Friday, February 29, 2008

Sorry about this

But I'm about to share something really disgusting with you, dear reader.

This evening I came home from work on a later train than usual, because I'd stayed behind at the office for a while to make up for a doctor's appointment in the morning*. I was in my normal commuting trance, listening to my music (Björk - which makes for a rather floaty and ethereal commute) and not really thinking anything. As always I was watching people; people talking, thinking, just generally being people and therefore fascinating. There was a man in his 50s-ish standing in front of me, standing facing away from me, but at an angle, so I could see his face. He was reading a newspaper and occasionally checking his watch. Brown coat. Shirt and tie. Briefcase. A generic London office gent.

He had one of those funny little ticks, you know, like how people play with their hair or fiddle with their keys when they're concentrating on something. What he was doing was sort of like that - with one hand he was holding his paper, you see, but with the other I noticed that he was, er, jiggling (boinging?) a big, gelatinous polyp thingy on his neck with his index finger. For a few seconds I just stared at it, transfixed. He'd flick it with his finger and it'd wibble about for a few moments, all floopy and quivering. Then he'd do it again.

BOINGwobblewibblewobble... BOINGwobblewibblewobble

He turned round and looked at me just after I noticed this, so I'm guessing that the choked gagging noise I made whilst trying not to be sick wasn't audible just to me.


Very sorry for spoiling your day like that, but I had to tell it to someone, and none of you can be sick on me when I do.

you know what is cool though? An overspeeding wind turbine.


*didn't have to, I just, er, did. odd that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Last night, at 12:56, there was an earthquake in the Midlands that measured 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Unlike last time I was actually awake when this one struck. Although, I have to say that 'struck' is rather a strong word, I'm a pretty long way from the epicentre.

I was reading in bed ('Go Tell it on the Mountain' by James Baldwin, fact fans) when all the doors and windows started to rattle, one of my guitars fell over, and lots of stuff on the desk either rolled off it or fell over. It lasted about 10 seconds and was hardly a dazzling display of nature's awesome power, I've done more damage by farting, but it was certainly noticeable. The thing I find strange was that my reaction was simply to think 'hmm, that was odd.' and go back to my book. I didn't think it was an earthquake, I didn't have any idea what it might have been, but I felt no need to try and find out what it was.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Checklist

This article is very interesting, very long, but very interesting.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Women in Computing

I noticed this when I was collecting material for a worthy tome on computer science, reading the biographies of computer scientists. It seems that in computing, like at Creative writing societies, the men are usually dull and introverted whilst the women are anything but. I submit to you, dear reader, three women who were pioneers in the field.

Firstly, Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Widely regarded as 'the first programmer' Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage in his Creation of the Analytical Engine. She developed a program that, had it been built, would have calculated er, something mathematical*

Secondly, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

She was one of those people who, in military research offices, grappled with punchcards and valves, trying to harness the power of computers the size of houses with the processing capability of digital watch. she was also rather senior in the US navy. odd that.

and lastly, Hedy Lamarr

the co-inventor of the Spread Spectrum - a way of protecting radio signals from being intercepted or corrupted - used in anything wireless these days.


*I'm interested in this sort of thing, but that doesn't mean I understand it in the slightest. I'm a humanities graduate with rather limited interests, sorry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

La Blogothèque

I meant to check this site out ages ago, when I saw all the performances they recorded with Beirut. I finally got round to it today and greatgreasyjesus! that's a big site o' sexy.

If in doubt, I refer you to their takeaway shows (concerts a emporter) These are cool acoustic performances (with character, not just dull rehashes of electric songs) from most of the good unusual music around at the moment. Artists like The Spinto Band, Tapes n' Tapes, The Divine Comedy, The Shins, Jose Gonzalez, Loney, Dear, and the Arcade Fire.

It's in french but it's easy enough to navigate, even with the torn shreds of my memory of the language.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


For the last few days at work I’ve been going through a lot of old books on contemporary technology – robotics, computing, communications, medicine, and so on. I won’t bore you with explaining why this is (I realise that this post is borderline ‘shop’ as it is) but I’ve been pondering the problems inherent to anyone or anything that tries to make predictions about the way in which technology will progress.

These problems all seem to boil down to not wanting to look thick in front of your future self; it’s one of those situations where you can actually hear futureyou laughing derisively. You don’t want to complete miss out the possible future developments, because you don’t want to look completely blinkered and trapped in the present/past. If you make a prediction that goes wrong, however, you end up looking like a pillock. I mean, who can forget the bloke from the US patent office who, in the late nineteenth century, declared that everything that could be invented had been invented – or when Bill Gates stated that he couldn’t see why a home computer would ever need more than 256k of RAM.

With the technology books the writers are afraid of making predictions that look stupid, but leaving out ideas (or technologies) that are known but unproven runs the risk of looking ignorant, which makes the book look out of date pretty much from the moment of publication. These fears manifest in a peculiar focus, not on technologies on the cusp of success, but on technologies so far advanced that they are hypothetical at best. These ideas don’t easily look out of date – odds are, they suppose, that talking about quantum computers, or Tokomak Fusion Reactors, as ideas that haven’t been realised yet, isn’t going to make your book look dated anytime in the next 30 years.

The problem is that these fantastical technological ideas either look dry & uninteresting on the page, or get eclipsed by more mundane developments in the near future. Virtual Reality, for example, is held up as the future of human-computer interactions in pretty much all of these books – despite the fact that, after 20 years of hype and predictions, all that VR has managed is to make a lot of people feel really nauseous*. Meanwhile Nintendo and Apple’s developments with touch panels and motion sensors have completely blindsided all of these books.

It seems to me that the best idea is just to go for a scattergun approach – mention everything that looks vaguely plausible (if that’s possible) and hope that people only remember the ones you got right.


*Yes, I’m aware that I just sort of made a prediction about the future. I don’t care, futureme thinks I’m stupid anyway.


And finally, a little link (well, actually it’s a pretty big link). This is a well written and interesting article about how philosophy – and equally, all intellectual disciplines - should shun technical jargon and buzzwords in favour of expressing their ideas in everyday English. The idea is that if they do that then the intelligent layman will be able to read their stuff all the way to the end. Needless to say I got to about the fourth paragraph before I got an urge to listen to ‘the village green preservation society’ by the kinks, and lost my ability to take anything in.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A few links and pieces

First off, this cool short film:

Via Why, That's Delightful!

Second, I found this image when I was rummaging around in Wiki today (I'm researching a book on robotics, I was looking at Bomb disposal robots) It's a British soldier walking towards a suspected IRA bomb in northern ireland, back in the days before the robots.

It's not the highest quality, but a powerful piece of photojournalism.

The last point of order for tonight is This man.

Do I look like a killer to you? it's just that today, when I was out walking (in the sunny cold - so sunglasses and hat) I reached into my inside coat pocket to take out my MP3 player and a girl walking towards me flinched away with a momentary look of complete terror.


I was going to try and take a better photo but then I realised that the overexposure is probably a pretty good emulation of the low winter sun.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Today the first inkling I had that it was valentines day was when I was coming home from work. I noticed that loads of the besuited gentlemen at London Bridge station were holding bunches of flowers - they were everywhere, sticking out of carrier bags, wrapped in brown paper, even the odd bunch peeping out of a backpack. Once I'd figured out why this was, I found it quite touching. It confirmed to me, that these people aren't dead inside, they are happily loafing around in their own heads, just like me, and carrying tokens of affection (real or affected) for someone (unlike me). Even Miss Orangeface Greencoat and her friend Pointynose Tallbird were carrying big bunches of dead plants.

I'm guessing that this must be the one day of the year that allows florists to pay the rent for the coming months.


But all was not love today, the normally laughing and good natured sikhs were split into two pairs, walking apart from each other - the purpleturbanned pair were striking off ahead, leaving whiteturban and greybeard behind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


At my work I don't exactly have the sunniest of views. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that I don't have a view at all - just the back of the monitor of the person working opposite and some fluorescent tubes overhead. I'm not hugely bothered by this. I've found over the last few months, rather to my surprise, that when I'm at work I like to work - doing anything else makes me feel awkward and bored.

It does, however, seem to have some kind of effect on me. The sun shining into the train in the morning makes me smile, and I enjoy my walks during my lunchbreak, though the sights I see when outside the office are scarcely more edifying.

You can imagine, then, how good it felt to come out of work this evening and see that the sky was not dark and starry. The sun had set, yes, but the light was not gone from the sky. Which means that soon I'll be able to come home in daylight. Smiling in the sunshine.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Andy McKee

bugger practicing, it takes too long, I'm going down to the crossroads


Friday, February 08, 2008

Linkeo Mucho!

Now that I've got my blogging hat* on again there are many other things I'm thinking of. I think I'll try and space out the big rambling posts, more for your wellbeing than mine, but here are some links.

A fansmurfingtastic clusterspork of ephemeral and esoteric single use linguistic odditites.

Lucy Kitt
she's posted up some new songs which show that A. she's getting even better ('gone' is an especially awesome song), and B. that Atkin guitars are better than some good n' dirty nasal sex with beelzebub's hot daughters

They are bleepy, and kinda 80's sounding. But I can't get their songs out of my head. Which is proof that they're either really good, or I've gone badly wrong.

Four Hands Guitar
I've linked this video before, but I really must stress just how much joy it will bring into your life.

Ramon Perez's Latest Artistic Venture, very pretty art. Especially the moustachioed blue flying otters.


*I stole it from someone on the tube

We are a beautiful cosmos, you and I

As you all probably already know, I’ve finally left the happily snoozing ranks of unemployed graduates. I’ve hung up my headphones, taken all the guitars out of my bed, and started the morning walk to the station with everyone else. I’ve worked before, but this time it’s not as a temp, but as a proper salaried member of staff. I have a desk, a phone, passwords for the servers, and a work email address.

And I like it.

I’m not sure whether this means I’ve sold out, or that I have an interesting job, or just that after 6 months of dull unemployment, anything would seem good. I suspect it is a combination of the three.

The most surprising thing I’ve found is how very calming and meditative commuting is. I don’t find it stressful, even when I’m running late, or getting shoved about. Many people (including myself) have said that commuters move like automatons, just unthinking drones, but now that I’ve been doing it every morning I see things from the inside, which gives you great insight. I give no more thought to my commute than I did to my walk to school, but, importantly, this doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking. My feet know the way, my hands know when to take the card out and pass it through the machines, leaving me to sit back in my own head and think about whatever the hell I want.

It sounds weird, but I really like watching all the people on the tube - people in their thousands, all consumed in their own thoughts or chatting with all their friends. There is something about the completely, unavoidably public nature of the tube, which, combined with its anonymity, creates a peculiar sense of uninhibited privacy - people will gladly chat away as if they were in their own homes, because they know that no one knows, or will ever know, who they are. I don’t ever listen to what they say, I’m not really interested in that, my music provides my sound, but I like to watch faces and expressions, marvel at how people can look so incredibly different and yet all share the same recognisable expressions of anger, happiness, affection, etc.

So that’s how I spend my mornings, inescapably fascinated by the mute lives of complete strangers, collecting irrational dislikes or crushes on women who I will only see for a few busy minutes of my life.


Also I think I have the coolest intimate strangers* ever – four big Sikh men who come out of the station together and walk down Grangehill Road at about 8:15 every morning. I have named them Purpleturban, Blueturban, Whiteturban and Greybeard. I wonder who they are…

*people you see everyday with clockmaker regularity, but never speak to