Uneventful train journey up north to
to see mother on her birthday.
Quiet day. Just before leaving Budapest last week finished last book borrowed
on Mariann's library ticket,
Emlekezet' [from 'Dynamic memory revisited'] by
Schank, translated by
Reality' by Robert Jahn & Brenda Dunne. The 1990s
Schank book [I really must
stop reading AI books] is honestly-intentioned but slightly frustrating. Schank
re-examines his theory of mind based on his work in Artificial Intelligence [AI],
a theory that we think in scripts, such as visit-restaurant or visit-health-professional.
These scripts in turn call on packages of related knowledge which are not
themselves scripts. He goes in detail into how we deviate from old scripts and
generate new ones. He was inspired partly by failures of AI and partly
by seeing his own children learn. He spends a great deal of time looking at human
thinking and how children are taught, rediscovering some wheels
already familiar to psychologists and sociologists, though from a refreshing,
new angle. His insights? Intelligence is built out of knowledge, and knowledge
is acquired through activity, in particular, a struggle not to repeat mistakes.
Good as far as it goes, I suppose.
The Jahn & Dunne book gives a new meaning to things going pear-shaped. The authors formed
Engineering Anomolies Research group, and so built up large
bodies of data on people trying to psychically influence random-number-generating
book gives this data and their research methods, as well as laying out a similar attempt
to be rigorous about "remote viewing" [subjects trying to imagine where someone else has
been, is, or will be, and describe what they imagine]. The metaphysical speculations and
cute little historical illustrations in black and white are less distracting and
silly than I expected. The whole thing seems sincere. Wish I could remember enough
statistics to judge the data for myself.
Wake up in Catford. Nigel & I take
fora long walk he has promised her, first taking
a bus over to Greenwich. Nigel opens a tin of meat for
Juno a few yards from the
meridian, and then we
stroll over to what turns out to be Blackheath. Unsure
of my directions, I find the church in which Cressida sung in the choir back in the 1980s.
Not short of prima donna qualities, she refused to ever sing in front of me,
insisting I sit through two strangers' weddings one Sunday back then to hear
her voice: something like Grieg or Messaien. I fail to recall where I
sat, though I know it was roughly at the back
on the right. In evening we eat noodles. Unable to get
through to mother in
on phone, since clever new system
where you pay a lot per minute to talk to a sick
relative is hard to use, but nurses say
she is improving. I may be imagining this, but I have a bizarre
memory of one of the nurses on the phone saying that my mother
is "motilating", presumably meaning she can walk now.
Chat with charming, grey-eyed economics student in
queue at Budapest airport.
Catch nap on flight. Board
and sit at front almost beside driver. A succession
of breath-takingly plain people then get on the coach.
After about 20 minutes of motorway
to London, driver switches on crackly radio, which is
After a half hour of this radio show, which mixes aged
rock favourites with
shouted ten-second interruptions to report goals
scored at football games up
& down Britain, the driver gets fed up around the
Marble Arch area of London and
switches to a classical music station. As we arrive at
the Victoria terminus, I ask
him, a thin, wiry man, how many times he drives up and
down between Luton
and London each day. He says
round trips, staring blankly ahead. "Still
quite tiring?" I volunteer.
"Not so tiring," the wiry man says,
"more annoying, really." "Ah,
boring?" I say, sympathetically.
The driver is
unmoved, and sits still, staring ahead through the
dull... tedious... irritating..."
His voice trails off as he
gazes into space, and he presses the button to open
the automatic door and
let me off.
Inside Victoria, I eat a hot croissant with cheese &
ham and board the
Underground train. Next to me a red-haired,
Saxon-looking man is facing a girl who
is speaking clearly with a strong semi-Cockney accent.
They are both dressed
in office wear. She tells him that some
girl's name is Tululu, and was the one in the
primary-school dance group tall
for her age. He is inaudible. Seconds later she
mentions the phrase
magazine". He mumbles something
"You know, philosophy," she says
calmly, "questions about life.
Questions discussed over
the ages, and then commented on by great thinkers,
people commenting on their comments."
The man mumbles again.
"No, not science," the Cockney girl explains,
"but it doesn't always have to be
scientific to be
worth discussing, does it?"
I get off at Embankment, before hearing any more of
her refreshing open-mindedness.
I have to run to catch the train at Charing Cross to
Catford Bridge. In the
seats around me are three London girls decked in
bangles and necklaces, led by
an extremely stacked, confident blonde with a
gorgeously deep, husky voice. She
is in charge of their natter. As a woman in fur and
black leather gloves behind
us loudly explains to her mobile phone that you can
injure all sorts of muscles
skiing, and that she heard a sound in the kitchen last
night so they went down
and indeed it was a rat and they caught it too, the
three brassy girls roll
their eyes, but quite sweetly, without nastiness. Then
the husky blonde describes
what a jammy git [lucky bastard] her brother is with
mobile phones. As evidence
of this jamminess, he left his new phone in a phone
box and came back after
an hour and it was still there, drove some distance
across London with it left
on the roof of his van and it didn't slip off, and he
left it on the frosty grass
overnight and it still worked afterwards. I'm
Tricky, but finally get a
Much excitement at
Carlson invites me for a sausage in the butcher's
shop. Standing at
red-checked counters with our mustard & our plastic
cutlery, we lunch among smart
Budapest lads with black ties & long black coats.
Uncannily like Cockney legal clerks or
trainee brokers on the up in the City of London.
Wake out of vivid dream. I was at a vaguely erotic
occult party held in
smart, cheerful surroundings in a building of large
brightly-lit rooms with high
white walls. At one point a small mammoth dressed in
the running strip of a Scottish
sports club trotted up a ramp on its back legs among
other members of the same Scots
club, and someone commented that this was funny in
view of the Scottish pop group
called 'Mammoth'. All seemed perfectly normal in the
dream. Perhaps last night's
tiramisu. During the day, an excellent public-speaking
class from Willy at lunch time.
Later on, a snack with Mihaela & Tamas at
Lite. Then a good curry with Giorgi,
kind translator of this site's imminent
page, followed by a nightcap with
Morning interview with
Keri & Nicolas on
television goes reasonably smoothly.
Later, fun with
at work until
& I run off for a beer at 5.30.
In Buda, I try to persuade Andrej that
ancient Greeks are still of interest, before
a WiFi hotspot. Here two gloomy men serve me the
largest tiramisu I have
ever witnessed, a pudding of almost sinister
a bit better on phone. Early night.
Get out of bed to quiz
over dinner to prepare for coming Tuesday's
television interview. Afterwards learn mother is in
hospital again, this time with
Still in bed. Finish
Golden Ratio' by
Livio. This is a gentle historical introduction to
golden mean through history, and how it pops up in the
series. Lots of nice woodcuts, diverting diagrams
of leaves spaced round
plant stems and so forth. Livio is persuasively
sceptical about the use of the
golden ratio in art, and the tendency of "golden
numberists" to see it wherever
they look, artfully drawing frames of the right shape
round different bits of
famous paintings [or even bits of musical scores] to
find it where it isn't.
He examines the claims that Leonardo used the golden
mean and finds very little
evidence. Refreshingly for an astrophysicist, Livio
attributes the beauty of da Vinci's
paintings to the
they create, and da Vinci's use of colour and
shading, not to any mathematical relationships between
parts of the picture.
cold reasserts itself. Back to bed.
Still snuffly. Meet
Ill at home.
tip from Bryan.
Drinks with Bob & fellow
Cakes & ginger ale with
site has kindly linked here.
Over to next village shopping with Robin. We drop by
the cheesemaker. They have
a demented Alsation barking at a heap of wooden
planks, a lard-eating child
minding a smoky outdoor cauldron, a small black puppy
hiding under a pile of 6 or 7
bicycles, and some joints of pork hanging out on the
porch: it is just
after a pig killing. The family is cutting up its
carcass on the kitchen table,
but break off to sell us a round, yellow cheese.
After dark, Edina brings Kadicsa over to Robin's.
While he watches a
Potter film on television with Robin's
children, Edina & I review more
points. Then she tells
me about Propp's
and corrects my first [yes, I know] Arabic homework.
Lunch with Liia. Friday the 13th. I catch train to
as usual from
platform 13. Nothing bad happens. I finish the first
translation draft of
Edina's thesis about dragons, witches and magic horses
on the laptop, in the
dining car, over an omlette. Later, in his kitchen,
Robin describes how his one-time
friend Attila became so consumed by darkness that
Robin found him sprawled across some
church steps in
clenching a plaster mini-Madonna in each fist, craving
Meet Reka. She says
used to edit Pesti Est in her mother's cafe.
Bob & I fly back. Odessa airport has us put our
luggage through three separate
baggage scanners before we board the flight [as
opposed to one scanner
after our plane there landed on Saturday,
perhaps in case we might
use weapons to hijack an airport taxi]. Back in
Budapest, Bob wants to try
restaurant, so we regroup there in the evening.
A middle-aged couple at the next table switch back and
forward between English
& Hungarian. As we eat, the woman next to Bob answers
her mobile phone and loudly,
cheerfully asks "How was the
autopsy? Was it a new body, or one of
those 5-year-old ones?"
Light snow and sleet. I post
Playboy to Glasgow from grand post office with
white cameo wall
mouldings of laurel wreaths, hammers & sickles.
Officials very helpful. Bob explains
significance in a Chinese restaurant. Odessa has
minibuses you can hail like taxis, and pay on the
We see inside fat green Islamic dome. Reassuring quote
from brochure: "The majority of
those in paradise are morally
upright people." In a shopping
centre with an indoor tree made of welded piping, a
has a lightbox poster showing a scantily-clad sexy
girl beneath a reverse-evolution sequence
of a walking man regressing in stages into an ape on
all fours. Bob
suggests the poster says the sexy girl causes the man
to regress. We visit an Oriental art museum.
Then we dine at a Ukrainian folk restaurant. The
serving maids have waist-length coloured ribbons
trailing from their hair, and there is an indoor tree
made of fibreglass
looking like wood. Bob explains art of snappy book
enters the business market.
Last night we pass an Arab / Islamic /
cultural centre covered in Near Eastern patterning.
Its dome is very fat, lit up in rich colours. As we
return to the hotel on the number 5 tram, three girls
get on singing Ukrainian Christmas carols. One holds a
staff bearing a big star made of tinsel. The songs are
lovely, and rather intricate. As we move to the back
of the tram to compliment them, the whole tram
touchingly breaks out into 'We wish you a merry
Christmas' in English in our honour.
Wake up this morning mildly baffled at my usual small
bedsheet that cannot tuck in, so ends up wrapped round
legs after a night sweating into the mattress the
sheet is supposed to protect. Not unlike the extra
curtains that turn out to be as transparent as the net
curtains and only cover a quarter of the windows
anyway. People here are very spirited and friendly,
but it's hard to keep nasty critical questions at bay,
like "What are they thinking when they do
that?". The fact that all over Eastern Europe
bedsheets still don't tuck in and curtains still don't
keep out light is a bit odd, really. Like the way
Hungarian waiters bring your food or drink on top of
your paper napkin, so that it is moist and therefore
useless for wiping your hands on. Our hotel is cheap
and pleasant and deserted, but is it really necessary
to pay an extra hundred dollars a night before a hotel
will think of sheets that cover a bed and curtains
that cover a window? Is this advanced stuff? Because
it's clearly about lack of thought, not lack of money.
By morning I pop into a church for a few moments of
moving choral service. Orthodox Christians stand
before their God, and even girls covered their heads
before entering. Later Bob & I check a quiet museum.
It seems the Greek colony nearest modern Odessa was
Bob & I fly to
a cross between Moscow & Blackpool. We get frisked for
weapons in a
giant toy shop [it's Orthodox Christmas here] and
enjoy a Thai meal in a Japanese place.
Lots of casinos.
After 11 hours sleep, into the office.
over mulled wine mid-afternoon, alerts me to
Later on, tea with a jet-lagged Bob, and then
naughtily alcoholic cherry drinks with
Politics Judit and Isabel. Much merriment,
particularly when Judit's Tarot spread
2 of cups
and ends with
On flight to Budapest meet Malcolm, a brewer turned
& Giacomo. Sushi with Nigel &
Warm welcome from Nigel &
last night. Today, trip to Saffron Walden to see
Nigel asks me if homeopathy works better if I see
Roger less often.
Cramped train down to London, on which meet Margaret,
law & economics lecturer.
carries an extract from
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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