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2011
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September 30th; Find Xenia at the closer-by sister shop to Zsolt's has the typeface Zsolt was lacking. With her help I do a fifth design. She tactfully handles a succession of odd & lonely people coming into her shop while I wait. Later in evening Cairo client says she doesn't like any of the designs (I sensibly left out the vile fourth one - Gentle Reader must be assured it would not have won the business). I ask her if she can say if this or that design is too heavy or too complicated or has too many straight lines perhaps to give me some idea of how to adapt the design. She helpfully ignores this and explains her logo should be sexy, feminine, fun, fresh, and memorable. Completely unlike any other logo then.
September 29th; Client likes 2nd design better. I redraw it and do two more with the help of Zsolt over the space of an hour and a half. The final one is hideously ugly, but that's wholly my fault. Losing concentration.

September 28th; Amazingly, client willing to wait. I find Zsolt. He works at a rival copyshop to Copy General (where they yesterday gave me the Hungarian answer of "No, we don't do that. No exceptions." when I wanted to sit down next to their graphics person for an hour and pay him to draw out my designs, though that is in fact his job, and I have done precisely this with one of their graphics people before in the past. I was exquisitely patient & friendly. He was sweet and co-operative. He got the job wrong.) I sit down next to the rival firm's graphics person, Zsolt, and he does what I need, skilfully, for an hour. I send two designs to client.
September 27th; Several more attempts to obtain said graphics program or find someone who has one. Mid-afternoon I contact client in Cairo to apologise and say I cannot help her after all. Then back home burst into tears at coming so close.
One of the more truthful headlines.

September 26th; Monday. Off to Viktor the dentist for morning filling in front tooth. Being a couple of years since I last saw him, he's moved address. His new clinic turns out to be in a drab government building where by paying cash I get to step in front of four or five weary-looking state dental patients seated outside. Understandably, they seem glum. Still ....Viktor no longer motorbiking into his own private practice any more? I hope nothing bad happened to him. The day builds up to me spending midnight to six a.m. Tuesday at a chilly tram stop with good WiFi reception trying, and failing, to download a copy of a large graphics program the Nigel of Darkness is sending me. I have been trying to organise this for several days now, given that my copy of said software only a few days ago turned out to be horribly corrupted and unusable.
Paul Coelho is giving away his writing and commentators are saying, like retards, that this shows that writers & publishers need not fear free digital text. Of course, what it really shows is Coelho already has brand-name recognition + big market share. It particularly shows most people would benefit from reading a little more economics, thereby knowing what economists mean by the term 'dumping'.
September 25th; Martina kindly translates a message into German for the book fan page. Please forward that link - http://on.fb.me/nmkoHR - to any German-speaking friends you know, citizens. Thank you!

September 24th; Drop in on seamstress to pick up an item she said would be ready today, and find her with some power tools under her work table, drilling and sawing chipboard. Her children are not helping her. I tactlessly ask if there is no man to do that kind of work for her, and she gloomily says no, apologising for not having resewn my jacket yet. People have been demonstrating for about a week in New York, trying to occupy Wall Street.
September 23rd; IP lawyer phones from London. Very helpful.

September 22nd; Bump into seamstress on a sunny street. Seems she isn't moving out of town after all. Sad tale of a dodgy estate agent trying to not repay her deposit etc. Am separately reminded today of the piece of white (or at least vanilla-coloured) magic someone suggested the other week. In my postbox find the autumn copy of the Salisbury Review with my 3rd article in it, about privacy & surveillance.
September 21st; Finish the rather uninspiring book 'Electronics for Dummies' late at night. By Dickon Ross, Cathleen Shamieh, and Gordon McComb, this bulky, floppy large-format paperback book does rather put me off the Dummies series. We have three people collaborating here on writing a book for beginners, and like every other book on electronics I've seen, it doesn't occur to any of them to superimpose a circuit schematic (wiring diagram) onto a picture of a breadboard (a special rectangular slab full of holes for popping in components to try out different circuits). Instead, like every other book, we have a schematic and a photo of a breadboard, both looking bizarrely different from each other. The photos of breadboards with all the similar-looking blobby components on pins shot from above could have been labelled with arrows - wouldn't have hurt, but of course no-one thinks of that either. I ask myself why on earth no-one makes a 555 chip with small numbers are written next to the eight pins, or why a schematic would order the pins differently round the edge of the chip, when it could just draw the lines from where the pins actually are? I'm reminded of my first piano lesson aged 6 where I very sensibly asked my piano teacher why the keys were not labelled? Especially if there was more than one A, more than one B, and so on. A man with a bit more intelligence would have got a pen out and marked the keys for me, there and then.

September 20th; Finish watching 'Limitless' on my laptop. Something of a Michael J. Fox film misrepresented by a Dr Faustus trailer. A struggling writer gets given a wonder drug which makes his thinking much much cleverer. Neat in parts, comical too. What is funniest is what Hollywood film-makers or audiences (hard to say which) think "clever" means. After his first dose, our hero suddenly finds he can rewrite his landlord's wife's law-course essay, though the nonsense he is saying is wisely talked over by his narrator's voice. At another moment he spouts ridiculous medical guff. There's a sentence ("I developed cultural appetites.") spoken over a wonderful 3/4 of a second shot of him at a gallery in front of a Van Gogh (Art, right?) cocking his head on one side like a thoughtful labrador. Of course we quickly get back to what being very clever is really about for Americans: large amounts of money. Intriguingly, though, none of that makes any sense either. You'd imagine for a thriller about a man suddenly able to bluff his way into high finance, the only thing viewers are expected to genuinely respect here, they might have at least got the finance talk right. Nope. Not a single afternoon with a real share trader in evidence there.
Most of the plot is suspiciously silly. If you're suddenly clever and can produce a great book in a couple of days to get your money from your lit agent, why bother with a hundred thousand from the nasty Balkan moneylender? And if you are on a high-IQ drug that makes you "see everything clearly" you clearly wouldn't just forget to repay the frightening gangster - or buy an expensive armoured apartment with only one exit. I say silly because it wouldn't have been hard to make a much more interesting story out of this premise. What this might be is a disguised film about cocaine, the fuel of the film industry. You feel clever, you can sometimes talk your way through some situation just by brimming with manic conviction, you are a bit more alert, you become horribly egotistical & fixated. You do get hooked, you do meet repulsive people, it does all rapidly unravel. Perhaps "NZT" is really cocaine and NY is really LA? The film seems to have more than a few nods to 'The Player', a 1990s film that Hollywood insiders are said to love, about how it's really agents at their lunch meetings who get films up and running. Both films stress that writers are loathsome guttersnipe low-life, the bottom of the movie-making food chain. As befits a business that laughs that a novelist hasn't developed any "cultural appetites" until he's tried The Substance, our hero's Road to Damascus moment has him transcend and abandon writing altogether. He sees that the money & finance side (of film-making?) is the "truly creative" area to be in. He learns to get a good haircut and some snappy backchat for any conceivable social gathering. He learns how to deserve and win back the groomed, soignee girlfriend who originally hinted that it might be time for him to "let the writing go". If this really is full of laboured in-jokes about film-making, this might explain why he inexplicably borrows 100,000 dollars off a Mephistophelean thug who sounds like a Serb - this is the accepted price a Hollywood film producer pays for a good first screenplay. Whether these refernces are deliberate or not, there are some very nice visual effects. Just as the physical cash is the real hero of the 70s subway-hijack film 'Taking of Pelham 123', more of a player than its cast of automatons, so in this film the drug is the central character. There is some imaginative camera work to suggest what having an altered state of mind is like, and it's fresher than Drug Camera Effects usually are. During an unhinged long weekend he has sex with an anonymous blonde who seems both compellingly sexual and coldly reptilian and during the act she breaks up into a floating set of overlay photographs of bits of herself. He runs out of a building to vomit and the camera flips over so we watch his spew falling up to hit the pavement above him. Long shots seamlessly piercing car windows block after block the whole length of Manhattan avenues exhilaratingly suggest being endless, being able to think through any barrier, go any distance. The drug multiplies you. Several of him tidy his flat (as I did at that stage, part of the real point of me watching this), and each person taking it finds they are standing outside themselves looking calmly in and around at the situation. These are the most convincing bits, where the drug helps someone coolly think their way out of danger. At one point his girlfriend is trapped in a park hiding from a thug with a knife, paralysed with fear. When he is begging her over the phone to take one of the pills out of her pocket (she has never tried it before) and swallow it because it will "tell her what to do", we believe him and are urging her to take one too. The degradations of drug addiction are well pictured - he puts his girlfriend's life on the line, he knifes someone, he stabs a man in the eye with a hypodermic needle, and perhaps lowest of the low, he drinks a dying man's blood. Moreover, it is very much the drug "telling him" to do these things.
What the film lacks is, well - a lot. As in the mind of an addict, The Drug and The User dwarf everything and everyone else. There is no moral dimension - the film gives you the slightly frightening sense that its makers actually think intelligence is a spiritual quality. His ambitions are utterly pedestrian in the transatlantic way - learn languages so as to show off in restaurants (no more "cultural appetites" after that half-second with Van G's Sunflowers), make lots of money, perhaps go into politics. There is certainly no suggestion as with Faustus that knowledge even for its own sake can be morally dangerous - the only question here is whether he will defeat the nasty men and get the goodies to himself.
September 19th; Wake out of another of those unpleasant dreams where mother is still alive. In the early evening, find I hadn't fried any components at all. Reflecting on Nigel of Darkness's latest remarks I suddenly stop the other thing I'm doing and on the breadboard rethink where each component's two legs hit the buried rails: takes less than a minute. What a surprise. The circuit works beautifully, the little red and yellow LED lights blinking merrily at a nice countable frequency, exactly as they should. Silly me: I suppose I get there in the end.

September 18th; Quiet Sunday grappling with diagrams of tokamaks.
September 17th; Morning to the Ecseri junk market with Marguerite and her friends Gusty & Michael. Marguerite accuses me of being an anti-Hungarian Hungarian as she sees me bantering with some locals who have a rather fetching pair of weighing scales. The traders start laughing as I explain that it is because I have a small business now that I have no money at all. They know exactly what I mean, of course. We wander about. I compliment the baby at the centre of a quite striking trio of Gypsy lasses and realise that in between saying hello to me in Hungarian, they are speaking one of the Gypsy languages in their group. Gusty buys a small porcelain crocodile (or alligator - how do you distinguish them at the table-top ornament scale?). Michael gets a couple of sports medals in East-Bloc pewter he thinks his nephew might like. In line with Marguerite's extreme taxi habit, we eschew public transport on the way back into town too.
By night out for a drink with Anders, who is on the main deck of the night-club/bar A38 boat with a group of fellow Swedes who are management consultants. I sit down with these thoughtful-looking Swedish men and, slightly to my surprise, after 20 minutes' chat three rather leggy, dishy Swedish girls turn up. They are also consultants. We go down into the hold to feel the bass from a Hungarian metal group, then stroll back over the river to another bar. As we cross the bridge, talking about his work with start-up firms, Anders says something interesting about success in life. He claims it is neither due to internal factors (genius, talent), nor due to external factors (luck, connections), but is almost all due to trial and error. Those willing to keep learning from their mistakes and keep trying again almost always pull away from the mass favoured by either internal or external advantages at the start. Deceptively simple thought. Shall need to think about that one. At the bar, the three girls start a vigorous discussion about what counts as self-esteem. As this rages on until almost 3am, they slip in and out of Swedish, which has a surprisingly soothing effect. Since I have no option but to log out of the conversation each time this happens, it gives me a chance to pause and digest things every few minutes.

September 16th; Friday. Out to a jazz club with Marguerite, who introduces me to her friends Gusty & Michael over from the US, visiting. This is apparently the jazz club, and all three are a bit surprised I had never been. Marguerite has even booked us a table close to the stage - all the tables are within ten feet of the performers. The three musicians are very good - the Szacski Lakatos Bela Trio. They improvise fairly much non-stop, with solo bits for the pianist, the double-bassist, and the drummer at rotated intervals. The drummer is apparently well-known by people who know who jazz musicians are, and he has something of a Tourette's Syndrome manner, making little moans and twisting his head over to one side away from the drums most of the time. My first impression on entering the club is a sad one, though. Everyone there is at least 50 or older, and they are revisiting a type of music, from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, that still seemed wild & sophisticated when they were in their 20s. Even so, the three men on stage, two with grey hair, the bassist looking a little younger, seem to be having enormous fun doing what they do. They do one encore out of courtesy, but I get the impression they genuinely enjoy experimenting and extemporising on stage: they are not there primarily for money or for audience adulation. Orderly little 2D grids of lines unroll and rotate in my head as the three of them rip up and reassemble their melody lines in every permutation they can make.
September 15th; In the warm weather, when out on the balcony around 2am, I can hear someone with breathing problems across the street. I assume they are sleeping or trying to sleep with their window open. The hard gasping sound, a kind of cross between an asthmatic wheeze and a laboured snore, is a bit worrying. It's quite loud. By the second night I no longer wonder if someone is dying, but they certainly are not in good shape. Still not really in the mood to reward djuice for their institutional dishonesty, so am still using only free WiFi, from whence it may.

September 14th; Oddly, ever since I bought my first coconut about ten days ago, none have broken away from their shell as cleanly as the first. I wrap each one in the tea towel of the map of cheeses of Italy Robin & Georgina brought back from holiday for me, and swing it at the tiled part of the floor. There is a satisfying "Bokk" sound and I unwrap it from the tea towel. The very first time big hairy shards of shell snapped away from a clean brown egg about the size of a baby's head. This is the white pith coated by a paper-thin layer of brown skin. Yet every time since that first time I either hit the nut too hard or not hard enough, and the shell and some of the inner pith break together. Am on my fifth coconut now since Indro at that party on the 3rd told me how healthy he thinks they are.
September 13th; Do a four-page translation for Allison, who is now in Hamburg, agreeing to finish what she started at the rate she originally agreed with a property developer called Ferenc Nagy.

September 12th; Pick up my 3-month-old sewing (one item done, one item left not done) from the seamstress who is in the middle of a sudden house move - slightly mysterious - to a town in the countryside. I pay her cackling mother.
September 11th; Watch the first half of a copy of a film called 'Limitless' with the Faustian theme of a penniless writer taking a drug that makes him very clever, at least for a while. Watching this gives me the urge after about 3/4 of an hour to pause the film and clean up a messy corner of my flat.

September 10th; Lunch with Esther. We exchange wicked gossip after lunch. She lends me a second book by Perez-Reverte, about a Mexican drug dealer.
September 9th; Presses of the 'Like' button on the book's Facebook page pass 1,000.

September 8th; Out late with Kalman, and his friends Adam & Natasha. Kalman mentions an interesting incident in 2001, when senior members of the Argentinian government apparently fled the country with the nation's gold reserves. This is after a slightly odd afternoon when Bubu sends a colleague to record my voice, the university building with the sound studio in it won't let me enter the building without my passport, and we end up recording my voice at Kalman's office instead.
September 7th; Meet Alvi, Terri & Paula by night in Ferenc Liszt Square to return Terri's e-reader thing, Kindle. Paula tells of a Steiner school in Godollo.

September 6th; Finish the book that Terri lent me her Kindle e-book-reading device to read - 'There Are No Electrons' - a cheerful introduction to electronics by Kenn Amdahl. Lots of jolly stories (opposite charges are for example not really made of electrons and atoms lacking electrons but of little green men and women who want to meet up and party with each other) and a host of metaphors explaining capacitors and resistors in terms of wide and narrow roads etc. However, nothing really that helps me see where I am going wrong with the wiring schematics in other books. A few very basic diagrams are introduced, but on the Kindle they are bizarrely small and illegible. Oddly, the Kindle has at least one typo on every page too - though they aren't pages, since being able to repeatedly resize the print means one has to abandon page numbering. Instead there are percentages, and you are 51% of the way through a book for 3 or 4 screens. For some other reason, the strangely tiny schematics and other sketches are all in the wrong position on each page or screen, but that can probably be sorted out soon. There's a rather enjoyable romp at the end involving time machines and nasty men from the future. Still no wiser as to why the circuits I assemble don't seem to work though. This book feels like it has helped me (and it does do some good repetition, cementing certain ideas like valves and transistor metaphors a little more firmly into place), but I have often read these books designed to cure phobics of a subject such as maths, and it is always on the beginners-2 level, just one step up, that I feel abandoned. I many times as a teenager got this feeling that there were plenty of books to help people stuck on square one, but nothing out there to help people stuck on squares two or three.
September 5th; Lunch with Bubu. He tells me about Brazilian ju-jitsu.

September 4th; By night over to Marguerite's for a game of scrabble in Hungarian. Her fluffy dog Emma in good spirits.
September 3rd; Go with Terri to Adam LeBor's birthday party, meeting Mr Carlson, Mr Saracco, a quiet Javanese fellow called Indro, and Terri's friend Paula. Later on, finish the book Esther lent me, 'The Dumas Club' by Arturo Perez-Reverte. This is the book made into a reasonably faithful film she & I saw called 'The Ninth Gate' a couple of years ago, with Johnny Depp as a wearily cynical bookdealer pursuing copies of a 17th-century Satanic grimoire that got its original printer burned at the stake. The book is better, and it is interesting to see which subplots got telescoped together to simplify it for film. The mysterious character who turns out to be Lucifer is a great deal more interesting in the book than the film, and the book's subtly sympathetic portrayal of the Devil is in stark contrast to the film's more flashy, melodramatic revelation of who that character is.

September 2nd; Friday. Meet Alex for tea, a customer who buys a copy of the book.
September 1st; What those computer people think of each other.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com