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.
Yesterday I tried removing my taped-on mask slowly, and it was actually much better. So I rescind my advice from the day before about removing it quickly.
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.
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.
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).
As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Christmas cake is in the oven. ‘Tis the (start of the) season.