday, I started reading many interesting articles. In lockdown there isn’t much to do but read articles, but I still find myself not that good at finishing them. My phone has lots of tabs open and has become a Rolodex of shame. This post is to confess my sins.
I’m trying to re-familiarise myself with Python. As with all modern software development, Python now seems atomised and hyper-complicated.
Ingrid bought me a raspberry pi for my birthday. I’ve set it up to run the Pi-hole software. Pi-hole is a nifty bit of kit that intercepts your web requests and purges any that ask for material on known ad servers. Essentially it’s like having an ad blocker on your network rather than just your computer.
I’ve written before about why I hate web advertising, and since then it’s got even more malign.
I read this book on holiday in Belgium last year. Having forgotten to pack a novel I scoured almost every book in the Waterstones at St. Pancras station before settling on this Booker prize winning novel by George Saunders.
Lincoln in the Bardo fictionalises a period in Abraham Lincoln’s life immediately after the death of his son Willie. The story alternates between factual accounts of what happened at the time and the observations of ghosts in the graveyard where young Willie is buried.
Amanitore of Nubia is available in a base game DLC. She also has her own scenario “The Gifts of the Nile”, which like most scenarios has unique tech and civic trees. You need to assert your dominance over the Nile by building seven temples. The scenario combines faith and military tactics in a satisfying way and you can also play it as Cleopatra for a different perspective.
Civ ability Ta-Seti +50% Production toward Ranged units.
These are some things I jotted down one day last week, I’ll refine them a bit more later on. Think of it as an aide-memoire of things that work for me, your milage may vary.
Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened. Don’t turn whatever has happened and/or is bothering you into a catastrophe, especially if no one else is telling you that it is one. Seek out someone you trust and ask them “is this a catastrophe?
I am writing a long post that I will either publish as one long post (about five or six thousand words) or as about seven smaller ones each closer to the average post length of about eight hundred words. I have to get it out-of-the-way soon as my mind needs to focus on my health economics essay.
It is hard to write short posts to a timetable, let alone churn out long posts on a regular basis.
There was much excitement about Contagion at work. Finally a movie that explains as part of the plot! A bunch of us went to see it, mainly to see whether a disaster movie about a global pandemic could hold up as entertainment and to have a bit of a giggle if it couldn’t.
I liked three things in particular about the film. I liked the cinematography, especially the opening sequences with the index cases staggering around.