So I'm reading this book here, a paperback copy of
John O'Hara's "Butterfield 8" (and I'm sure I'll write
about it sometime after I finish it, or well not sure but
at least it's likely, because it's incomprehensible in
interesting ways), and at one point there's this character
who's the branch manager of a manufacturing firm, and
although he's not an engineer himself he ingratiates
himself with engineers by knowing modest little bits of
engineering culture like for instance:
Instead of handwriting he always used the Reinhard style
of lettering, the slanting style of printing which is
the first thing engineers learn.
And that's interesting because
Web has never heard of it.
Which means either he was just making it up (which would be
endearingly brash), or that while it was well known in oh
1935 it is now entirely absent from the emerging Universal
Consciousness (which would also be pretty noteworthy).
Or a little of both.
Or I've overlooked something obvious.
We will break with long-standing tradition here by looking
at some recent reader input. One or more of
our readers write:
Your Woolf quote is more poignant that you can know. Live your
life while you can. You won't always have the choice.
And I think that part of the point of the Woolf quote
(and for that matter the Aster quote) is that living life
while you can doesn't necessarily mean getting to particular
places or hitting certain goals or seeing certain fish-spearings;
but that at some point you say yes, this has been my life,
this is still my life, and yes it doesn't have properties
X or Y or even Z, and things would have been better, would
be better, if it did, but still.
Here we are.
And there's the sunset, and the taste of apples,
and the memory of a face.
Which is, I'm sure, much more comforting a thought in
some circumstances than in others.
This reader is:
One who wonders what you do with your old (ie don't need to possess
them anymore) books?
Well, what is "need", after all?
Once in a great while I put one in the book-exchange
rack at the Lab.
The other week M and the little boy took several grocery
bags full of outgrown kids books (but not, you know, the
really good ones, the Patricia Polaccos or Jan Bretts)
over to the library, where they apparently have a use
But mostly they end up upstairs, in the disorderly
unheated room that we call "the library" for the
And this reader recommends:
"We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself
been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary
Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So
all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution." Ooh. Gotta
love her. Just gotta!
I keep meaning to read
Oh, Mrs Moffat, Mrs Moffat, I say, come and sweep it all up. Things have
dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends,
some by death (Percival) others through sheer inability to cross the street.
I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond
my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy. Rome
is the limit of my travelling. As I drop asleep at night it strikes me
sometimes with a pang that I shall never see savages in Tahiti spearing
fish by the light of a blazing cresset, or a lion spring in the jungle,
or a naked man eating raw flesh. Nor shall I learn Russian or read the Vedas.
I shall never again walk bang into the pillar-box. (But still a few stars fall
through my night, beautifully, from the violence of that concussion.)
That from Virginia
Woolf; my excuse for not having read everything she's ever
written is that then I wouldn't have anything of hers left to
read for the first time; she's amazing.
The sentiment is all too poignant, here in middle age with
the foundations of the world having turned out to be more
or less shifting more or less sand (and yes I knew all along
that's what they were, but forty-odd years of non-shifting
on their part had sort of lulled me, y'know?).
Not that I'll never read the Vedas or
see fish speared in Tahiti, or that
I'd want to see a naked man eating raw flesh,
but you get the picture.
Or to quote a
somewhat less well-known author (of naughty stories in this case),
I think at some point in your life you start to realize
that you aren't going to get to do everything that you
ever dreamed of doing, and to stay sane and happy you
have to start being glad that somewhere in the world
someone is doing each of those things.
Not clear whether Woolf's Bernard would have been as comforted
by that statement as Aster's Dale seems to be.
(But still a few stars fall through my night, beautifully.)
I got to that passage from "The Waves" via Anne Morrow
Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea", which I picked up by
accident somewhere, and which is itself really quite good
(despite having to bear some of the blame for many other
books written after it that aren't nearly as good).
And I went over to Amazon and found a used copy of
"The Waves" for like a buck plus S&H, and now it's
sitting waiting for me to read it.
Today's search terms are, for no particular reason,
and konchin, which are surprisingly rare.
(And see of course
on which we are still Google's Primary Authority.)
(And see also various
that I hope someday to have time to read.
Or if not, someone else will; this is in fact something
of a comfort as it turns out.)
explains the basics of BGP!
Baby Name Voyager!
(Those last four all from Steve; the Courtney Love one from
And in the category of things that I keep meaning to getting
around to myself:
is a cross-platform (Linux, Mac OS X, known to work)
program written by Larry Yaeger to evolve Artificial Intelligence
through natural selection and evolutionary algorithms.
So there we are.
(Maybe in later episodes we'll get up from the cushions
and look over the rest of the house.
But right now we're enjoying the fictional rest.)
You are on a hilltop. The world stretches away from you
in all directions.
> look north
To the north is a line of green hills; a highway winds
away among them to the northeast, between a light
hill and a dark one.
A walking trail goes down the north side of the hilltop
here, toward the highway and the hills.
> look south
A wooded plain opens out to the south.
A highway runs out of the hills to the north,
through a cluster of commercial buildings to
the south, and onward to houses and woods
You go down the hill into the trees.
The path follows a stream for awhile, and then parallels
Traffic is light.
Eventually you come to an asphalt road that comes down
out of the hills to the northwest and
joins the north-south highway.
> look road
The road is narrow and worn, but the potholes have
mostly been filled, and it is servicable.
A ramp connects the road to the highway to
the southeast, and the road turns a corner
into the hills to the northwest.
Beside the road around the first curve is a
ramshackle garage; four cars and a truck in various
states of repair are parked around it.
The garage doors are closed.
The road continues up into the hills.
> open garage
The garage doors are locked.
You follow the road up the hill.
After another set of curves, you come to
a driveway that leads up toward a large grey
The road continues to the north, and a
slope leads downward to the southeast; you
Between the trees to the east, you see
the highway, and a set of transmission towers
carrying power lines up the slope beyond it.
You go up the driveway to the front of the house.
The house is large and grey, somewhat in need of
paint, somewhat weathered, but sturdy.
There is a vegetable garden here, an old green truck,
and a front door.
A path goes around the house to the west, and
the driveway goes down southward to the road.
> knock on door
You knock on the door, and after a moment
Keda opens it and looks out at you.
> look keda
Keda is a compact woman of no particular age,
with brown hair and brown eyes, two hands,
a nose, and a mouth.
She is wearing a brown sweater and brown
She is barefoot.
Keda smiles and moves aside for you.
You are in the common room of the grey house.
There is a large butcher-block table, a number
of chairs, an old overstuffed sofa, a black
cat, and a white cat.
Food smells come through a doorway to the west, there is
a hallway to the north, and stairs lead up to
a loft above.
Keda is here, looking at you inquisitively.
You go up the narrow wooden stairs to the loft.
The loft is a fragrant open place above the common
There are cushions on the ground, and a number of
Tom is here, meditating.
There is a bowl of nuts here.
> look tom
Tom is a man.
He has light brown hair, two hands, a nose,
and a mouth.
His eyes are closed.
He is seated on a cushion, meditating.
There is a bowl of nuts beside him.
> eat nut
The nut is a peanut, roasted and lightly
coated with wasabi.
It burns pleasantly on your tongue, and
spices the inside of your head.
You sit down on the cushions;
you think you'll just stay here for awhile.