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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Max Et Lili Fêtent Noël En Famille

Max Et Lili Fêtent Noël En Famille - Dominique de Saint Mars
It's close to Christmas, and Max is writing a letter to Santa Claus. "You don't mean you still believe in Santa Claus?" says Lili scornfully. (I think she's about two years older than her brother). "Do too!" says Max defiantly. Dad decides to be annoying. "I believe in Santa Claus!" he says, putting on a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth expression. His wife gives him a look, but can't be bothered to interfere.

Lili's suddenly not quite sure any more. Well, she thinks to herself. If there is a Santa Claus, writing a letter might make all the difference. If there isn't, all I've done is waste twenty minutes. What's going to maximize my expected return? Lili doesn't know it, but she's just rediscovered Pascal's Wager. She really is a horrifyingly insightful little girl.

So Max writes to ask for a remote-controlled killer robot, and Lili writes to ask for an XBox. They're both pretty expensive presents, but Lili's got her whole strategy planned out. If there is a Santa, she's written her letter. If there isn't, and it's down to Mom and Dad, then she and Max are being super-nice and helping out around the house every opportunity they can find. Something just has to work!

But then there's a new development. Lili asks who's coming to their big family Christmas. She's hoping her cool cousin Victor is going to be among the guests. Oh dear! He won't be coming this year either - his father, Luc, is not on speaking terms with his father. If Grandpa comes, Luc won't.

"Why NOT?" asks Lili. Dad explains that it's all about some money Grandpa loaned him a few years ago. "Before you were born, Lili!" he says. "And I paid it all back!" The adult reader suspects that there may be a little more to the story, but Lili's younger and less disillusioned. "That's HORRIBLE AND SILLY!!" she says, shocked. That very night, she writes a new letter to Santa, where she says that she's not asking for the XBox after all. All she really wants is for Uncle Luc and Grandpa to make it up, so that Victor can come.

Luc's wife and son also think it's pretty silly. They tell Luc kindly but firmly that they've had enough. He can stay at home if he wants, but they're going. The news gets back to Lili the day before Christmas. Shit! Her whole noble sacrifice was for nothing! She writes an emergency PPS to Santa: cancel the change, she wants the XBox after all. They display it in their bedroom window, hoping that he'll see it when he drives past in his sleigh.

Finally, Christmas morning. There's no killer robot or XBox under the tree. The kids are cruelly disappointed. 0/2 isn't a good score. The camera shifts to Luc's house. Luc's wife and son are just about to leave. She tells Luc that she's put a half bottle of champagne and some oysters in the fridge, and she hopes he'll have as good a time as possible.

Back to Lili's house. The whole extended family is sitting down to eat, when there's a knock on the door. It's Luc, who's had a last-minute change of heart! He hugs his father and they both apologise. His wife also has tears in her eyes. "I'm so proud of you, Luc," she thinks.

A few days later, the postman arrives with two large parcels. It's a killer robot and an XBox!!! The kids are beside themselves with joy.

Moral: Santa, like God, clearly moves in mysterious ways.