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The mysteries of our schedule led to my delivery of this Runcible instalment on (tra la la) Christmas Day in the morning. So, a Merry Seasonal Whatever to those who are so inclined; and for those who aren't, a hearty 'Bah! Humbug!'

Sic Transit Gloria. 'Neil Gaiman? Don't know who he is…' Thus British TV person Graham Norton on Channel 4, as he scanned a website listing famous ex-residents of East Grinstead.

Ursula Le Guin led a 50-strong peace march in Portland, Oregon, on 6 December and delivered a writers', editors' and artists' petition against war on Iraq to a local congressman.

Terry Pratchett committed trilocation on Saturday 7 December. That weekend, several hundred fans attended festivities celebrating the official twinning of Wincanton, South Somerset, England, with Discworld's Ankh-Morpork — featuring a sausage-and-mash feast so oversubscribed that it was split across three separate pubs, two of them supplied with proxy Pratchetts to entertain and propose the toast after dinner. Colette Reap explains: 'Terry provided spare hats to the two substitutes to enhance the illusion of him being in three places at once.... The shop of the Cunning Artificer (the wonderful Bernard Pearson) now has a plaque on the wall outside declaring that it is the Ankh-Morpork Consulate.' All done for charity.

R.I.P. Walter Cole, an active New York fan for more than half a century (head of the Centaurian League in 1948, and for decades an officer of the Lunarians club) was found dead in his apartment on 7 December. He was 69. Nicolai Mikhailovich Amosov (1913-2002), Russian-born engineer, heart surgeon, keep-fit pundit and author whose 'sleeper awakes' sf novel was translated in 1970 as Notes from the Future, died at his Ukraine home on 12 December, aged 89.

In Typo Veritas. The current SFWA Bulletin's article on the Vingean Singularity, by Robert Metzger, interestingly appeared with all superscripts shown as normal text. Thus it emerges that the human brain has 'something like 10 billion neurons, where we'll use scientific notation of 1010 to denote this large number (in Vernor's case we would naturally suspect many more). This specialized cell looks like a miniature starfish, with about 104 (10,000) arms… Where those arms meet a synapse is formed… Do the math and you find that there are 1014 of these synapses. […] At the time I write this, the most advanced microprocessor… is made up of about 108 transistors. That's certainly a big number, but still one million times smaller (106) than the number of connections in your head (perhaps 107 in the case of Vernor).'

A Fan Is Born. Kathryn Cramer & David G.Hartwell were (for some reason or other) too distracted to let me know earlier: 'Elizabeth Constance Cramer Hartwell, born October 21, 3:28 pm, 6lbs, 10 oz. Mother and baby in fine condition.'

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Pleonasm. 'Truth had at last become time-urgent.' (Martin Amis, Koba the Dread, 2002)


David Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. He lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a few dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.

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