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2005
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November 30th; Meet John in Manchester. Discuss trading.
November 29th; Read the copy of Roger Scruton's 'News from Somewhere' I gave mother. Scruton is elegaic and persuasive. Seeming to be a set of cosy articles about settling in the country, it is really a thorough argument for how he believes life should be lived. Particularly good on urban sentimentalism. He contrasts the city-dweller's idea of a badger, a charming furry fellow in checked trousers and spectacles, with the real badger, digging tunnels that cave in under people, horses, tractors - spraining ankles, breaking necks.

November 28th; Meet Ed in Bradford. Got through mother's copy of Sadie Plant's 'Writing on Drugs'. The title's double-meaning seems less jolly as Plant's sentences grow serpentine and dull. As with all dealers, the worry is: has she sampled too much of the merchandise? About forty per cent of the book is quotes from other books. Her extensive extracts from De Quincey cruelly highlight how much better than her De Quincey wrote, even after years of opium abuse. Plant, like so many others, tries to trace content & style of writing to each drug's distinctive lift. Whereas I suspect the readability of drug prose owes more to the quality of the education the writer got before starting on the drugs.
November 27th; Read Hebden library book 'The Alphabet versus the Goddess' by Leonard Shlain. An odd book. In case you wonder what laparoscopic surgeons do in their time off, this might help. Shlain, a surgeon, argues that literacy, particularly literacy based on alphabets (more than scripts like Chinese or Ancient Egyptian) overdevelops the left hemispheres of both men and women, and has led to bouts of male-style intolerance and violence throughout history. He relies heavily on McLuhan, but Shlain rather stresses the linear nature of text and the thinking it encourages. He contrasts this with earlier, more archaic, holistic, visual cultures - who he claims were more likely to worship goddesses and less likely to start religious wars, burn witches or smash religious pictures. His extensive use of historical evidence is a little spoiled by calling James VI of Scotland James II of Scotland, getting a major Muslim date an entire century out, and a half-century slip on when steam engines were invented one might hope a scientist would have checked. Yet despite the breath-taking boldness of the central idea, the book is surprisingly persuasive. Shlain's timing of various historical outbreaks of bigotry is suggestive.

November 26th; Check that Hebden is still there.
November 25th; WiFi not working on train up north.

November 24th; Fly to London. See Roger, join Nigel at chicken restaurant.
November 23rd; Long, complicated day. As I give Robin his disc over a coffee downstairs, Politics Judit suddenly pops in and charms us into joining her later at a cafe for the launch of a book by a retired secret police officer. There she introduces us to Sebestyen, a professor of terrorism studies. Around 10pm Istvan cooks pasta for Robin and me, telling us about his new job at Pantel.

November 22nd; Sitting next to Andrej, confiscating a couple of his shark-shaped fruit gums for each word he hadn't looked up for homework, I recall Sari's Wednesday lesson in which Steve P bitterly berated the Swiss meaninglessness of his Haribo Tropifrutti.
November 21st; Beers at Constantine's. We watch a good Channel 4 documentary on his computer about 20th-century Islam. Then down to Franc's on the Wekerle estate. Find his chest of bedding, and squash three pillows into a powerfully stripy blue & white pillowcase.

November 20th; Chilly. Robin & Jeremy get idea of building kennel for large dog Lupi with mud bricks outside in cold while I skulk indoors staying warm. Letty teaches me a card game somewhere between Snap and Klondike Patience. Jeremy & Georgina cook wild hare + chicken legs for lunch. Meal so rich with red wine I pass out in library afterwards. After dark back to Budapest with J & Z.
November 19th; Jeremy & Zita arrive at Robin's on the Great Plain. I sit next to hearth fire slitting open chestnut shells, and realise I can toast some myself there and then. Not so easy at first, but I get hang of it.

November 18th; Only just make it to train to Robin's, having failed to find a dry cleaner in Budapest that doesn't want customers to go away and die. Partly unwind on journey.
November 17th; Chance to revisit some interests.

November 16th; As Wells' lunar creatures showed in 'First Men in the Moon', communication starts with imitation.
November 15th; Article says meditation is good.

November 14th; Early night again. I'm getting good at this.
November 13th; Schoolfriend Paul's birthday: one of the few I ever remembered. Breakfast & dinner with Robin & Piera & Bobo. Weight-training & sauna in between.

November 12th; Afternoon coffee at the Goethe Institut with Franc, who has too much work on his hands. Esther chances by. Later with Robin & photographer Piera to a house in Buda up near the top of the cogwheel railway line. There a lovely dinner with Jaap's architect and film-maker friends and his striking aircraft-pilot wife. Jaap has a column in NRC Handelsblad and wrote this and this. Italy beats Netherlands 3 to 1 at football during the meal. Later on, table football & Tarot reading.
November 11th; Remembrance Day. Early night. 13 hours' sleep.

November 10th; Someone has used an aerosol to spray-paint a stencilled logo for 'The Corporation' in white 3 times onto the top steps of the Ferenciek tere metro exit, so I see it every morning on the way to the office. Supposedly a documentary. From the website it looks like it might be interesting: amusing idea of taking any corporation's legal status as a person to the extreme. What is the psychiatric personality type of a typical corporation? Sounds clever as a synopsis at least.
November 9th; Blair defeated on 90-day detention.

November 8th; Nice to meet Reka from Xantus on the bus to Kolosy square yesterday. In evening Mariann takes me to Szabo Ervin Central Library and lets me borrow three books on her tickets. Cinnamon tea afterwards.
November 7th; Lunch with Mihaela & Zsuzsa.

November 6th; Drop in on Ilan & Steve, finding they share an office now with Tony from Ireland. I get food poisoning a couple of hours after eating in Pink Cadillac.
November 5th; After a Saturday in the office, Liia kindly takes me to a party of CEU business students hosted by the jovial Daniel/Kaali. Everything is very demure until one of the Persian girls, Sogal, puts on some Arab music. A cue for another Persian girl, Sharareh, to wrap a cloth round her waist with lots of jingly metal things sewn into it and do a rather impressive solo dance. Then we catch the last bus down Daniel's hill. Giorgi reveals he is a Georgian speaker. Once back in Pest we repair to the indoor winter version of the nightclub called Buddha Beach. This turns out to be very orange. Backlit concentric orange ovals along the walls, glowing orange drums for tables, and underlit orange discs to dance on all work at a retro high early-70s mood. Wants to recall vintage Nova magazine. However, resolutely 80s dance music (the DJ well keen on Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' record) undermines the style statement slightly.

November 4th; Liia & I go to lunch in the CEU canteen, where we eat with a friend of hers spelled Lia. Lia is from Brasov/Brasso, like Viola & Mihaela. Last night I again met Istvan from the Vista days, now running the Puskin Cafe. Puskin is a WiFi hotspot, so I could finish my book proposal for Pluto at last. That was after reading two Tarot spreads for Kerstin. Later she took me to a jolly Nordic social event called the Viking Club. We found them, appropriately enough, revelling in a bar called Valhalla. I always imagined a Valhalla of spilt beer and lusty food fights. This however was a smart, well-behaved gathering hosted by the cheerful Jan. So smart that at the bottom of the stairs I had to walk across a plate of glass with tropical fish under it. I suppose Bond movies are a kind of warriors' heaven too.
November 3rd; Yesterday finished the office copy of 'Spring into Technical Writing for Engineers and Scientists'. Rather a let-down. Parts of it are very good, but the impressed reviews for it on the web are a b i t much. Author Barry Rosenberg has taught at MIT, so he must know what his engineering audience like, but for a book about writing and presenting documents there are quite a few mistakes. He says a graph on page 88 clearly shows which days had above-average temperatures. I found the graph confusing, and it misspelled 'temperature' twice. A clever passage where nasty statements about editors are each crossed out and followed by praise for editors ("because we always get the last word, Rosenberg") spoils the joke with a typo in the middle of the page. The one page most of us would triple-check in a how-to-write book would be the page where we make fun of editors. There is lots of good, straightforward advice, however. Keep sentences short. Make verbs active. Use lots of white space. Give examples. More examples would have been good, come to think of it.
He covers a lot of ground. Probably the best thing about this book is how many topics he discusses: writing an internal proposal, giving a slide show, doing a business plan, not annoying people with curt or cryptic e-mails, how to make a good index, a few words on fonts. The white space trick made a short book unnecessarily heavy, but each page was laid out nicely. Rosenberg's style is breezy and light, and this helps. Yet some of his writing jars. In one example, he tidies up an awkward sentence. This goes through several steps. Yet all the edits leave the worst thing in the sentence unchanged. Something pompously "transitions to" something else. Not "changes into" or "becomes"? If a writer teaching clarity thinks transitioning belongs in a writing lesson, it's hard to keep faith. Edward Tufte is still streets ahead on presenting information clearly in charts and graphs. Tufte writes quite well, too.

November 2nd; Buy book explaining Rider Waite cards in parallel with Crowley cards.
November 1st; I do some Tarot readings for Piera, Edina & Geza, and they all turn out rather darkly negative. Edina & Geza drive me to Lakitelek and we drink cappuccinos while waiting for my train back to Budapest.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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