play sing-a-long-a-commonwealth-games with the words to many of the world’s national anthems. i can now do more than just the advance australia fair and o canada bits. so long as no one else is about to listen that is.

you’ll have to go elsewhere to get the words to what they’ve now allowed us to play as the “victory anthem of england” land of hope and glory (which is much better than the usual british dirge we get even when we’re being english).

unsafe electrics

it’s been one long thunderstorm here for the past day or so and last
night i was driving home watching the lightning and feeling nice and safe
in my faraday cage of a car when i realised that a convertible with the cloth
roof up is not a faraday cage and would not be a faraday cage even if i put
a fibreglass hardtop on it. ooops. i might stay at the office until the storm has passed next time…

the idea behind a faraday cage is that electrical charge doesn’t
visit the inside of a metal object, it just distributes itself over the surface.
a metal car is a long way from a perfect faraday cage (it’s got windows for a start) but it’s enough of an approximation
to make you safe from lightning strikes inside it. i’ve found some suggesstion
that the science of faraday cages is irrelevant to lightning because it deals
with static electricity and that cars are actually safe because of a “skin effect” but this seems to be practically (if not fundamentally) the same thing to me.

five second rule

i learnt a rule of thumb as a child (no idea who from, probably an equally
uninformed fellow child) that each second delay between the lightning and
the thunder meant the storm was a mile away. i’d never questioned this until
i was lying in bed this morning looking at the thunderstorm and doing maths
in my head (it beat getting up, ok?). sound travels at 330 metres per second
or thereabouts. so the sound of thunder will take three seconds to travel
a kilometre. so there’s no way it can travel a mile in a second. it takes
the sound of thunder five seconds to travel a mile.

that storm is closer than you think.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve

Cover of Fortune's Rocks

In the beginning this book is almost everything I least like reading. It’s a historical love story set in 1899. If I hadn’t read any of Shreve’s books before I’d have given up then and there. I carried on reading about the affair between fifteen year old Olympia Biddeford and forty one year old married with four children John Haskell because I thought that Shreve must have something in mind other than a pure romance (or not-so-pure depending on which sense you apply pure in, I suppose).

And of course there was far more to this book than that but it took the author a long time to get there. The first two hundred pages of the book concern the romance and the trailing two hundred and fifty concern the long reaching after effects. It didn’t feel balanced to me though. The first part of the book dragged on and on and on as I put the book down endless times and wondered when something would happen. The second half of the book felt much shorter as a whirlwind of things rushed by me and I got ever so involved in Olympia’s life and didn’t want to put the book down.

It’s a book I’d hesitate to recommend because of how tedious I found the first half but the second half does more than make up for what I saw as the shortcomings of the first half and turns into a really interesting look at life and legality in a small coastal New England town in the early years of the last century.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 22nd May 2000.


i hate being ill, but that seems such a redundant thing to say because
i’m not sure that there’s anyone who enjoys it. i guess that there’s stuff
like munchausen’s syndrome where people enjoy pretending to be ill but that’s
not quite the same. i’d enjoy pretending to be ill if it meant a few days
off work without the annoying side effect of needing to rest and stay in
bed and laze about and feel uselessly unproductive.

now i’ll probably try and do a thousand things at once when i’m not up to it and make myself ill again…..

The McCone Files by Marcia Muller

Cover of

This is one of two volumes of short stories featuring Sharon McCone that I’ve been saving for rainy days. I finally finished all the stories and whilst I’m rarely very impressed with short stories in general and these are no exception to that rule there are two stories here that work really well.

This volume of stories covers the time that Sharon spent as the staff investigator at All Souls Legal Cooperative in San Francisco. It’s fun to dive back into these days and see the old characters from the books again. The two stories I love could be considered to be just one story. The opening story covers the day that Sharon is hired by the cooperative, then a group of young and idealistic lawyers, and the closing story covers the day she leaves as the cooperative turns corporate. A single case binds these two stories together and it’s good to see an author using two stories to tell a story that wouldn’t have worked without the time lapse.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 6th March 2000.

The Red Room by Nicci French

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I’ve been disappointed with Nicci French’s last couple of books but I’m glad to report that I enjoyed this one. This is probably because it’s more of a straightforward whodunnit and less of the mess-with-your-head psychological suspense thriller type thing that her last few books have tried to be. (I know it’s a-he-and-a-she team but I’ll keep calling her “her” as that seems to be the sensible thing to do and the books themselves don’t give away the fact that they are team efforts, no reason why they should I suppose.)

The story here involves psychologist Kit Quinn who gets involved in a murder case by virtue of having been attacked by one of the suspects. I liked the linear progression of the story – not that I don’t like twisted stories, it’s just the expectataion of twistedness becomes tedious after a while. Decent characters and a solid plot were just what I needed and just what I got.

I had it in mind to give up on Nicci French after this book as I seemed to be disappointed book after book that she didn’t get back to the form I thought she had in her first book (and pretty much in her second) but I’ll keep reading now she’s proved she can do something different.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 28th June 2002.

Thinks… by David Lodge

Cover of

This was a good book to read whilst feeling under the weather because I know I’ll never catch all the subtexts and references even if I read it when I was running on full power. David Lodge always gives me a feeling that I’m missing half of what’s going on, but it doesn’t really matter because he still delivers a very readable story full of laughs, wit and tragedies.

This is another tale of English University life – he’s written several before – this one is set at the (fictional) University of Gloucester, a campus university bearing major resemblance to every campus uni I’ve ever visited. I read his earlier books quite a few years back and only spotted one reappearing character in this one, Robyn Penrose, and she only has a walk on part here. This struck me as a sadder tale than his earlier books. Like them it deals with marriages and adultery and the effects of affairs on those around but I felt there was less comedy in this one. It might just be that I’m not in a very comedic mood today. There’s plenty of wit but less silliness, and on the whole I found that good. The characters in this book seemed less stereotyped and more realistic than in earlier books (which is perhaps a dumb thing to say since many of the characters in earlier books were pretty much intended to be stereotypes) and this seemed more like a real story and less of a social observation.

I also enjoyed the fact that we didn’t get mired in a slurry of English faculty and one of the main characters was a computer scientist (albeit a cognitive scientist really) and there were plenty of logical puzzlers to entertain me when the literary aspects went flying over my head.

All in all, just as enjoyable as I’d hoped and rather more engaging on many levels than I’d expected.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 28th June 2002.