Daily Archives: December 4, 2011

Graham Greene – The Heart of the Matter – Book Review

[With the exception of Brighton Rock] I’ve never read a book by Graham Greene I didn’t consider worth tucking away for at least one future reading.  I encountered The Heart of the Matter too late in life to feel any confidence I’ll live long enough to enjoy this one again, but that’s the result of the aging process, not the book.  It will be there with the others still waiting if I kick before I get around to it again.

Set in an imaginary West African British colony early during WWII, The Heart of the Matter is vaguely reminiscent of  Maugham’s Ashenden series in some ways, Of Human Bondage, in others, with a touch of Heart of Darkness thrown in for seasoning.  Scobie, the aging, passed-over-for-promotion Deputy Commissioner of Police, is the primary character and the only European character in the book who loves Africa and wants nothing more than to remain there his entire life.

However, his wife, Louise, hates it, bludgeons him with his lack of upward mobility, harnesses his kindness and determination to avoid causing her pain even though there’s no love left between them, and tortures him with guilt.  She frequently declares tearfully he doesn’t love her and draws his assurances, “Of course I love you.”

The native population loves his unique respect and fairness in the execution of his duties whenever the individuals are not involved in crime.  When they are involved they despise him for identical reasons.  The Indian and Syrian merchants and Neutral Nation Shipping and Smuggling concerns mostly just would rather he could be bribed or tricked into seeming to be vulnerable to bribes.

Through this tightening stricture of War, Colonial idiosyncracies, needy personal relationships, and intrigue Greene threads Scobie’s strait-jacketed life along a complex and interesting plot worthy of far more well-known and durable writers.

I’d suggest readers who’ve only been exposed to Brighton Rock might find themselves surprised to discover in The Heart of the Matter that Greene is a writer they want more of.  Same as so many other of Greene’s works.

Old Jules

Blind Chickens, Talking Diamonds and Greedy Galaxies

I’m aware some of you readers keep chickens.  If you’re having problems with blindness among them you might be interested in joining http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Free_Ranging_Chickens/ where there’s an interesting discussion going on about the problem.  This was the beginning post for the thread:

Blind Rooster
Posted: Sat Dec 3, 2011 5:47 am (PST)
Just wondering if anyone has had any experience with this. Monday afternoon, I noticed two hens on the wrong side of the fence, so went to retrieve them, and find the rest of their little band. Found all but one rooster. Couldn’t find him in any of the “regular” places, but they do have lots of room to roam. Figured I’d check again before bedtime, as he’s usually the first one in. Didn’t show up. Put everyone else in, and went hunting, for feathers if nothing else:(. Well, I found him by the fence, but inside. Just sitting there. He let me pick him up without protest, but he’s always been laid-back. Still, I knew something was wrong. Put him in a different coop, with shelves instead of bar roosts. The next day he was down on the floor, walking around, but bumping into the screening for the duck section, and sitting in corners/nests. Realized his vision was at least partially gone. Blocked him in, and started antibiotics, since I had no idea what else to do. That night he was back up on the shelf, so he must have some vision, I guess. Wasn’t eating or drinking that I could see, just walked over everything. Brought him into the Hospital Unit (a carrier in my bathrooom :). He began to drink, and finally eat. He crows (oh, swell) but his cue seems to be noise rather than light. Put him outside yesterday (in a big crate) afternoon for some sun, but he just sat there. Some of the other chickens did come scratch around him, but he seemed oblivious.
His eyes look odd, not whiteish, but the center (behind the cornea and inside the iris, where it should be black) looks “solid”, if that makes any sense.

Any thoughts?


Meanwhile, you readers involved in clandestine, extra-marital relationships might be well-advised to remove your diamond jewelry before checking into some seedy motel. 

In the quantum world, diamonds can communicate with each other

December 2, 2011 By Joel N. Shurkin

The vibrational states of two spatially separated, millimeter-sized diamonds are entangled at room temperature by scattering a pair of strong pump pulses (green). The generated motional entanglement is verified by observing nonclassical correlations in the inelastically scattered light. Credit: Dr. Lee and colleagues, Image Copyright Science|AAAS  http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-quantum-world-diamonds.html

Elsewhere in the news, the 99% movement has suffered a disturbing setback with the discovery we live in a greedy galaxy, gobbling up smaller galaxies.  http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-beast-tails.html

Barred Spiral Milky Way. Illustration Credit: R. Hurt (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA

The Milky Way galaxy continues to devour its small neighbouring dwarf galaxies and the evidence is spread out across the sky.

Government and Wall Street Cray computers working on the problem tentatively estimate the 99 percenters are actually 0.000000000000001 percenters galaxy-wide.  Political and financial-industry hired-guns are working three shifts to prepare television documentaries and PR campaigns to assist in correcting the error.

In a related story, multi-national corporations and Wall Street banks have hired a team of astrophysicists and astronomers to study black holes in an effort to develop more thorough strategies and techniques to solidify and expand their holdings.  Additionally, the illustration on the right suggests black holes might also provide improved methods in the use of pepper-spray.

“An optical image of the sky showing the location of the black hole, Cygnus X-1. (Right) An artist’s conception of the black hole system, showing the black hole drawing material towards it from a massive, blue companion star. This material forms a disk and jets that emit radiation. Credit: Optical: DSS; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

“Black holes are among the most amazing and bizarre predictions of Einstein’s theory of gravity. A black hole is thought to be point-like in dimension, but it is surrounded by an imaginary surface, or “edge,” of finite size (its “event horizon”) within which anything that ventures becomes lost forever to the rest of the universe.”  http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-black-hole-unmasked.html

The overall optimism derived from these stories was something I wanted to share with you readers to lift whatever waning spirits you might experiencing his crisp, rainy morning.

Old Jules

Old Sol’s Party-Animal Mood Swings Bring Mixed-Reactions

Old Sol was practicing his quickdraw:


Alexandra Hart 
Image taken: Dec. 3, 2011
Location: Cheshire, UK 
Details: This prominence lifted off within 10 minutes, very spectacular! Taken with a Coronado PST and DMK41


ERUPTING FILAMENT: Today, with little warning, a magnetic filament rapidly erupted on the sun. Between 10:30 and 11:30 UT, observers in Europe watched tendrils of hot plasma rocket away from the sun’s NW limb. Debris from the explosion is not expected to hit Earth. Images: #1, #2, #3.

Astrophysicists aren’t certain what he was shooting at, but several noted deer season recently opened.  Others speculate Alpha Centauri was throwing bottles or tin-cans in the air for him.

With no flares of significance in days, the sun is strangely quiet. Nevertheless, the view remains dynamic. Rogerio Marcon of Campinas, Brasil, took this picture of the local starscape on Dec. 2nd.   Using a telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen, Marco captured 20 billion sq. km of seething plasma and magnetic filaments; also included in the field is the dark core of sunspot 1364 (lower right). It doesn’t look very quiet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of M-class solar flares in the next 24 hours.  http://spaceweather.com/

Some astrophysicists noted 20 billion sq. km of seething plasma and magnetic filaments could be considered a middling lot, everything else being equal.

PHD candidates from UC Berkeley and MIT have gone on record with a theory there’s some kind of celebration going on up there.  NASA space cadets believe otherwise, but refuse to elaborate except to darkly hint Old Sol’s expressing his displeasure about agency budget cuts.

Israel and the CIA aren’t saying what’s causing it, but are planning airstrikes on unnamed Central Asian targets in retaliation.

Old Jules