January 1st 2017

I have never understood the “new year resolution” thing – making a promise to yourself that you know you are unlikely to keep.  Promises like “I will lose 50 lbs” or “I will walk 10,000 steps a day”. I much prefer promises like “I will not change anything about myself, despite the pressure of relentless advertising to do so..” or “I will try not to get overly angry at the stupidity of other people (especially the incoming President of the United States)”, though this latter one may be difficult to keep.

The Queen continues to avoid public occasions – she is ill and at Sandringham. Princess Anne says she is recovering from a very bad cold (read pneumonia). The fake-news already has her dead. God save the Queen. She will be fine.

The good news is that Ken Dodd has been made a Knight – Sir Ken Dodd. One of the funniest people on the planet. Also good news, Andy Murray (the world’s #1 tennis player at the moment) is also Knighted. Can’t be long before mine arrives.

January 3rd

Dr. Judith Curry has resigned as a tenured Professor at Georgia Tech – technically, this is exactly right. She is benefiting from the pension plan. But in doing so, she is suggesting that the university in which she was working is no longer the university she joined.  She is a leading climatologist.

In her comments about this decision, she says: “Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.”  She is concerned that researchers whose work runs counter to the dominant orthodoxy are being harassed and hampered.

She is right. The University world I entered in 1969 was a vibrant place for debate, argument and genuine disagreement. Challenging orthodoxy was the “main deal” of a researcher, at least in my experience. Now, compliance and subservience to a culture of fear is the norm. Its time to create a new university aimed at cherishing unorthodoxy.

January 4th

I went to bed before 6pm last night, not feeling too well. Woke at 5am today feeling moderately better. My sleep tracker says I secure 6 hours and 15 minutes of REM sleep, which is better than my average of 5 hours and 4 minutes. We all need more sleep, but my rhythm is early morning, work till 1, lunch, nap and bed around 9. Works for me normally. But something is “off” – feeling queasy (stomach mainly). Will see how the day goes. Still on “light” post-Xmas duties. Likely back to bed before mid-day.

Noticed that Trump says he relies more on Julian Assange than the 17 US intelligence agencies – good to see those accused of sexual predatory behaviour sticking together. He’ll be making Edward Snowden in charge of cyber security next. At least Charles Manson, the mass killer, has been ruled out for a Supreme Court position.

January 8th 2017

The Queen is out and about again, scotching the rumours of her death. Sadly, Donald Trump is out and about too, unable to scotch the evidence of his stupidity and ignorance. Twelve days to go before he becomes President of the United States. Speculation about what he will do, what it all means and what the consequences will be for the working and middle class American and for the rest of the world. In the circles I move in, which are essentially anti-Trump, there is no good news. We will see. It will be good news for comedians.

Started to think about two new projects. A spoof of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – Famous Five Seek Therapy – and a novel. I am working on a novel at the moment (36,000 words written), which is based on a complex set of ideas about hacking, doppelgangers and Vatican intrigue, but the new idea is about a young woman’s journey. I think serious book writing, unless someone pays me, is behind me. My future is fiction writing.

Given this, I could well find myself working for Donald Trump as his policy writer – most of his thinking is based on fantasy and fiction. You just have to look at Paul Ryan’s (Speaker of the House) economic ideas to see how fictional key assumptions are.

January 10th 2017

A most interesting, if disruptive day. I had lunch with the traffic anchor from Global TV news Edmonton (am) – Daintre Christensen. I have always liked DC and think she is one smart lady. One of the few very successful First Nations journalist working on an award winning show. I shared my idea for a novel, which involves her, and she was more than supportive. In fact, she was both flattered and very practical. My perception of her as a smart, thoughtful and insightful woman was fully confirmed.

Then took off for the airport, only to discover that I had “lost” my driving license, Nexus card, Aeroplan card and an American Express card. Couldn’t board a flight without photo ID. On my way home to pick up a passport, an email from the person I was due to meet in Toronto, cancelling our meeting. So cancelled my flight / hotel and then my Amex card, applied for a Nexus card renewal and secured a new driving license. Busy, all because of a loss. Weird afternoon chasing down potential loss points.

Then the news of the MI6 report re Trump, the Russians, prostitutes pissing on a bed and blackmail. The man is clearly an idiot.

Xmas tree down and away.

January 13th (Friday)

By this time next week, President Vladimir Trumpkin will become President of the United States. He is the most over-rated businessman in the history of the US (just ahead of Bernie Madoff). He has no understanding of what he is supposed to do and lives in his own bubble-boy world. If you were to write this as fiction, no one would publish it, since it is basically too incredible to be believed. Someone should keep track of every day of his Presidency – it won’t be me.

January 15TH (SUNDAY)

Yesterday we spent the day in big box stores – IKEA, Lowe’s, Superstore, Bed Bath and Beyond (without a coupon) and Home Sense. We were looking for a 20-25 litre pedal bin for the kitchen. No joy. Bigger or small, but not what we were looking for. What did strike me was just how many people were in the stores – IKEA was packed, as was Superstore. Lowe’s and BBB were also busy. Yet we are supposed to be in a recession. I guess the old saying “when the going get’s tough, the tough go shopping” remains true. Despite the abundance of people, choice was not in abundance. Largely the same items were available in all locations. IKEA, of course, calls their products by all sorts of strange names Brod, Kalumpka etc. What they don’t do well is tell you what things actually are.

January 20th

It has been a busy week. I was in Toronto for three days and am home for the balance of the week. Lots of changes in people’s lives – people leaving positions and taking new ones, people in transition between work and retirement, people unsure of what they should be doing with their lives versus what they are doing. My friend Tom, for example, is in the midst of a “life-reset” – trying to recalibrate what he is doing so that it is both more rewarding and less demanding. My friend Don, now in his early 80’s, is also engaged in a life-planning exercise, though I would be delighted to be alive each day. I don’t spend much time on these kinds of thoughts. I have too much writing to do. So many words and ideas are buzzing in my head.

January 21st Saturday

Google Calendar reminds us of our friend Pat’s birthday, which is today. Google thinks she is 112. She is not.

Concert tonight by a twenty-one-year-old pianist, Jan Lisiecki. A full program – Bach Partita 3, Schuman Four Klabertucke, Chopin Scherzo 1 ad Two Nocturnes (opus 48), Schubert Four Impromptus, Opus 142. While my friend Neil said “one too many Schubert”, I didn’t agree. A magnificent tour of the development of piano music over time (1726 – 1828). Jan’s playing was sensitive, touch perfect and very emotive. For a 21 year old, remarkable. Will track this young man’s development.

Jan told the story of an elderly, famous concert pianist who was playing a difficult Ravel piece – Gaspard de la Nuit – from memory. After several minutes he had a coughing fit. Apologized and said “we will start again!”. He did. At the same spot, the same thing happened. Again, he apologized and said “we will start again”. Third time and at the same spot, the same thing. This time he stood, looked at the audience and simply said “you know, I just can’t remember what comes next!”

Another pianist story. The Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires sat down to play a Mozart Piano Concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam with Richard Chailly conducting. Chailly raised his baton and the orchestra began to play No. 2o (K466). Not the concerto the pianist had expected to hear or had prepared for. After a few heated visual exchanges with Chailly – you can see the look of panic on her face in documentary evidence of the event – she settled in and played beautifully.

January 22nd Sunday

Trump’s counsel, Kellyanne Conway, suggested today that the “truth” claimed by the media is different from the “alternative facts” the Trump White House sees as real. Makes clear that they are all living in an alternative universe. Alternative facts have another name: lies.

An individual who has a world-view and understanding divorced from reality and devoid of facts is a person with a psychological deficiency. They live in a bubble they create and they believe their own bullshit. It is called being delusional. Here is the dictionary definition: characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder. It is a particular form of psychosis. So now we know. Donald Trump is suffering from a mental illness.

Normally, such illnesses are not transmitted to those who come into contact with the person with the illness. It is not like measles or smallpox. But in this case, we already know that many of those who work with Donald Trump have been infected and are now showing delusional behaviour. I wonder at what point it will be declared as a pandemic.

January 25th 2017

My Jan/Feb copy of The Idler just arrived. This is a magazine dedicated to encouraging us to do less. It has articles on how to make the most of the time you spend in a shed, good places to loaf in London, how to enjoy going to bed early (by Michael Palin) and how to use the radio to help you have a nap. All my kind of material. I have a new ambition: to write for The Idler. They also offer online courses in the liberal arts and practical skills. Courses include how to play the ukulele, transforming your handwriting, learning Latin, beekeeping – all sorts of courses of real value. All round a good network of people, writers and idlers. (If you notice envy in this paragraph, you are astute).

So inspired was I by this new edition that I crafted a short piece on what an idler would do on a long flight, say the sixteen hours from Vancouver to Sydney. Sent it in and had a yes decision within an hour, which is good (my piece will appear in the next edition as a letter). Had a nice back and forward with TH, the editor.

Went to the doctor to see if I was fit enough to start reading Proust. She suggested some exercises – lifting a gin and tonic, eating chocolate and making sure I had access to a lamb tagine. I am sixty-six, so time is running out. She said to take it slowly – no more than 2-3 sentences a day and see how it goes. If I don’t suffer any pain, I should slowly move to a page a day, but don’t get over eager. Think I’ll stick with Ian Rankin.

January 27th

Theresa May, British Prime Minister, is meeting Vladimir Trumpkin illegitimate President of the United States (per himself – voter fraud was so rampant in the election that no one can accept the result if 2-3 million voted illegally). The problem here is that the White House memo outlining the visit keeps referring to the UK Prime Minister as Teresa May, a British porn star who played the lead in such films as Smack my Bottom and Petticoat Passion. No wonder President Trump was so keen to meet her.

Moves are already being taken to impeach Trump, who has not yet been in office a week. There is no need to. As Keith Olbermann pointed out, under the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet can simply declare the President bonkers, write a letter to Paul Ryan and then Pence takes over as Acting President. No hearings in congress, no debates in the Senate. Done. A group of us who write for a living have offered to help Pence write this letter.

January 28th Saturday

At the Edmonton Symphony concert tonight, Magnard’s 4th Symphony. Rarely performed – very Bruckner like, but excellent. Wonderful performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto – Behzod Abduraimov playing with sensitivity, passion, and commitment and finding new levels of complexity in a piece we all know well. A World Premiere of a short (just 8′) new work by a local composer, McPherson who would normally be playing in the orchestra as a trombonist – he is currently composer in residence. I liked the piece but was amongst the few of my circle that did. Always difficult with a new work – be good to have it on CD so we could listen to it a few times.

January 29th Sunday

Working on a Sunday, as usual. But this time, in addition to setting up this diary and blog space, I have reviewed 25 conference abstracts for the World Conference on Online Learning to be held in Toronto and reviewed the innovation activities of 10 of the world’s online, open universities. Some interesting stuff going on out there.

I have tried not to be distracted by Kellyanne Con Job (Vladimir Trumpkins wilder beast spokesperson) or the fracas taking place around the world over the back-door Muslim ban (according to Rudi “I havent a clue” Giuliani). Seems to me pretty clear that Steve Bannon is running this show and that he is getting the Trumpkin to do what he wants him to do. God bless America. I think it’s getting time for the British to claim back the US as a colony and rule with an iron first. Oh, just a minute, they can’t even do that at home. Ah well..

My granddaughter, Lily, who is six, has had her ears pierced. She looks wonderful. Makes me feel old. L was 40+ when she had hers done – how times change. At least Lily got macaroons!

Lily Enjoying a Treat!

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January 30th

Amateurs running the White House. I suspect the scriptwriters for Veep. House of Cards and West Wing are looking at Kellyanne Con-Job, Steve Ban Man, Vladimir Trumpkin and Lancelot Pre Bus and thinking: if we had come up with this cast of characters, we would never have had our shows on TV. They are beyond funny and too wild for words. They lie, not only to the public but to each other and are growingly unaware of what is true, not true, bullshit or just apeshit. They misunderstand their status in the grand charade and abuse power.

This will all end badly. As my friend RS points out, Mikhail Gorbachev has suggested that many in the world are now preparing for war. Sweden put its troops on full alert in September 2016 and has kept them there since. All of the Baltic countries have been on a war footing since Russia invaded Ukraine. China has moved up its threat level because of the comments of Trumpkin on Tillerson on the South China Sea and Taiwan. And now we have several Muslim dominated states angry over an arbitrary decision to ignore the Geneva convention and to disregard the law within the US. The clock is ticking.

January 31st

My cousin, Denise Knott, died suddenly and unexpectedly. My sister and another cousin, Elaine, advised me of her death when I woke just before 5 am this morning. It affected my day – so sad to lose someone so young (she is basically the same age as my sister).  Denise was a full-time caregiver for her husband, who needs 24×7 care. Her loss is felt by all of us in the Murgatroyd branch of the family as well as the Greenwood branch. David, my brother, will be at the funeral on our collective behalf. A sad way to end the month.