Today we're in the Krka National Park, north of Split: we walked the boardwalk down the gorge, crossing torrents and admiring waterfalls.
And baked in the heat.
When I was doing crazy hours as a systems engineer for Nortel, I had a rule of thumb that anything over four hours sleep was worth having. Less than that and you felt worse than having no sleep at all.
Anyway, up at 3.30 this morning after a semi-sleepless night, maybe two hours. I was rolling like a drunk as I made my way to the bathroom. I sympathise, to a point, with Clare's last minute approach to life - leave as late as possible, no hanging around, but we had no energy to argue and we arrived at Bristol airport, or at least the off-airport parking, two hours before departure time.
So now we have the tyranny of small delays: queues at parking reception, queues at check-in, the baggage conveyor belt was broken so more queues at another gate. Factor in a cup of coffee and interminable queues at security and at the gate and all that apparently bloated time-budget was used up.
I write this at 27,000 feet over Germany. We have a ninety minute coach transfer to our hotel on arrival but it's thirty degree sunshine in Split, apparently.
I just saw this plane about a mile away on a parallel course. I refrained from alerting the pilot ...
Matter by Iain M. Banks. Follows the adventures of members of the Royal Family of the Sarl, resident on a Shellworld. A powerful entity is released from billion year stasis and it's down to a Sarl agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances to deal with the situation. Backcloth - the concept that we live in a simulation and the argument from unspeakable injustice and suffering that the simulators could not be so cruel - we must therefore be matter.
The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. His first book reworking swords and sorcery fantasy through the grinding machine of hardcore SF a la Takeshi Kovacs. Morgan writes best when he has issues he is insanely furious about (who can forget his Tebbit knife) and here his preoccupation with reactionary clerics continues, with a side portion of slavery and gay rights. Morgan really doesn't like people who punish homosexuality (in ways which sometimes suggest latent, hidden homoeroticism). Good character development and an intriguing storyline encouraged me to press the Kindle button on number two of a planned three, The Cold Commands.
Next on this nostalgia-fest: The Reality Dysfunction by Peter Hamilton, volume one of three in the Night's Dawn trilogy.
Madame Bovary (in a new translation) by Flaubert is stacked up and waiting for the darkening evenings of the autumn - as counterpoint.
|The rain bounces off the car-top|
|So much rain - so much garden|
I was watching a BBC 4 programme on Landscapes. Historian Michael Wood was walking a muddy path along a field boundary, intoning Old-English Anglo-Saxon (which he reads).
He was calling off the boundary markings (here's a path, there's a stream) as documented one thousand years ago by the Anglo-Saxon surveyor who had drawn up the mortgage document he was reading from. Those landscape markers were still there.
Put yourself in the place of that surveyor in 950 AD. He speculates what life will be like, in this English countryside around Cheltenham, one thousand years hence. Let's tell him.
The economy has changed utterly - a bounty of goods beyond imagining lies in every supermarket; technology also has flowered beyond the most feverish of dreams - flying machines, interplanetary exploration, .. television.
Yet people are the same: the same drives, compulsions, ambitions, betrayals, desires. That surveyor could visit this foreign land of the future and after a period of shock-and-awe he could fit right in.
I look out the window as the rain washes in, and wonder if it's the same story for Wells, Somerset in AD 3000. Somehow, I don't think so. You see, we'll soon know sufficient genetics.
Finally, finally, the people themselves of 3000 AD will be utterly strange.
So many team-GB medals; have we suddenly become so much fitter and genetically performant than countries of comparable size?
No, didn't think so.
First we threw out those sports where we had no genetic or historical advantage. So we left the 100 metres to the Jamaicans and the softball to .. whomever.
Then we focused on equipment-based sports: sit-down stuff like cycling and rowing where we have UK infrastructure, technology and know-how. The policy of 'marginal gains' was applied ruthlessly to optimise performance.
It only needs 50 milliseconds improvement to get Gold.
Don't you think our competitors will have figured this out by Rio?
Note: swimming was a sport where it's difficult to find those differentiating marginal gains - our medal score was disappointing.
There's a well-known quote, something along the lines of: "If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't." Feynmann famously observed that no-one understands quantum mechanics.
After much hard work, hundreds of thousands of people have mastered quantum mechanics; fewer - but still thousands - have mastered its more advanced cousins, quantum field theory and string theory. The show-stopping problem I'm discussing here is not that the maths is hard, though it is. No, it's deeper than that.
Prior to quantum theory, we took it for granted that reality, the universe and all that, has a prior existence and that the job of physics was to describe its true nature. We do this by creating mathematical models which can be interpreted into 'objective entities out there', where the maths explains how those entities behave and interact.
Quantum Theory is not that kind of theory: its equations tell us only the probability of observing certain outcome via constraints such as Schrodinger's equation. But what is the reality behind hyper-accurate quantum theory? The maths doesn't tell us, but it surely can't be anything we're familiar with. Weird quantum phenomenon such as interference effects, superposition and non-locality make sure of that.
Some people think that's just the way it is: we'll be forever ignorant of the true reality of the universe and we should get over it. Many physicists, however, still seek a mathematical model which could reflect how the universe might be and which also makes quantum theory come out right. The Many-Worlds Interpretation and Pilot Waves are attempts which have not found much favour.
Recently, however, Nobel Prize winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft published some new papers advancing the case that the universe is fundamentally a 1+1 dimensional cellular automaton down at the Planck scale. He argues that our familiar world of phenomena emerges in a dramatically non-local way from this underlying reality. Surprisingly, this excited debate has been playing out over at the Physics Stack Exchange here amidst much understandable scepticism.
Who doesn't thrill to the whine of the spindizzies as New York soars aloft on its latest interstellar jaunt?
Who can forget the doomed love triangle between City Mayor John Amalfi, City Manager Mark Hazleton and his young wife Dee?
And do we still tremble at the thought of the dreaded Vegan Orbital Fort? (Yes).
I first read "Earthman, Come Home" and "The Triumph of Time" as a teenager in the sixties: I was completely enthralled by the adventures of Amalfi and co, as they outwitted their opponents and grasped victory from the jaws of defeat against a backdrop of dirigible planets, fearsome aliens, and voyages of hundreds of thousands of light years.
Never revisit your childhood dreams.
I have the four bound volumes from the library and find that Blish's writing is full of plot holes. Worse, the stories don't work except by positing the most incredible stupidity on the part of everyone else while attributing superhuman intuition to Amalfi and Hazleton.
Plans which require the most unlikely set of circumstances nevertheless, time and time again, pay off despite there being no credible plan B.
While my suspension of disbelief was being beaten to death by a baseball bat, I remained on the hook simply due to Blish's general writing skills. Despite myself, I always wanted to know what would happen next.
In Fay Weldon's taxonomy, a good bad book.
Michael Mosley: what a nice guy, and a nice wife, Clare, too. They both seemed overjoyed on Horizon last night when the results of Michael's minifasts came through.
Two days a week of a calory-restricted diet (5-600 calories = one meal) persuades the body to go into cell-repair mode. Fights cancer, increases brain cell growth, diminishes risks of cardiovascular disease .. and takes the pounds off. What's not to like?
I had a hearty breakfast this morning (cereals, skimmed milk) and it's green tea for the rest of the day. My weight today? 13st 8 or 86.2 kg.
We shall see.
We're into deeply parochial territory here. Who would have thought that it would be net cheaper to buy a whole new machine than get a guy to do a call-out, inspect and fix on a dead two year old machine.
The guys from John Lewis rolled up around 4 pm. A washing machine weighs in at around 100 kg - I couldn't shift our dead one. These guys switched new for old, didn't tear the lino, managed to fit the new 85 cm high appliance underneath the worktop with 2 mm to spare and got everything plumbed in without leaks.
How many anticipatory worries did that 40 minutes close down!
No more about washing machines here for a minimum of five years :-).