Wednesday 21 July, 2021

On a roll?

It was my birthday the other day. I particularly enjoyed this card — clearly a lockdown special!

Quote of the Day

”Media is a word that has come to mean bad journalism.”

  • Graham Greene

Snail email

Andrew Nash emailed to say that Monday’s Quote of the Day about the courage of the French discovering that eating snails was ok, turns out to be historically inaccurate. According to a learned website, “Dining on escargots experienced its first boom in ancient Rome. They were highly popular due to their supposed stimulating properties. Pliny the Edler (100 BCE) wrote about escargot and their preparation in his volume of natural history, and Marcus Gavius Apicius eternalized popular recipes and breeding tips in his book of Roman cookery written in the 4th or 5th century ADE.”

Apologies to the ancients concerned.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Paul Simon & George Harrison | Here Comes The Sun


I like it as much as I liked the original Beatles version.

Long Read of the Day

Kim Stanley Robinson on How Science Fiction Works

Terrific interview by John Plotz.


Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR): People sometimes think that science fiction is about predicting the future, but that isn’t true. Since predicting the future is impossible, that would be a high bar for science fiction to have to get over. It would always be failing. And in that sense it always is failing. But science fiction is more of a modeling exercise, or a way of thinking.

Another thing I’ve been saying for a long time is something slightly different: We’re in a science fiction novel now, which we are all cowriting together. What do I mean? That we’re all science fiction writers because of a mental habit everybody has that has nothing to do with the genre. Instead, it has to do with planning and decision making, and how people feel about their life projects. For example, you have hopes and then you plan to fulfill them by doing things in the present: that’s utopian thinking. Meanwhile, you have middle-of-the-night fears that everything is falling apart, that it’s not going to work. And that’s dystopian thinking.

So there’s nothing special going on in science fiction thinking. It’s something that we’re all doing all the time.

I was particularly struck by the interview because I’m reading his new book, The Ministry for the Future, which opens with a protagonist who finds himself in a catastrophic heatwave in India. Here’s a passage from the chapter:

Curious, alarmed, feeling himself breathing hard, Frank walked down the streets toward the lake. People were outside buildings, clustered in doorways. Some eyed him, most didn’t, distracted by their own issues. Round-eyed with distress and fear, red-eyed  from the heat and exhaust smoke, the dust. Metal surfaces in the sun burned to the touch, he could see heatwaves bouncing over them like hair over a barbecue. His muscles were jellied, a wire of dread running down his spinal-cord was the only thing keeping him upright. It was impossible to hurry, but he wanted to. He walked in the shade as much as possible. This early in the morning one side of the street was usually shaded. Moving into sunlight was like getting pushed towards a bonfire. One lurched towards the next patch of shade, impelled by the blast.

He came to the lake and was unsurprised to see people in it already, neck deep. Brown faces flushed red with heat. A thick talcum of light hung over the water. He went to the curve in the concrete road that bordered the lake on this side, crouched and stuck his arm in up to the elbow. It was indeed as warm as a bath, or almost. He kept his arm in, trying to decide if the water was cooler or hotter than his body. In the cooking air it was hard to tell. After a time he concluded the water at the surface was approximately the same temperature as his blood. Which meant it was considerably cooler than the air. But if it was a little warmer than body temperature… Well, it would still be cooler than the air. It was strangely hard to tell.

Later, I started to read reports of the ‘heat dome’ that has been making parts of Western Canada hellish.

KSR’s remark that “We’re in a science fiction novel now, which we are all cowriting together” now makes sense.

A proper police crackdown


Malaysian authorities seized 1,069 bitcoin mining rigs, laid them out in a parking lot at police headquarters, and used a steamroller to crush them.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Hakemal Hawari told CNBC the crypto crackdown came after miners allegedly stole $2 million worth of electricity siphoned from Sarawak Energy power lines.

The video is too good to miss:


Tokyo: No sex please — we’re athletes

This blog is also available as a daily email. If you think this might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox at 7am UK time. It’s free, and there’s a one-click unsubscribe if you decide that your inbox is full enough already!