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The Towers The Fields The Transmitters by David Keenan (Books 2020, 27)

Strange one, this. I read Keenan’s This is Memorial Device a couple of years ago, so when I saw a new one by him listed on my local bookshop’s ‘forthcoming’ page, I had a look.

That book was Xstabeth, and more on it in a few posts’ time. It hadn’t yet been released at the time, but there was a special offer from the publishers: upload proof that you had preordered it (such as the receipt from your local bookshop) and you’d get a free novella-length ebook prequel: The Towers The Fields The Transmitters.1

So I did all that, and here we are.

I’ll note right away that, having read both, they seem to be connected only by location and one tenuous, ambiguous, confusing event.

In fact those terms apply throughout this book. It’s kind of a magical realism piece, set mostly in St Andrews.2 A businessman visits the town to audit the books of a military facility, and starts trying to find his missing daughter. Why does he think she might be in St Andrews? That is never explained. Nor does it need to be.

Time goes weird, with second-world-war bombers appearing in the skies. Or on the phone, at least.

The more I try to write about this, the more it feels like a hallucination I had a few weeks ago. Very strange. Worth reading.

  1. That title needs some commas, I can’t help but think. But that’s the way it’s given, so [sic], I guess. 

  2. Which town needs an apostrophe, it seems to me, but doesn’t have one according to Wikipedia, so [sic]) I guess. 

Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up by Sticking the Top of Your Mask to Your Face Using Micropore Tape

The problem

If, like all sensible people, you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you go out these days; and if, like me and millions of others, you wear glasses; then you will have experienced your breath causing your glasses to steam up.

The cause is a fundamental flaw in mask design: the mask fabric makes a straight line from our cheeks to the bridge of our noses, leaving a gap between face and mask seam. Most of our out-breaths are directed that way, just by taking the path of least resistance.

Some masks have a wire insert that lets you mould the top section around your nose. I find that improves things, but is still imperfect. There are always gaps.

The Bigger Problem

This means that the masks are not as effective as they should be for their primary purpose. All that warm, damp air that’s condensing on our glasses is also the air that might be carrying virus particles.

So while this solution helps with the steamed-up glasses problem, it also helps to make masks more effective, by ensuring that more of our potentially-poisonous breath goes through the fabric.

The Solution

It’s quite simple: apply a strip of micropore tape to the section of the mask that goes over the bridge of your nose, and seal it down well.

A COVID-19-type facemask lying on a surface alongside a roll of micropore tape.
Mask and Micropore

Micropore tape is normally used for fixing dressings on wounds, so it’s designed to stick to skin and come off with minimal fuss (though see below).

The roll we had when I thought of this is quite wide, so I’ve been folding a piece over and attaching it to the inside of the mask (at @FrancesShipsey‘s suggestion).

A COVID-19-type facemask with a piece of micropore tape attached.
Mask With Micropore

As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.

A balding man (the author) wearing a COVID-19-type facemask and glasses.
Martin With Mask With Micropore

And it’s not actually visible when the mask is on.

The New Problems: Removal, and Sensitivity

Taking the taped mask off is the worst part, in my experience. I’ve been doing it quickly: take off my glasses (otherwise they might go flying across the room); unhook the ear loops and take a firm grip of them; close my eyes; then tug sharply forward.1

It can make your eyes water, but honestly, for clear vision outside on these cold days, it’s worth it.

Removing it slowly might be better for some people. And the whole thing will not be for some. If you have very sensitive skin, or get a reaction to the adhesive, then this won’t be for you. But if you can take it, I highly recommend it.

Lastly, my pictures show a reusable mask, but it works for disposables too.

  1. Though see my later post. I think I’ll be doing it slowly from now on. 

How to Make Sure You See My Posts

If you’re reading this, it may not apply to you, but I want to let you know that there are a number of ways to make sure that you see all of my posts. Should you wish to.

Now With Added Email

If you follow that link on the left labelled ‘Subscribe,’ you’ll see all the ways.

RSS, Twitter,,; no surprises there.

But if you prefer to use the oldest protocol of all (at least for these purposes), there’s a form on that page that will let you sign up to get the posts by email.

So now you never have to miss a post again.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 72 by Hunter S Thompson (Books 2020, 26)

I thought it might be interesting, in this year of a US presidential election, to reread this account of a different reelection campaign of a terrible president.

In this one, of course, the president — Nixon — was successfully reelected. And it was only in his second term that he was impeached — or nearly so. He resigned first, and Ford, his veep, now president, pardoned him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Trump and Pence try the same sort of thing in the next couple of months.

This book doesn’t get as far as Nixon’s resignation. Thompson followed the Democratic campaign, and then George McGovern’s campaign once he got the nomination, as part of the press pack. He was National Affairs Editor for Rolling Stone at the time. A title and role that he created.

So this is essentially a fix-up of his columns, with some edits, and the odd footnote adding information that wasn’t available at the time. It’s classic HST, of course, with not quite as many illegal drugs as in some of his works.

The most intriguing thing in the whole book for me was this quote from p189:

For almost a year now, he [Pat Cadell] has been George McGovern’s official numbers wizard. Cadell and his Cambridge Research Associates have been working the streets and suburban neighborhoods in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts for McGovern, then coming back to headquarters on election nite [sic] and calling the results almost down to the percentage point…

Emphasis mine, ellipsis his. I’m just struck by the name of the organisation, and the fact that they’re doing a not dissimilar thing to Cambridge Analytica — in terms of analysis, if not manipulation — in a pre-computer age. There doesn’t seem to be any connections between the two organisations.

On the very next page we have this:

Even reading and watching all the news, there is no way to know the truth — except to be there.

Which resonates profoundly in today’s ‘fake news’ world.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Books 2020, 25)

Read this for my course. It’s very good, unsurprisingly. Historical fiction isn’t usually my thing (Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle notwithstanding) It has a striking stylistic tic — if that’s the right word — in the way she refers to Thomas Cromwell. It’s always ‘he said,’ or ‘he did such-and-such’; very occasionally, for clarity, ‘he, Cromwell…’ But never just, ‘Cromwell said…’

Not a big deal, but in a work of this size, it stands out. It feels significant. And it is; ‘tic’ is the wrong word for something so definite, so chosen. Mantel has said that she wanted the viewpoint to be ‘over Cromwell’s shoulder.’ So ‘he’, rather than ‘Cromwell.’

One of the most subtle things about it as how Cromwell switches from just being an advisor to the king to rounding up certain priests, and I don’t really understand how it happened. It’s a masterpiece of characterisation.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Books 2020, 24)

I wasn’t quite sure about this at first. I know it won awards and all that. It was assigned for the ‘Genre’ module of my Creative Writing masters,1 but it didn’t immediately grab me.

But I came round to it. It’s set in the very far future, because there are examples of technology that is old, but people don’t understand it. Reminiscent of Viriconium or Against A Dark Background in that way. And ‘Home is the pink one’ — star — suggests that Sol has got very old. Like, billions of years older than now. Which feels wrong, because humans should have changed a lot more in that time.

The titular character is the first of her people to leave Earth (we assume it’s Earth, anyway) to go to Oomza University, which appears to be a whole planet that’s a university, and takes people from many different species and civilisations.

Things happen on the way, as you might expect. It’s good, and I’m keen to read the sequels.

  1. As such it’s an odd choice: for the crime and historical fiction we got long novels, and even for YA it’s a full-length novel. But for SF: a novella.