Friday 19 November 2021


Some years ago - more than 50 in fact - I read an SF book, probably on my friend Jonathan's recommendation, that I found to be rather good. Predictably, there were sequels of monotonically decreasing merit and I wisely stoppped after the first such.

Attempts to film this story have either foundered or been poorly received, and none of my shekels have been diverted to viewing any of them. This year, the most recent such attempt has been well received so we went to give it a spin this week. Yes, it was rather good.

One of the absolute highlights has to be Leto being ceremonially led onto Arrakis by a bagpiper, but the quality of the thing actually pervades: the visualisation of the various worlds is good enough to make you think "yes, it was like this", and - modulo 50 year forgetting interval - I think it was remarably faithful to the text. There were too many details to capture, but I think I noticed them using both metric and Imperial distance measures (didn't the 'thopter have to rise more than 5000ft?), which is admirable. And the worms were pretty good, leaving a lot to look forward to in the [predictable] sequel.

Before I saw it I chatted with a 15yo friend who told me he had seen it, and that he had read the book. I told him I was his age when I read it, which I rather liked. In retrospect, perhaps I was spoiled because I came to expect that all SF was of the quality that Herbert, Brunner and Trout generated, but this is false.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Score #10

I subscribe to the Walking Artists' Network, which is ironic as I am not an artist and find much walking constrained by circumstances. Anyway, therein Blake Morris solicited participation in his 52 More project. Ever one to jump first and look second, I said "why not?".

Blake explains all this very well himself so I won't duplicate: suffice to say that I synthesised a score as

  • Always move away from the restrictive
  • the passage of time investigates — rather than celebrates
  • find materials to make an old-fashioned archive and check the accuracy by touching something
or, if you prefer, here is the original in cut-ups:

Blake and I will perform this on the last Tuesday of every month until Terminalia (23rd February, as usual - the last outing will be 22nd February). He suggests an invitation be sent to anyone interested, and so over a period of months we cannot fail to collect an old fashioned archive of some interest.

So join in. Blake will be pleased to hear from you.

Monday 24 May 2021

Building a coracle

We spent the last weekend building a coracle at Gorfanc. Haven't had so much fun in ages. Gorfanc is an idyllic spot near Carno with lots of lovely things to do, hosted by Pippa and Rob. If you enjoy sleepless uncomfortable nights, you can camp (some people like camping - not me guv'nor).

Here is how you make a coracle (the pictures which follow imply that H did all the work - not so. She will produce a much better blogpost that has pictures of me doing things):

  1. Acquire lots of long thin bits of willow. If they are dry, soak them.
  2. Rob will provide you with a seat plank. Put it on the ground and poke 4 willows into its prepared holes.
  3. Poke 24 more willow sticks into the ground according the the Magic Measuring Sticks you will be gven.
  4. Say hello to Pippa when she comes round (often) to check you haven't made a total pig's ear of anything.
  5. Remove the seat. Start to weave between the poles, according to the instructions you have been given.
  6. Pop the seat back in, and do lots more weaving according to instructions. When finished, take an arty shot of your workpersonship with 2 (two) shadows.
  7. Listen carefully to Pippa's instructions to how to bend the poles over. Then do it. The resulting hoops have to be the same height and curvature. And the willow mustn't snap. Tricky!
  8. Do more tricky bending.
  9. Tie special string around the crissy-crossy bits.
  10. Survey the field of inverted part-made coracles: easily mistaken for a neolithic cemetery.
  11. Detach the coracle from the planet. Notice it looks like a boat when you invert it.
  12. Over coffee, watch a demonstration of paddling technique. Then try it.
  13. Find the immense roll of calico, and measure out a stretch big enough to shroud your colander.
  14. Following instructions, spend a long time sewing the calico over the basket weaving (yeah, all the effort that went into beautiful weaving is now invisible). Unskilled sewers will leave traces of blood all over the calico, facilitating later DNA identification.
  15. Put your coracle in the boot of your car (notice how easily it fits), and drive it home.
  16. At a later date, when the weather is dry (yeah, right), apply bitumen paint to the underside to effect waterproofing of the calico.
Say farewell to a terrific bunch of people and hosts. Take a small detour to try out paddling someone else's coracle on real water. H will provide you with a video of this ... Take care to grab a picture of the super VR wall box near the old Carno post office.
Hope to met Pippa and Rob again. If there's a following wind, I may even buy some bees from them.

Sunday 4 April 2021

In search of Plasbâch

The Easter weather being clement, I decide to take the new bike out in search of a fine George V lamp box at Plasbâch. All catalogues of the nation's postboxes report it is somewhere between Llangwyryfon and Llandeiniol but you never know quite where.

Some considerable time with Google Streetview failed to reveal a precise location. In desperation, I turn to the National Library of Scotland's very considerate Internet provision of archive OS maps. On the 1906 series, Plasbâch appears at Lat/Long (52.32367,-4.08583) (or GR SN5795271894 if you prefer), [click to enlarge]

while on the succeeding 1953 series map it has disappeared,
so no surprise that I cannot find it on a 21st century map. Back to Streetview with these co-ordinates and if you have the eyes of a hawk you can just see it tucked into a rather overgrown hedge (go on, have a look for it yourself). Bingo.

On arrival, of Plasbâch there is no sign on the ground whatever: close by is a rather later property. Nevertheless, the box is there and at a very jaunty angle to the horizontal indeed. Someone taking note of HMHB, the hedge has been cut. I can't believe many envelopes get stuck in this fella, so catch it while you can.

Just up the road is a much easier to find George VI
where there is also an impromptu shop

Saturday 27 February 2021

Swyddfa'r post ar gau

With Mark Drakeford's permission, I escorted my birthday present up to Banc Y Darren to visit the very best postbox within cycling distance of my home. Strictly speaking, the present escorted me.

The condition of the Banc Y Darren sundial has deteriorated since my last visit. I can't believe it ever worked very well.

And thence via the precipitous gated road to Goginan to fill a gap in the ongoing survey of SY23 boxes.

This box is midway between the much loved but currently closed Druid Inn, and the old chapel that used to be the Goginan Post Office.

Swyddfa'r post ar gau. Tafarn ar gau.

Monday 11 January 2021

The King of Mercia and the frog-pool

Physical bookshelves may be described as a fixed partitioned set S = {S1,S2, ... , Sn} where the Si are the fixed physical shelves defined by their length and height.

A collection of books may likewise be described as B = {B1,B2, ... , Bm} where now the Bj are components of a partition of the books into categories; fiction, poetry, psychogeography, chess etc. This partition is poorly defined as a given book may belong to more than one category: so, does Offa and the Mercian Wars belong to biography, or geography, or history, or politics? And as for Pond Life. The whole scheme is ad hoc and pays no heed to Melvil Dewey at all. That's probably a mistake.

Anyway, the problem becomes that of finding an allocation A of the Bj to the Si in a manner that is coherent and pleasing. And so that you can actually retrieve a book that you are certain you own, but cannot find. This can be tricky and is probably a highly specialised variant of the well-known knapsack problem.

So when you have a solution, you cling on tight to it, even if Offa's Pond Life. is confusingly located. The problem is that the book set is dynamic, so properly, B = B(t): usually, the bookset grows, with occasional small contractions as you realise that you're better off not caught with certain volumes. but on the whole, B and Bj have monotonic increasing cardinality.

Then from time to time, as shelves fill, A stops being viable. When this happens, we need a new allocation A', or - more seriously - a redefintion of the Bj, or - very seriously - the aquisition of new components to S; Sn+1, Sn+2,....

This happened today.