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2010
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August 31st; Day of motoring at sea, since there's no wind today. We dock in a marina in a small town and we try an Indian restaurant patronised by the local British-in-Spain, 'Pride of India'. Although the restaurant is empty, excellent food. Martin does impressive Spanish, chatting to coastguards and harbour masters on his walkie-talkie as we chug into ports each day.
August 30th; Long day of sailing, quite sea-sick, despite pills. Big rolling waves pitch the boat. Bright sunshine. In between me lying down up on deck, or adopting the foetal position for hours on end down below deck, Martin & I continue our ongoing chat in snatches about life: what it's for and how to live it well.

August 29th; More sailing. We anchor off somewhere, and take the dinghy into a beach by a town. Launching a dinghy against surf is tricky even with a friendly Spaniard helping us. His children come up and say hello with appealing straightforwardness while Daddy and Martin and I stumble around in the pebbles fighting to push the dinghy out against breaking waves while starting the outboard motor. Feel quite sea-sick much of day. Beautiful colours in the water, greenish light turquoise near land, and a clear, pale-blue-ink colour out at sea. In the quiet of the night when we are anchored at last I read Martin's copy of 'Hegel: A Very Short Introduction' by Peter Singer of 'Animal Liberation' fame. A very clear introduction indeed. Singer sketches out Hegel's theory of history and social will in beautifully crisp, careful sentences. I must read more by Singer. Perhaps even more by Hegel.
August 28th; We set sail. Despite taking sea-sickness pills, am very ill & weak. Once anchored, Martin and I watch a video documentary about Derrida. The sly old fox is shrewd with his interviewers. Sections of his writing voiced over. Intriguing glimpse.

August 27th; Wake up late, get to Sailing Club bar to find Martin chatting by Skype with video with Szilvi in Budapest on his laptop. Tomorrow's World has finally arrived then. In bright sun, a large military ship is parked alongside the restaurant for a couple of days, bristling with radar dishes, and today, coloured pennants, visible through the wall of glass just past our breakfast tables. He orders me a curious mixture of coffee and brandy - a sort of Iberian Irish coffee with more kick.
August 26th; Day of getting used to Martin's boat, and the heat. Pop into Cartagena trying to find a shop with one or two items. Martin tells me Cartagena was founded by Carthaginians, hence the name.

August 25th; Flight to Alicante goes smoothly. Arrive at the airport slightly dazed, queue up for bus to Murcia. Hot, relentless sun bakes every surface. Spaniards stand around being relaxed with who they are. At the busstop, a pretty girl in sunglasses stands motionless for about half an hour, an old man comes up, they speak and kiss briefly, he goes, and then I see she is quietly sobbing behind her shades. I ask if she is all right, she says yes thanks, so I leave her to her grief. Get bus to Murcia. I wander round their bus station swimming through the heat, then, twenty minutes before my 2nd bus, the one from there to Cartagena, I realise my mobile phone must have slipped out of my pocket. This contains the only record I have of how to get to where Martin is in Cartagena. The bus ladies are very kind. We search the bus - no luck. Then one bus lady phones my phone, and it turns out to have been handed into the ticket office. Smiles & hugs all round. I get on the bus to Cartagena, with still ten minutes to spare. Wander around Cartagena a bit, then Martin meets me beside a submarine. There is a big sailing race happening, and we walk along the jetty lined with parked yachts. He points out various expensive, stripped-down vessels built purely for strength, lightness, and speed.
August 24th; Fruitful meeting with Roger out in Saffron Walden, followed by a visit to Notting Hill Gate with Exotic Girl 1. She visits one telecom office, I visit another. Am told that no, having deactivated my year-old wireless modem, Vodafone feel no obligation to give my back the fifteen pounds I gave them. They get to keep that. Of course, ten pounds in phone calls to their useless help desk last night will go unrefunded too. The help desk were unable to tell me that my modem SIM card was no longer in service. Finish Mystery Friend 2's copy of 'Strange Days Indeed', a curious account of the 1970s by Francis Wheen. Wheen gives Nixon several chapters as opposed to one chapter on Mao. He also seems to have learned a very significant lesson from the 70s: paranoia is usually silly. I know he also wrote a book about 'mumbo jumbo' so an overall view he has of the 70s jumps into focus: a time of intrigue, chaos, paranoia, conspiracy theories, terrorism, gullibility about the supernatural, UFOs and so on. The quote he includes of the rambling Harold Wilson telling a couple of journalists that he saw himself as the "big fat spider in the corner of the room" is priceless, and the hold that his secretary Marcia had over Wilson seems completely unexplained by Wheen's breezy account. Punk rockers get no mention, Callaghan and the IMF are briefly touched on, and what this is really is an account of the early 70s. The chapter-ending last word on page 141 is "divorcee", meaning Ronald Reagan. There are very few typos like that, but perhaps a basic superficiality in how Wheen brings the decade together. I turn the light out, and as I wait to fall asleep visions of similar triangles pirouette before my inner eye. Really very well behaved triangles, all things considered.

August 23rd; Meet Ray for a late breakfast at his studio, find Melanie in time to eat cakes and discuss hot plasma, and experience nagging problems with Vodafone, who don't seem to want to turn the fifteen pounds I gave them into an internet connection. I read Mystery Friend 2's copy of 'Das Kapital: a biography' by Francis Wheen, a short and readable tale both of how long it took Marx to write the book, and what the book says in Wheen's view. Wheen portrays Marx's pomposity and obsessive procrastination comically, but also makes a case for Marx as a visionary, literary thinker with a unique grasp of the power of capital, a sort of all-entangling organism of almost unstoppable power. Wheen seems unaware that the English socialist Thomas Hodgskin had the idea that profit was theft from labour two decades before Marx. It slowly becomes clear that Wheen, like Marx, doesn't really understand economics. As he cobbles together his pseudo-science, the fact that people with power cruelly use people without power is greeted by Marx as a symptom of a new and unique force, when it is really just a sad old fact about human nature. His ideas about profit are wholly confused. Marx and Wheen both seem unable to grasp that their belief that labour is compressed into production and somehow stolen by the mark-up {the only thing that makes any trade possible} is at least as occult and mystical as belief in spoon-bending. Marx proposes, though fails to realise he proposes, a kind of alternative pricing system to measure real value which would somehow replace the two-party price-haggling we have now. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but my memory of reading a large chunk of Das Kapital was of encountering a rambling polemic by someone struggling to grasp and analyse a topic substantially beyond him. This might explain why Marx was so appalling with money in his own life - Wheen reveals that at one point he is being paid four pounds a week in the mid-19th century by a New York newspaper, a huge amount of money at the time. Marx's inability to manage his personal finances despite high income like this and the loyal largesse of Engels casts very strong doubts on the profundity of the insights into money & economics he credits himself with. No wonder he wasted a year feuding with a German academic sharp enough to call Marx a charlatan - that accusation must have been unnervingly close to the bone. Marx emerges as a kind of crank social theorist. His theory posits a self-sustaining conspiracy without conscious conspirators so as to make it sound more serious, like a force of nature or history, a sort of social geology. This is an intellectually upmarket version of the widespread belief in 1840s and 1850s Europe that secret societies like the freemasons steered politics: literally antisemitism for pseuds. Wheen dismisses Samuelson's point that Marx was wrong on the absolute immiseration of the proletariat by digging out a line from Kapital justifying that Marx actually meant relative immiseration of the proletariat. Like the notion of relative poverty: a much more comfortable position for embattled left-wingers to defend. Yet he fails to notice that this is false too, and that the proletariat has vastly improved its relative as well as absolute position since Marx designated himself a prophet of imminent disaster a century and a half ago. Recent revivals in inequality relate less to now well-paid proletarians than to increases in earnings gaps between big capitalists and small capitalists, alongside the gap between well-paid proletarians and less well-paid proletarians. It's hard to claim they show working-class immiseration, even in the reduced version modern socialists retreat to. The fact that people work much longer hours now than in the 1970s is taken by Wheen as confirmation that Marx was right all along, not as confirmation that proletarian earning power is now sufficiently high that many people believe they can enrich themselves by voluntarily doing extra paid employment {or that the arrival of personal computers in the 1980s was the early beginnings of wage-earners purchasing productive machinery with their enlarged wages}. Worrying to see that Marx's failure to understand what savings and profits generated by machinery are lingers on. It even strikes a moderately bright person like Wheen as rational and completely unlike the paranoid, conspiratorial mood of the 1970s {Wheen's other book I'm reading}. The paranoia of the 1970s and since that Wheen mocks is the clearest sign I can think of that Marxist mumbo jumbo has infected all of us.
August 22nd; Fly to London, arrive at Mystery Friend 2's flat. We dine on Turkish food and watch 'High Plains Drifter'. Lots of symbolic, epic moments as the mythic archetypes stand tall in the harsh light of the American West.

August 21st; Last day of packing before travel. I print a packing list, sensible boy that I am. Then pizzafication with Marguerite & Kati.
August 20th; The usual annoying king/god/saint holiday I forget each year when shops are all shut just when I need them to be open. Changing printers will massively inconvenience me, but I switch to these people. Amazingly, a woman from their firm actually phones me from Britain, on my mobile, without me even asking her to. Why was I so patient with the other wankers? I ring the old firm to ask for my 400 quid back, get the man himself on the phone for the first time ever. He asks why I'm breaking the contract - I say he makes me feel like a nuisance, not a customer. He protests I'm not a nuisance, but he doesn't offer any last-minute deal or apology. He must think it normal to keep someone waiting a week who's deposited money with him and sent him book files and clearly wants to get the printing process started. Feeling of futile rage all day at other people's inability to just do their job properly. How can I cheer up? Try to think good thoughts.

August 19th; I've finally had it with this printer. It was obvious from his secretary's voice that he was never going to phone me back, even though I've been waiting 7 days to talk to him, and he's been sitting on my 400 pound deposit for weeks. Unwind a little with Franc after dark after a second class with Annamari - amusingly shrunk from 12 students on Tuesday to 5 students tonight. Not just me who thought she was tough then.
August 18th; Last night, an unexpected switch of aerobics dominatrix, and the supple, lissome Annamari takes us through a truly excruciating set of exercises. A bit intense after what was nonetheless a gentle morning swim. I try reading up on the alleged 'endorphin deficient' condition. Sounds a lot like me.

August 17th; Long lunch with Marion, after 1st morning swim in ages.
August 16th; Ilan comes over. We have soup at the Chinese restaurant.

August 15th; British Gas still stubbornly pretend I owe them money. In fact they owe me money. Total lack of shame, these sly utilities. Even when I catch them out lying they then concoct a new story claiming I owe them money. They insisted their 2009 estimate was a real reading while claiming the real inspection one of their meter readers did on June 19th this year was an estimate. Surprise, surprise, this was because June's reading showed their bills as 1300 kW hours too high.
August 14th; Apparently many New York women's ex-boyfriends look like this. Humour aside, girls, if he was that gross, why didn't you choose someone good-looking to start with? By night meet Edith for dinner at the Mexican restaurant.

August 13th; At last, send in text and cover to printer in England. Suddenly feel free. Lula sends me links to some wonderfully raucous sixties songs by The Pretty Things and The Spencer Davis Group. I weakly reply with Larry & The Blue Notes and The Misunderstood. In the early evening I finish a short book by Paul Krugman, titled 'Development, Geography, and Economic Theory' adapted from a 1992 lecture series. Krugman argues in favour of mathematical models in economics, saying that people who think they do better economics by avoiding models usually overlook the mistakes in their own thinking that a rigorous model would have forced them to confront. Better some kind of simplified, imperfect model than no model at all. At the same time, he appears to regret the false starts in postwar development economics and economic geography that were caused by (a) those economists' inability to create a proper mathematical model for their insights, and (b) other economists' unwillingness to look at any new theory without a quantitative model underlying it. He uses two interesting metaphors. Maps of Africa went from being messily, vaguely, partly right when the interior was filled with hearsay about reported rivers, but as cartography got more rigorous & sceptical over evidence, the effect was to actually empty the interior of Africa, and through the 18th century the maps got blanker before filling up again with better-researched data. Likewise, as meteorology went from folk science to proper science, there was a hiatus of a century or so as folk wisdom about clouds was neglected in favour of exact measurements, only for later meteorologists to re-examine the old folk myths and find that in fact shapes of clouds predict the coming weather very well. Obviously the maps better favour his argument that the development of economics unfortunately led to neglect of folksier ideas until the mathematical substructure was ready to refound them systematically, since maps represent things that stay the same and can wait to be rediscovered. With weather he is already treading on thinner ice, and the extension to economics, where people's beliefs about economic clouds and winds actually form part of the substance of those clouds and winds, looks more tenuous still. Though the main thrust of this early-90s book seems innocently sensible and rational, in retrospect this might be seen as a pre-Black-&-Scholes-failure book. The Black & Scholes options-pricing model was admired by financiers and academics, but proved extraordinarily wrong by events a couple of years after they won the Nobel Prize for it. Theirs looks very much like a case where having some kind of numerically testable and theory-supported quantitative model most certainly was worse than having no model at all. However even if these lectures and this book come from before derivatives pricing fell apart, Krugman's text might have warned a few acute readers. Across the sunlit uplands of clearcut model-design, one or two hints of academic hauteur glint in his authorial voice. Krugman shifts from showing emotional attachment to sheer tidiness {"And yet what a difference a clean model makes." on page 86, or "The von Thunen model ...is a beautiful thing." on page 53, repeated almost word for word twelve pages later}, to patronising {"No - the moral of my tale is nowhere near that easy." page 65}, and on to sneering sarcasm {"Are you sure you really have such deep insights that you are better off turning your back on the cumulative discourse among generally intelligent people that is modern economics? But of course you are."} In being transformed from lectures into book, about thirty footnotes in the course of the text would have been a very good idea, giving short summaries and definitions of ideas and terms he refers to, instead of the 5 or 6 paragraphs of non-helpful notes on pages 109-110.
August 12th; It's been agonising days/weeks of checking & rechecking the book. I keep finding new errors now.

August 11th; Rather alarming statistics website, ticking away...
August 10th; Too cute to be true, but cute. Resign your job in 33 photos.

August 9th; Finish Yates book {with its strange cover art showing two cardboard boxes} on 'Giordano Bruno & the Hermetic Tradition'. This is a careful excavation of all the peculiar ideas in the mix at the start of the 17th century and the dawn of modern quantitative science. Yates convincingly shows that Bruno, a Dominican from Naples, was burned alive at the stake in 1600 not for supporting Copernican astronomy and not for suggesting an infinite universe of other planets {though he did both}. Rather he was executed for advocating a return to Egyptian magic, and enthusiastically promoting Cabalism, Hermeticism, and a kind of sun-centred astrological cult in Italy, France, England, and Germany. Yates reveals Bruno's hostility to maths, and shows he mainly supported Copernicus's heliocentric system because he identified the sun as The One of neo-Platonic mysticism. She argues that the wrong turn of Renaissance reverence for the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus {wrongly thought until textual analysis by the scholar Casaubon in 1614 to be of greater antiquity than Plato or Jesus} helped turn scholars' attention to the direct study of nature. That is to say, a craze for nature magic among Renaissance magi paved the way for the rise of mechanical experimentation. The era closes with Marin Mersenne's struggles in the 1620s to remove magic from serious discussion. This was a far cry from the strange intellectual ferment among southern Italy's Dominicans in the 1550s and 60s that Yates detects. Younger than Bruno by twenty years {sometimes they were even in the same prisons for a few overlapping weeks, unknown to each other} came another Dominican, Tomasso Campanella. He actually led a popular revolution in 1599 in southern Italy to try {and fail} to throw out the Spanish rulers of the south and set up a 'City of the Sun' in Calabria, a Utopian pantheistic/semi-Christian city state along Hermetic lines. The mood shifts and Europe becomes cooler, more rational. Descartes himself shifts from a vaguely occultist, Rosicrucian outlook in a couple of years to becoming more interested in strictly mathematical modelling of nature. Yet even in this increasingly uncongenial new age, Campanella somehow stays alive, surviving prison and torture. He keeps reshaping his peculiar Sun-City mysticism, very similar to Bruno's in many details. He lives long enough to die a natural death at the French court where he has managed to talk his way into Cardinal Richelieu's team. In his last days, Campanella is recommending Richelieu and anyone who will listen that when he grows up the boy who will be Louis XIV should be hailed as the "Sun King".
August 8th; The Silver Key, by H.P. Lovecraft. Fascinating, the New World obsession with their lost Old World past.

August 7th; Pasta with Marguerite and her adorable dog Emma. She tells me of one US trial judge who reprimanded a woman in court for wearing red shoes, and when she wore them again the next day sent her down for contempt. Meanwhile, this must be why the Met shot Menezes 7 times in the head. It's hard to be sure these days.
August 6th; Yet more proof-reading. I might turn into a semicolon.

August 5th; Intriguing language-learning method.
August 4th; More last-minute changes to book. Someone who sculpts the soft graphite of pencil leads and pencil tips. A little bit more low-key than the paper shaping. Weathered look of the pencils definitely part of the appeal.

August 3rd; Proofread book more. Some striking photos of flowers seen by X-ray. Eerie, delicate.
August 2nd; Proofread book. In the middle of the sofa, a piece of metal wire seems about to poke through the green fabric covering. It feels, when I sit on it, like it is the thickness of a broken spring. This is obviously not a good development. Mind you, entropy in this building isn't too bad. Ten days ago, one of the front steps had a big six-inch shard of tile detached, lying next to it. It was like that for three days, then mended as good as new. So well repaired I now cannot recall which of the steps had the damage before. Patient man who works in curved paper, {nice dog} though a lot of the images are a bit cluttered for my taste. Been meaning to try this form myself for years, but am still too lazy.

August 1st; Proofread book.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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