Thursday, 29 October 2009

Coffee breaks at 10.30

The morning coffee break at 10.30 is one of the best things about a regular hours job. I missed it when I left the Wren, I missed it when I left the BL, and I miss it now I've left the Parker. Luckily both the Wren and the Parker have expressed themselves happy to have me back to visit. So I made some raspberry buns to my great grandma Dean's recipe and took them in to the Parker this morning for a coffee break reunion. I'm putting the instructions below. It's about the only thing I know about my great grandma Dean, although I did meet her a few times before she died. I know that when my grandpa was a boy he wasn't allowed to go to tea if any of his friends invited him, because they were too poor to ask people back in return.

Great Grandma Dean's raspberry buns
1/2 lb self-raising flour
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp water (optional)
1 tiny pinch salt
Raspberry jam with pips

1. Sieve flour and salt
2. Rub in the fat
3. Add the sugar keeping a little back
4. Add the egg
5. If too stiff add water
6. Roll on floured board
7. Cut into 12 pieces
8. Shape each into a rough cup
9. Put 1/2 tsp raspberry jam into centre of each
10. Pinch each closed (with perhaps a little jam showing)
11. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar
12. Cook for 15-20 mins at 180° C

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Windows 7: day 2

I've got Windows 7 more or less set up as I want it now, and I've reinstalled almost all the programs I need. I've got the Quick Launch bar back, which is good, because I hated the Mac-dock rip-off taskbar that's supposedly one of Windows 7's features. So far I'm not sure I've noticed that my laptop is any faster, but this is probably just because of the inevitable updates it's constantly downloading -- maybe it will be better once this calms down a little. I do like that items on the taskbar glow in different colours when you hover your mouse over them, which is possibly the most trivial feature ever. There is also a new thing called Libraries, which I think allows you to do the same thing as you could do in Vista with tags, but without frightening the horses with the word "tag" -- tags don't seem to be popular with the public, and google has largely abandoned this terminology in its documents and mail features. I haven't yet played with it. I do hope such tags as I put in in Vista still work; otherwise I will be angry. I wouldn't have bothered to upgrade if Windows 7 hadn't been so cheap, and what I really want from it is quicker bootup times and less seizing up to do unspecified things which it thinks are more important than my work. So it will probably take a while to work out if it is doing what I wanted it for. But if you upgraded to it from XP it would probably seem pretty shiny.

In other news: you've got to love autotune. Go Timbaland!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Best 79p I've spent all week

The Miley Cyrus single is finally out on itunes. It's an excellent pop thing about the mood-changing power of pop music.


1. Someone is supposed once to have said to Newton that it was understandable that people used to think that the sun revolved round the earth, because that's what it looks like. To which Newton is said to have replied, What did they suppose it would look like if the earth revolved around the sun? One of the excellent things about my Ph.D. supervisor, who taught me palaeography as an undergraduate, is that he has a similar attitude. If something looks like it's from a particular place and time, he still asks the question of how it would look different if it were from somewhere else. I think that Anglo-Saxon art history has suffered from not having people who ask those sort of questions. Most late Anglo-Saxon gospel-books are dated to circa 1020 because one particular gospel-book can be dated to around that time; but people might have made gospel-books in the 1030s to 1060s too.

2. Windows 7 is annoying me. On the one hand installing it was pretty easy. Because I was upgrading from Vista Home to 7 Pro it couldn't do an install on top of what I already had, but it did leave intact all my files and folders that weren't part of the Windows system -- so I had to restore the My Pictures folder from a backup, but not all my other important folders. But I dislike intensely the taskbar, and it's taking ages to sort it out.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


I have been away for the best part of a week in a place without internet access or mobile phone reception. This is because I was at an Arvon course on biography writing, at their centre in Totleigh Barton, and they deliberately eschew such things as distractions. But I don't think I will ever again try to do some serious work without an internet connection. I felt badly hamstrung by not being able to check things as I went, like the death date of Queen Anne, or the meaning of the word "desidiousness". Yes the internet has its distractions, and I had 350 items on my google reader list when I got back, but I think that's a matter of the self-control you exercise over it. And I'm sure I would have got more done if I'd been able to use it.

Now I am at my parents', retrieving my rats before heading home again. The TV reception here is decidedly patchy and I can't get any BBC channels. But I am enjoying a glorious feast of internet, and I've got my e-mail inbox down to one.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

"Science" means knowledge

I do love the way that the line between science and science fiction sometimes buckles under the strain. There's something oddly soothing about the idea that the entire universe is just a holographic projection on the lip of a black hole into which it has already been swallowed. The suggestion that people from the future are trying to stop us from making Higgs Bosons seems a little less original though.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Since becoming unemployed last Wednesday I have looked at eight excellent manuscripts, four in Trinity and four in the BL. Some of them had very interesting codicological features, and one was in a dazzlingly beautiful Anglo-Caroline. It has made me very happy, and reminded me of what I do, and, if it's not too pretentious to say it, who I am.

There's a Douglas Adams book where a man goes from not knowing that such a thing as an I Ching calculator exists to owning one in a dizzyingly short amount of time. Adams must have loved the internet. I only very recently became aware that there's such a thing as a Buddha machine, and yet my own arrived in the post this morning. I went and bought batteries for it at lunchtime and now I'm listening to it on headphones. It's a bit like tuning in to alien signals from deep space, probably from a transmitter so far away it's long since stopped broadcasting, in the ruins of the planets of a dead civilisation.

I suppose that a sensible unemployed person would not spend any money on buddha machines. But having left my job on Wednesday last week I am actually back in for four days this week, to write a report about the project website. I have become wierdly disconnected from the whole thing during my two days of freedom, but they are paying me, so I'm giving it a bash.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Good TV

I'm not keen on the Wire, or West Wing, or all that serious shouty stuff. I have decided that what I like is TV that at some point makes me say "Coo-ol!" The two syllables indicate amusement, surprise, and respect. I am currently watching the third series of Primeval, which has some particularly horrible things happening to bankers.

Joss Whedon makes good TV. Joss Whedon is great! I've just watched the first series of the Dollhouse, which works better than I was expecting. The premise is that brain-wiped pretty people can be hired for lots of money and programmed to be whatever you want, with a guarantee that they'll be rewiped at the end of the hire time. It's not as sordid as you might think; it's probably true that people would want something more complicated than just sex from that sort of service. Possibly it's all a metaphor for acting. Anyway it reminded me of the terrible waste that was the cancellation of Firefly, which was just hitting its stride when Fox gave up on it on the grounds that Americans aren't interested in people who lose wars. (Pity American veterans.) Here is the theme tune -- I love the bit at the end with the spaceship and the horses.

TV PS The clothes of Sex and the City are terrible. Why were they ever supposed to be good? Isn't real style supposed to be timeless? I'm not a fashionista by a long stretch but I can still hardly look at them.