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Sunday, 8 December 2013

The other numeracy

The World Of Perception: measuring events, artefacts and the passage of time according to our own (non-metric, non-Imperial, non-SI) system.

Soap (The minimum volume coefficient). VR begs me: can't we discard the final sliver of soap we use in the bath? It slips away so easily; treacherously difficult to retrieve. I'd noticed. But the unwrapping of a new bar of soap is akin to taking on a new and virginal lover. A solemn yet sensual moment. For the moment the sliver remains.

Novel writing (The illusory barrier). Second Hand has passed the 50,000-word mark, see below. Those seductive zeroes must mean something. But zeroes, by definition, add up to nothing, especially in a first draft. The pitiless editor and his uber-polished X-acto have yet to slash and burn, taking us back to the high forties. And where, in any case, would be The End? About 120,000 words - but who knows?

Bovril (The elusive last scrape). Paste and jar combine stygian colours, reducing this to guesswork. Aha, I see a brownish streak. I scrape and leave two separate and thinner streaks. I scrape again (twice) and leave four even thinner streaks. Again, and it's eight. I’m mining fool's gold here. Even if I were to continue until I had an infinity of streaks, each one atom wide, I would end up dissatisfied. Bovril is ineluctably mathematical.

WIP Second Hand (50,220 words)

Francine laughed. “… I was cloistered with a PhD (Chem), Cantab. Ted Priest isn’t given to broad-brush statements. Making sense of his answers was often a case of adding integer three to the square root of minus one. But… if I managed to ask him the right question he was willing to play the hypothetical game… he even tossed in a couple of his own speculations.”


  1. There is a question mark in my head over whether I want to be forced into mathematical investigation whilst relaxing with a novel but I love the image that this created.

  2. B2: No need to worry, Francine (who's quite a clever clogs) is working on the reader's behalf. She'll decode anything that needs to be decoded.

    I'm presently on my fourth novel and have received much help from co-bloggers in the past. I was interested to see whether very short extracts (which I tried to pick for their intrinsic interest) would - through a process of accumulation - arouse any curiosity. Occasionally it does. One commenter who tells me she reads everything yet, I know, very rarely comments said after about twenty extracts she was keen to read the novel. I tried to get her to tell me what sort of picture had been created for her but realised this was a difficult proposition.

    I acknowledge your problem but it does rather hinge on one of my hobby-horses (a good mixed metaphor there), a conviction that the minutiae of peoples' working lives can be turned into enjoyable fiction, Sorry to go on a bit (conscious as I am of "Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.) but you're you're new here, I like your stuff and I felt it might help if I brought you up to speed.

  3. A most excellent scheme. I am enjoying already the extra-curricular challenge of both maths and linguistics whilst embarking on internet reading.

    As I am convinced that there is a novel inside me somewhere, sadly currently deeply buried by the minutiae of my own working life, I shall continue to read if I may.

  4. Old soap, a daily friend worn thin and failing.

  5. Measuring and saving, recycling and hanging on to the last lick. How well I understand the preoccupation. A side of me rejects the precision. When the soap is too small to handle, throw it away. Take on the new perfumed lover. It isn't that easy though!

  6. Since the square root of -1 is usually considered i, Ted may have been simply trying to convey his impression of the electric BMW. Cross gender communication can be difficult.

  7. B2: Wish I spoke maths, fluently I mean.

    "a novel inside me". If only I could be sure of that in my case. Theoretically the stuff's there but it's in the rawest of raw material forms. Atoms perhaps. God is said to be able to make a tree but starting with a bunch of atoms must be pretty discouraging.

    MikeM: So hand me the humane killer.

    Joe: Since writing this post VR has pre-emptively discarded the sliver. Last night, in the bath, I reached out and... no, I must not kiss and tell.

    MikeM: Francine has had a technical education; this is simply her way of saying the interviewee lacked the populist's touch.