Monday. Visit the Kiraly Spa with generous Mystery Friend, my first time there. Am startled at how closely it resembles the Rudas floorplan. Didn't realise there were two intact 17th-century Turkish (ie. Eastern Roman) Baths in town, both still mostly out of the original marble. As once at another thermal-water venue, I'm given an adorable plastic wristwatch to wear, this time with a blank lemon-yellow disc in place of a face, a pumpkin-orange case, and French-mustard-coloured plastic strap. This cunning device in its rich range of 1970s colours closes and opens my changing-room locker through some electromagnetic wizardry.
Sunday. Rather odd mass of scandals building over US presidential election. Some of the letters given to Wikileaks (by a Democratic Party staffer, not the Russians) appear embarrassing for Mrs Clinton. A curious dispute is unfolding that involves a woman called Huma Abedin, Clinton's closest aide, who was married to a seemingly unreliable man called Wiener. Supposedly angry FBI agents insisted their chief continue with an investigation of Mrs C., and there is now a computer somewhere with a folder of elsewhere-deleted e-mails of Mrs C. labelled slightly melodramatically by Ms. Abedin 'Life Insurance'. Meanwhile, more women have accused Mr Trump of touching their bottoms on an aeroplane. All wonderfully complicated.
Saturday. Thomas, Anna, Balazs, and I are kindly invited by Zita K. to a rather stylish Hallowe'en costume (or at least make-up) party themed around horror-movie dolls. Zita with her face-paint kit gave me a bleeding gash wound in the forehead and everyone was most complimentary about my undead looks & her deft shmink work. Lots of effort put into dressing up by dozens of girls and a few men, including a Jesus dragging a giant crucifix who I finally realised was William, one of the club owners. Even later, I remembered I'd seen that crucifix before, some years ago - but of course, why wouldn't you reuse such a fine prop?
Friday. It turns out that the story a Canadian air steward brought HIV to the US is wrong, and the virus reached New York (from Haiti) a decade earlier. Well explained. / Sean Carroll readably & clearly tries to persuade us that the fact the many-world interpretation of quantum physics demands many worlds isn't something we should get upset about. I still feel vaguely shortchanged - have we been told where these other universes actually are, or is that touchingly naive of me to ask? / An interesting section from a book about an attempted Soviet 1960s-1970s internet. Unfortunately marred by some economics howlers so the line where the author feels cleverest with himself, "The first global computer network emerged thanks to capitalists behaving like cooperative socialists, not socialists behaving like competitive capitalists" gets it totally wrong. The same basic confusion over pricing & subsidies means that the article's content-promise subtitle "Soviet scientists tried for decades to network their nation. What stalemated them is now fracturing the global internet" is wrong too. Some good detail though. / Apparently no-one has ever managed to make an alloy out of the two metals bismuth & iron. Until now, that is.
Thursday. Rich people seem less social than the rest of us, amazingly.
Wednesday. Clear, helpful round-up from late 2015 of the war in Syria. Meanwhile, computer text analysis suggests that Christopher Marlowe co-wrote all 3 of the Bard's Henry VI plays. Plus an article on whether blood-and-soil nationalists ("right wing" is of course incorrect) are messing around with rune magic, blood vows, the usual.
Tuesday. Anti-emigration party wins Lithuanian election.
Monday. In news for Druids, just two weeks until magicians battle bankers. November 7th: be fey or be away.
Sunday. Hungary remembers the 60th anniversary of its fight against Soviet forces in 1956. One of our contributors alleges Democratic campaigners are systematically skewing opinion polls to create momentum.
Saturday. Our man in Bucharest quotes Bagehot on who the cavaliers & who the roundheads are now.
Friday. A clear essay setting Beatrix Potter's mycology hobby in proper perspective. She didn't originate the idea that lichen is two organisms in symbiosis, but she was perhaps the first person in England to see that Schwendener's theory was right: her German was good.
Thursday. Fascinating transcript of German nuclear scientists late in WW2 being taped without their knowledge as they learn of the Hiroshima bombing while held captive in an English country house. (1) How likely is it they would not have suspected hidden microphones? Almost 0% likely, one suspects. Now notice (2) how stilted & prepared their responses sound. Meanwhile, a rather detail-oriented article about whether speed fiend Sir Malcolm Campbell was or wasn't a fascist. Wonderfully earnest, the weblog's subtitle is lovely: "Airpower and British society, 1908 - 1941 (mostly)"
Wednesday. Julian Assange, in his Ecuador Embassy refuge in London, has had his internet cut off. Ecuador says this is because US authorities asked it to stop Assange releasing more confidential e-mails of Hillary Clinton and thereby interfering with their country's presidential election campaign. US government denies asking Ecuador to do this. Curious claim that Assange had his internet cut off because he is being prosecuted for paedophilia. Others follow this claim's paper trail.
Tuesday. Juci narrates idyllic scenes from central Hungary. Passports were meant to be temporary. Plus a 2015 European borders piece.
Monday. Ambient weather mood is now A Bit Chilly. OhMyGod Physics continues to grow as a genre: (1) Our galaxy's black hole might be a quantum computer? / (2) Time crystals seem to be a thing (2013) / (3) Five ways to travel through time. Some sloppiness with the third piece, overlooking several formal proofs that relativity under some exotic conditions allows backwards time travel.
Sunday. In conversation with Troy, he shows me this intriguing page suggesting the 12 days of Christmas all symbolise birds.
Saturday. Brexit Remaindereds continue to complain about blasphemy against their secular cult. Some near-term uncertainty about sterling compensating for anticipated costs from leaving the EU's tariff-walled garden is forgiveable. But it's also an opportunity to enforce an idea that's been around for a few decades - allowing overnight deposits in the City move against the normal pound as if they were a separate currency (call it the mauve pound, blue pound, whatever), in the process quarantining worries about the financial sector. Normal Britain would benefit from some mild decoupling from the square mile, and the second sterling need never exist outside City capital accounts, like the ecu in the old days. A shock absorber costing nothing to create, imposing zero inconvenience, but with massive upside potential. Irritatingly dark & cloudy outside today, so here's a weblog devoted to photos of Jaques Chirac doing his "smooth pimping, suave gangsterism".
Friday. Wake at Peter's in outer Buda, slightly stunned by quasi-country air, perhaps more oxygen than deeper into town. We have a lovely breakfast. Streets eerily clear as I ride trams down to and over the morning river.
Thursday. Dinner with Peter & Endre + late-night conversation, with remarkable first-hand accounts. We cover many topics including geopolitics.
Wednesday. Chat with Claudia about this & that.
Tuesday. Walking through streets near the national museum at dusk to get to a lesson with Zizi, I see off to one side a solitary but quite heavily foliaged tree looming out from the front of building slightly set back in the dark-bricked row. I was already feeling I was experiencing the texture of life itself. One of those curious moods where everything seems justified and rather gorgeously sad, yet the mystery of it all hides something intensely hopeful just under the surface. The tree has a dark richness a hundred yards off down that street as the fading of the late day sucks all remaining light & colour out of its heavy leaves. This quick sight as I hurry through to the main street gives the mood around me a tightly defined shape for a moment.
Monday. More about the experiment to teach horses symbols, and about the German forester who believes trees are social beings.
Sunday. Coffee with Dominic and then with Jean-Michel.
Saturday. I get to the end of a short book I borrowed from Dr D., 'Road Planning in Europe' (so obscure it has no barcode and isbnsearch dot org cannot find its ISBN), pulled together by Rudiger Rubel & Eva Silbermann. I learn a new word, 'cassation'. It's hard to give a flavour of this conference book (in both English & French) listing how the legal systems of different EU member states handle road-planning inquiries that really does it justice, but this quote about airborne pollutants on page 54 might help: "Thus the question of how far the observation of ambient and threshold values needs to be reviewed by the courts during the planning of new roads is of entirely practical significance."
Friday. Damp, dark, chilly. I ask young Lorinc to suggest a tattoo that would suit me. His first choice is a cucumber sandwich. That's his symbol for my people.
If you've ever wanted to know how to get money off technology billionaires: exploit their philosophical naivete. Several wealthy entrepreneurs right now actually believe Nick Bostrom's 2003 argument we are all really living in a computer simulation in the future. So they're paying real money to folk to help us escape it. Bless.
Thursday. cloudy, rainy weather. Sky like neon ceiling panels barely glowing through cotton wool. Lesson with Deborah & lovely lunch with Paul. We run into Elie at the tramstop. A wonderfully dismissive 2007 Luttwak piece about the lack of value in engaging with the Islamic Near East that still merits a read, and a more recent deserved dismantling of Slavoj Zizek by Roger Scruton.
Wednesday. Attend an evening data-science event with two talks + pizza at an office building nearby. The star guest speaker from San Francisco speaks with quiet confidence & sympathetic humour about prorities in scaling up data storage in a fast-growing firm. He knowingly drops in those cheerful lines like "I think we all know, God's honest truth, that Hive is brutally slow" and "when you have - say, Impala on top of Hadoop, and you need to start productionising" that tell you within seconds you're in the wrong meeting and you can't leave for an hour because you're seated in the 2nd row. Fascinating-looking slides, very cleanly presented, come up with labels like 'Sane join keys' and "Let's suppose S3 is your Source Of Truth". He talks us through what happens when "the jackass who got hold of the admin keys spins up some Cassandra clusters in front of your people" and (gestures at coloured strips on new slide) "We can see someone's being a bad citizen here, probably this blue dude". He must be a very good speaker indeed, because by the end am strangely convinced I understand his presentation.
Tuesday. Spoilsport sleuth 'exposes' pseudonymous Italian writer.
Monday. The US breaks off diplomatic relations with Russia over the Syrian conflict. Shoutiness intended to unnerve American voters next month?
Sunday. Worthwhile article suggests perhaps we'd be better off without masses of high-resolution video and millions of IoT washing machines & microwave ovens wired together worldwide.
Saturday. At about 2.30am the morning of Sunday I find one of the staff members at the largeish all-night shop mentioned in
my article in
dancing slowly with a dark-haired woman. The techno-music radio channel is tuned to another station. The warbling tones of a Hungarian Gypsy woman vocalist fill the small brightly-lit supermarket, singing one of those songs best heard when sad & drunk. Yet everyone in the store is chatting and laughing, especially the two dancers. Back in my flat, even mindful of the New Yorker cartoon that proclaimed "Ask not for whom the fridge hums: It hums for thee", I am leaving the fridge on again at nights. Sometimes it can be soothing, a little bit like a ship's engine - as if my apartment block were slowly steaming somewhere through the darkness.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com